In Section II, Hume describes the origin of ideas.
He begins by naming the two
categories of perceptions as ideas and impressions.
The definitions he uses are simple.
Hume states, “the less forcible and lively are commonly denominated thoughts or ideas…
the term impression, then, I mean all our more lively perceptions, when we hear, or see,
or feel, or love, or hate, or desire, or will.” (MP 497)
More plainly, the ideas are simply
reflections, or memories, of one’s past impressions which are immediate and temporal.
The proof for these definitions is explored by Hume, however, this paper will assume the
above definitions to suffice and will proceed with how the ideas one forms are connected.
The association of ideas is a brief section in which Hume seems to foreshadow his
intent of discrediting the knowledge of cause and effect.
He asserts that there is a
“principle of connection between the different thoughts or ideas of the mind.” (MP 499)
He later describes these principles as “resemblance, contiguity in time or place, and cause
or effect.” (MP 499)
It appears that by placing all ideas within one of the three
principles, or some incorporation of the three, Hume has given an early rise to the
possibility of doubt in one’s knowledge of ideas.
This doubt is examined in Section IV
of the Inquiry.
When Hume embarks on the skeptical doubts of understanding he has several key
steps in mind.
The first is an understanding of reason, in which, there are two separate
The relations of ideas, is an inquiry into “every affirmation which is either
intuitively or demonstratively certain.” (MP 500)
This type of inquiry is not
contradictable, as in a triangle has three sides or a bachelor is an unmarried man.