Introduction to PhilosophyNotesThis is not a substitute for coming to class Richard Lee
Philosophy 2003 C 001Copyright © 1999, Richard Lee Spring 1999
 

The Bounds of Thought
Hume

It seems that we can think of anything. We can "form monsters, and join incongruous shapes and appearances" (P 158a)

But our thought is "really confined within very narrow limits." (P 158b)

"[A]ll this creative power of the mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing, augmenting, or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses and experience." (P 158b)

Materials
afforded us
by the senses ...:
We've seen dogs, desks, persons, televisions, etc.
Compounding: We can imagine a dog on top of a desk.
Transposing: We can imagine a person with arms coming out of his head.
Augmenting: We can imagine a giant.
Diminishing: We can imagine a television smaller than a fingernail.

But, Hume says, our powers of imagination end there.

Try to think of an idea that we don't get through "compounding, transposing, augmenting, or diminishing the materials afforded by the senses and experience."


Richard Lee, rlee@comp.uark.edu, last modified: 24 March 1999