The term "Scottish Enlightenment" is used to describe the period between 1726 (when Francis Hutcheson's "Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue" was first published) and 1816, when Adam Ferguson died. ... Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) Henry Home (1696-1782) David Hume (1711-1776).
The thesis of this study is to analyze and state whether Hume should have rejected the Copy Principle in light of his discussion of the Missing Shade of Blue. The aim is to clearly understand Hume's first principle which is known as Copy's principle and clearly explain the relationship between it and the story of the Missing Shade of Blue. After understanding the relationship one is supposed to say whether Hume should have rejected the copy's principle or not and give valid explanations to support the thesis. During this study we are also supposed to show a clear description of Humes mind represented by impressions and ideas and show how the Humes model is based on the Newtonian approach.
It is important to talk about Hums state of mind and knowledge by clearly pointing out the various ideas and impressions that he gave. Impressions and ideas are the two distinct kinds in which all perceptions of mankind resolve into. The main difference is the degree of force and liveliness in which three strike our minds with. In this case impressions refer to those the perceptions which enter with the most violence and force such as passions, emotions and sensations. On the other hand ideas are faint images of theses thinking's and reasoning such as something caused by pleasant discourse. The main difference brought forward by Hume to differentiate between impressions and ideas is the vivacity, forcefulness and liveliness which are qualitative differences rather than type. Ideas may be sometimes distinguished from impressions while on some occasions they may not be distinguished. In some cases the impressions are so faint that we cannot differentiate them from our ideas. Impressions also come before ideas. This is because one has to see something like an object or incidence so that an idea can hit them. This is a clear indication that an idea cannot come prior to an impression. Hume also distinguished ideas and impressions according to simple and complex ideas. The main difference is that simple ideas and impressions cannot be distinguished from each other while complex ideas and impressions can be distinguished from each other according to various measurements, color, taste or even smell. The other crucial difference between simple ideas and complex ones. Simple ideas consist of only one idea such as one color while complex ideas refer to joining or combining more than one idea. Finally Hume defines ideas as particulars or mental objects or things in their own right and this was generally referred to as the atomist conception of ideas.
The Copy Principle
Hume states that all our simple ideas in their first appearance are derived from simple impressions, which are correspondent to them, and which they exactly represent. The copy principle brings out different perspectives. They include; the interconnection between an impression and an idea. The existence of one affects the existence of the other and this clearly shows how much both of them depend on each other. Priority is also given to impressions and finally the lack of an impression signals the absence of an idea. David Land states that Hume's c principle is based on two conditions that allow it to operate and they are the causal condition and the resemblance condition. He explains further to state that the resemblance condition is the ideas formed from the impressions that one has felt whereas the causal condition is the ideas are caused by impressions. It is therefore noted that an idea cannot there if there is no impression and both the impression and the idea complement each other. The story of secondary impressions is brought about later in the story of the missing shade of Blue which explains that a secondary impression can create itself from previous occurrences.
Case of the Missing Shade of Blue
The famous Missing Shade of Blue is an example used by Humes to show that it is almost not possible for an idea to go before their correspondent impressions. The story of missing shade of blue talks about someone who has spent thirty years with the ability to see and he has been into contact with most of the Colors. This person is in contact with most colors except one shade of blue which he has not been able to see. All the colors he has seen are put before him from the thickest to the lightest and it is clear that he will be confused on where the missing shade should be placed. It is asked whether from his own imagination he can be able to supply the deficiency and Hume supports it and says that even if these types of cases may be scarce our ideas are not always from what we observe.
On a lighter note it sounds as if Hume contradicts his own philosophies. This is because he is attached to the fact that impressions are the sole creators of our ideas. Humes presents an example that directly disagrees with his copy principle. Further detailed examination in the missing shade of blue, Enquiry and Treatise shows one that this was just a way that Hume used to strengthen his philosophies. The inclusion of the missing shade of blue does not come to diminish or put away the copy principle but it is used as a way of strengthening it.
