An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding

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Hume makes a claim stating that the difference between fiction and belief is that with belief comes certain sentiments and feelings as opposed to fiction, which lacks certain natural sentiments that relate to reality. Hume understands that a person’s imagination has the ability to think of many fictional situations and characters, but counters that with his claim that we understand these situations and characters aren’t real because there are no sentiments or feelings behind them, as belief has. With the natural sentiments or feelings that back up belief, Hume believes that these always win against abstract reasoning saying that, “the most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation” (pg. 27). He talks about the mass authority the mind has over its imagination, yet how we are now accustomed to not believing the fictions of our imaginations because we are aware they are fiction. Belief, on the other hand, “is something felt by the mind”(pg.63). With fiction, anything can be conceived, in any circumstance, and at any time, but none of it can ever reach belief because belief “consists not in the peculiar nature or order of ideas, but in the manner of their conception and their feeling to the mind” (pg. 63). He admits to having difficulty describing belief just as difficult it is to describe feelings such as “cold, or passion of anger, to a creature who never had any experience of these sentiments” (pg. 62). Because beliefs have sentiments behind them, familiar experiences that appeal to memory or senses have a greater impact than the fictions of one’s imagination. Hume believes that humans only predict certain reactions or sequences about the future from past experiences, which is called conditioning. Due to these experiences, each individual perceives their own reality differently because of their own specific and particular experiences. He believes in custom, as opposed to reasoning. This means that he believes people do not actually have the...
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