First Principles of Hume's theory of Mind


1. The division of the contents of the Mind



2. The Copy Principle





3. The Separability Principle


·       Hume writes “of the liberty of the imagination to transpose and change its ideas….Where-ever the imagination perceives a difference among ideas, it can easily produce a separation” (p. 16; cf. pp. 23-24).


4. The Principle of Association of ideas


·       In his Abstract, Hume writes:

Thro’ this whole book, there are great pretensions to new discoveries in philosophy; but if any thing can entitle the author to so glorious a name as that of inventor, ’tis the use he makes of the principle of association of ideas, which enters into most of his philosophy. (Abstract, paragraph 35)


·       “The qualities, from which this association arises, and by which the mind is, after this manner, conveyed from one idea to another, are three, viz. resemblance, contiguity in time or place, and cause and effect.” (Treatise, p. 17)


·       Hume describes the association of ideas as “a kind of ATTRACTION, which in the mental world will be found to have as extraordinary effects as in the natural, and to show itself in as many and as various forms.” (p. 18)


5. Rejection of Abstract General Ideas


·       Hume follows Berkeley in holding that the mind cannot conceive abstract general ideas: rather all ideas are particular in the mind’s conception of them. In other words, we can only think of individuals.

·       Hume holds that “a particular idea becomes general by being annexed to a general term; that is, to a term which, from a customary conjunction, has a relation to many other particular ideas, and readily recalls them in the imagination.” (p. 27).

     "When we have found a resemblance among several objects, that often occur to us, we apply the same name to them all, whatever differences we may observe... The word not being able to revive the idea of all these individuals, only touches the soul... and revives that custom which we have acquir'd by surveying them. They are not really and in fact present to the mind, but only in power; nor do we draw them all our distinctly in the imagination, but keep ourselves in readiness to survey any of them, as we may be prompted by a present design or purpose" (p. 25).