Hume notes that the case of the missing shade is so singular that it does not guarantee the change of his philosophies. The missing shade of Blue is a simple idea that comes without previous impression, but it still requires prior experiences for its emergence. Hume had stated that the person was well acquainted with the colors so that may have been the basis in which the foundation was made. Therefore the idea of reasoning is brought about as the person reasons so as to come up with the missing shade and this may have been the cause of Hume not considering it as a threat initially to the copy's principle. It is clearly shown that simple ideas can lay a path for secondary impressions which are generated from the earlier simple ideas. The secondary ideas create an inference which in turn brings habits and customs. The ability to make inferences from earlier points according to Hume helps create generalization from earlier points of inference. This generalization is what is called as habit as earlier noted as a person becomes consistent on something. A man of thirty who has seen most colors must have tried to make comparisons with other colors so as to fill the blanks. When making comparisons he is likely to have some ideas based on facts or characteristics such as quality or quantity. This may be based on issues such as characteristics or even brightness. These characteristics are a recommendable step in finding the missing shade of blue. This also takes the same precedence that all ideas come from a various impression.
In the treatise part Hume notes out that "Ideas produce images of themselves in new ideas; but as the first ideas are supposed to be derived from impressions, it still remains true, that all our simple ideas proceed either immediately or immediately, from their corresponding impressions." This made Hume conclude that the first principle still holds even on the case of the missing shade of blue and did not find it a threat as it was dependent on the secondary impressions which are brightness, saturation and hue that lead to the completion of the final shade of blue.
Hume's project was modeled according to the Newtonian approach. This is brought about by the evidence of Hums self-described experiment and his resemblance of rules of reasoning. This is brought about when Humes uses metaphors relating to Newton such as the connection and attraction to the mental world as that of the natural world. Habits are also referred to as mental force analogous to gravity and this shows clearly that Humes believed in some of Newton's laws such as that of gravity. This shows that Humes wanted to show us how he is connected to philosophy and he used a clear example of newton and his law of gravity to join them .He used his success to show his readers that it was based on the natural philosophy. Humes showed his admiration and respect to Newton's achievements but he also had some different ideas as opposed to those of Newton. Hume refers Newton as a genius and praises him on his activities rather than self-praise. The appeal for authority of experience is both talked about by Hume and Newton and this connects them. This is because of the Humes causation model and Newton's contents on natural philosophy. Even though he praised Newton he also stated that he was among philosophers who were hypocrites and most of them were driven by superstation beliefs.
In respect to what is discussed above it is clear that Hume had a difficult decision to make as whether to accept or reject the copy principle in light to the discussion on the missing shade of blue Humes presents an example that directly disagrees with his copy principle. The ideas he brings refutes what he had said earlier. This would have made him reject because it was not going according to his own principles that he was advocating and therefore something that was going against it would not be accepted.
Even though on lighter note it seemed to contradict his own principles he did not reject it as it had an inner meaning. Further detailed examination in the missing shade of blue, Treatise and Enquiry shows one that this was just a way that Hume used to strengthen his philosophies. The inclusion of the missing shade of blue does not come to diminish or put away the copy principle but it is used as a way of strengthening it. Hume notes that the case of the missing shade is so singular that it does not guarantee the change of his philosophies. The missing shade of Blue is a simple idea that comes without the earlier impression, but it still requires prior experiences as a reason for its emergence. Hume had stated that the person was well acquainted with the colors so that may have been the basis in which the foundation was made. Therefore the idea of reasoning is brought about as the person reasons so as to come up with the missing shade and this may have been the cause of Hume not considering it as a threat initially to the copy's principle. It is clearly shown that simple ideas can lay a path for secondary impressions which are generated from the earlier simple ideas. The secondary ideas create an inference which in turn brings habits and customs. The ability to make inferences from earlier points according to Hume helps create generalization from earlier points of inference.
It is therefore clear that Hume should not have rejected the copy's principle and he made the right decision. This is because he believed that it was not being dismantled by the story of the missing shades of blue and he believed it was being made stronger.
Emerson, R.L., 2016. Essays on David Hume, Medical Men and the Scottish Enlightenment:'Industry, Knowledge and Humanity'. Routledge.Owen, D., 2009. Hume and the mechanics of mind: Impressions, ideas, and association.
Landy, D., 2012. Hume's theory of mental representation. Hume Studies, 38(1), pp.23-54.
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