TNH 1.3.08.15

I mustn’t leave this subject without remarking that it is very difficult to talk perfectly properly and accurately about the operations of the mind, because common language has seldom made any very fine distinctions amongst them, generally calling by the same word all that closely resemble each other. And as this is almost inevitably a source of obscurity and confusion in an author, so it may cause you to have doubts and objections that you otherwise would never have dreamed of. Thus, my general position that •an opinion or belief is nothing but a strong and lively idea derived from a present impression related to it may be liable to the following objection, because of a little ambiguity in the words ‘strong’ and ‘lively’: It is not only an •impression that can give rise to reasoning—an •idea can have the same influence, especially given your principle that all our ideas are derived from corresponding impressions. If I now form an idea whose corresponding impression I have forgotten, I can still conclude from ·the existence of· this idea that such an impression did once exist; and this conclusion comes as a belief; so •what is the source of the qualities of force and liveliness that constitute this belief? I am ready with an answer: •it comes from the present idea. This idea is not here considered as •the representation of an absent object but as •a real perception in the mind, of which we are intimately conscious; so it must be able to bestow on whatever is related to it the same quality (call it ‘firmness’, or ‘solidity’, or ‘force’, or ‘liveliness’ [Hume throughout uses ‘vivacity’]) with which the mind reflects on it and is assured of its present existence. The idea here takes the place of an impression, and so far as our present purpose goes it is entirely the same.

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