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Free «An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume» Essay Sample

In an Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume asserts that the matter of fact is our reality. Our perceptions of the matter of fact are based on the cause and reason relations, therefore the reality is a reflection of facts in our feelings concerning the causal relationship. Consequently, we may have a proper reasoning about the events in the real world that is based only on our foregoing experience of the analogous events. Thus, according to Hume, our assumptions that are not based on the experience, may be only theoretical, approximate, and the basic world principles are incognizable.

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Hume’s understanding of the human reasoning is based on the belief that it is a reflection of our perceptions. When a human being looks around, touches, and examines objects and events of the world, they dent reflections in his mind. Thus, the world obtains its existence in our memory and imagination (10). However, the two worlds are different, because we have an ideal picture in memory that remains intact. The real world ages or changes in another way, therefore “objects are too fine to remain long in the same aspect or situation … derived from nature, and improved by habit and reflexion” (11). Suppose that there are some objects or events that cannot examine in this way. Then, they simply don’t exist to us, because our senses will not discover them. On the contrary, if there are objects that we can perceive with our facilities, then we can learn its features and impact on the matter of fact.

The ability to learn about the world is inherent in our mind, which has all necessary facilities, according to Hume (11). The world is imprinted into our memory, however the copy, “never can entirely reach the force and vivacity of the original sentiment” (13) Besides, all facts may be derived from one another if based on experience, because “all our reasoning concerning fact is of the same.” (22) Assume that the supposition is wrong, then our expectations of rain while a thunderstorm are impossible.

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Hume believes that, though it is obvious by repetition of the both events in a strict order, only experience might help to set the connection. Therefore, concludes Hume foundadly, “our reason, unassisted by experience, cannot ever draw any inference concerning real existence and matter of fact … nor does any man imagine that the explosion of gunpowder … could ever be discovered by arguments a priori.” (20) Suppose that we never tasted a crocodile stake or don’t know biology, than we cannot tell either what it tastes like or what a plant will grow, depending on our reasoning.

The link that connects facts consists of three principles: “Resemblance, Contiguity in time or place, and Cause or Effect.” (18). Hume reasonably proves that we use analogy from our experience to describe some generic facts. For instance, using an analogy, the scientists make their discoveries – they explain how the stars appear, what qualities should have undiscovered chemical elements and materials, etc. If we find objects of an unknown nature, we use an analogy of effects: gravitation of stars and black holes – to the earth, the moon, and the sun.

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Regarding connection of the matter of fact with causality, Hume validly infers, “All reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the relation of Cause and Effect” (22). For instance, when we see a sea gal in the sky, which is one fact, we can derive another fact from it, that there is some water nearby. The both facts are connected by the experience about the bird’s habits and out knowledge about that from our previous experience. On the contrary, if we see a bird of an unknown species, we cannon reason about its habits and conclude anything from them. The role of understanding in Hume’s explanation is limited to the experience based on the known facts. Therefore, Hume concludes, “ our conclusions from that experience are not founded on reasoning, or any process of the understanding”. (24).

However, without speculation and reasoning, the cause and effect connection cannot be found. Independently of the precisely same experience, there are done reasonable assumptions as to the cause and effect connection based on analogy and basic principles of the natural laws. When Newton found that the earth had a gravitational force because the apple fell and conceived connection between the cause and the effect. If he did not speculate on the matter, he would not have developed the theory of gravity, as did numerous people who did not think about the connection before. We use our understanding to gain the experience, because without that we would not get any knowledge, therefore our predictions about effects of causes we did not know before, is a part of our reasoning too. Because, when we have set the connection between the cause and effect the first time, we use our understanding to comprehend the nature of the event connecting its both extremes.

Finally, Hume claims that knowing general, or generic, causes “we should in vain attempt their discovery … ultimate springs and principles are totally shut up from human curiosity and enquiry ” (22). Assume that the principles of the material world are hidden from us. The principles themselves, according to Hume, are another group of facts. As we can percept the effects, then there must be a cause of their existence. Besides, as the effects appear in the tangible world, they cause must arouse from it. Therefore,, is there are causes and effects existing in the material world, we will find the connection using our facilities, which are developed enough to cognize the world, including the facts that a re called ultimate principles.


According to Hume, our world is a mater of fact where all events and objects are linked by the cause and effect connection. We derive the knowledge about the connection from our experience. However, when a scientist makes a discovery, it is not based on his past experience, but on the speculations that set the cause and effect connection. Therefore, as the tangible world consists of events and objects that can be perceived and we are equipped with the mind that is capable of cognition, even the basic principles of the world must be cognizable.


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