6 Jan 2009

Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Book 1, Part 1, Sect 6, "Of Modes and Substances," §§42-44


by Corry Shores
[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

[Central Entry Directory]

[Hume, Entry Directory]
[Hume's Treatise of Human Nature, Entry Directory]

[The following is summary, up to the end where I reproduce this section in full. My commentary is in brackets.]


David Hume

A Treatise of Human Nature

Book I: Of the Understanding


Part I: Of Ideas, their Origin, Composition, Connexion, Abstraction, etc.

Section VI: Of Modes and Substances:


§42


Hume questions the substance/accident division. He asks if the idea of substance is derived from the impressions of a sensation or of a reflection on a sensation [see §24 for more on this distinction.]


1) If by sensation, then it must be perceived by one of the senses. If we perceive substance with our eyes, then substance would be a color. Ears: a sound. And so on.


But substance cannot be a color or sound. So


2) the idea of substance must be derived from an impression of a reflection. We noted before that first we have a sense impression, which is copied as an idea in the mind. When these copied ideas are recalled, they produce new emotions. These new emotions, then, create new impressions, called impressions of reflections. But impressions of reflections are based on passions and emotions, which are not representative of substance.


We have therefore no idea of substance, distinct from that of a collection of particular qualities, nor have we any other meaning when we either talk or reason concerning it.


§43


Both the idea of substance and of mode are collections of Simple ideas that the imagination unites into a complex idea. These unities are assigned a name, which allows us to recall that collection of ideas.


The Idea of Substance:


The particular qualities forming a substance are thought to inhere in something unknown, or to at least be connected by contiguity and causality. This allows us to continue attributing more qualities to the substance even if they were not immediately known to belong to it.


Thus our idea of gold may at first be a yellow colour, weight, malleableness, fusibility; but upon the discovery of its dissolubility in aqua regia, we join that to the other qualities, and suppose it to belong to the substance as much as if its idea had from the beginning made a part of the compound one.


§44


The Idea of Modes:


Unlike substances, additional attributes cannot be further added. The simple ideas making up modes either


1) represent qualities that are not united by contiguity or causation; rather, they are dispersed throughout different subjects. Hume's example is dance. [There is not one substance, dance, whose many qualities inhere in it. Rather, there are many dances each qualitatively different.] Otherwise,


2) if modes' constituent ideas are united together, the principle of their union is not the foundation for the complex idea they make-up. Hume's example is beauty. [The many different qualities of things that we find beautiful do not constitute beauty itself.]


If a complex modal idea received a new idea, we would need to change the name that distinguishes the mode.


[Next entry in this series.]


[The following is the original text that is above summarized.]


SECT. VI. OF MODES AND SUBSTANCES

I would fain ask those philosophers, who found so much of their reasonings on the distinction of substance and accident, and imagine we have clear ideas of each, whether the idea of substance be derived from the impressions of sensation or of reflection? If it be conveyed to us by our senses, I ask, which of them; and after what manner? If it be perceived by the eyes, it must be a colour; if by the ears, a sound; if by the palate, a taste; and so of the other senses. But I believe none will assert, that substance is either a colour, or sound, or a taste. The idea, of substance must therefore be derived from an impression of reflection, if it really exist. But the impressions of reflection resolve themselves into our passions and emotions: none of which can possibly represent a substance. We have therefore no idea of substance, distinct from that of a collection of particular qualities, nor have we any other meaning when we either talk or reason concerning it.

The idea of a substance as well as that of a mode, is nothing but a collection of Simple ideas, that are united by the imagination, and have a particular name assigned them, by which we are able to recall, either to ourselves or others, that collection. But the difference betwixt these ideas consists in this, that the particular qualities, which form a substance, are commonly referred to an unknown something, in which they are supposed to inhere; or granting this fiction should not take place, are at least supposed to be closely and inseparably connected by the relations of contiguity and causation. The effect of this is, that whatever new simple quality we discover to have the same connexion with the rest, we immediately comprehend it among them, even though it did not enter into the first conception of the substance. Thus our idea of gold may at first be a yellow colour, weight, malleableness, fusibility; but upon the discovery of its dissolubility in aqua regia, we join that to the other qualities, and suppose it to belong to the substance as much as if its idea had from the beginning made a part of the compound one. The principal of union being regarded as the chief part of the complex idea, gives entrance to whatever quality afterwards occurs, and is equally comprehended by it, as are the others, which first presented themselves. themselves.

That this cannot take place in modes, is evident from considering their nature. The. simple ideas of which modes are formed, either represent qualities, which are not united by contiguity and causation, but are dispersed in different subjects; or if they be all united together, the uniting principle is not regarded as the foundation of the complex idea. The idea of a dance is an instance of the first kind of modes; that of beauty of the second. The reason is obvious, why such complex ideas cannot receive any new idea, without changing the name, which distinguishes the mode.


From:

Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. Ed. L.A Selby-Bigge. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.

Text available online at:

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hume/david/h92t/




PDF available at:








No comments:

Post a comment