The science of human nature, may be treated after two different ways each of which may contribute to the entertainment and reformation of mankind.

The one considers man chiefly as born for action; and as influenced in his measures by taste and sentiment; pursuing one object, and avoiding another, according to the value which these objects appear to possess, and according to the light in which they present themselves.

As virtue is allowed to be the most valuable, this species of philosophers paint her in the most amiable colors; borrowing all helps from poetry and eloquence, and treating their subject in an easy and obvious manner, and such as is best fitted to please the imagination, and engage the affections.

They select the most striking observations and instances from common life; place opposite characters in a proper contrast; and alluring us into the paths of virtue by the views of glory and happiness, direct our steps in these paths by the soundest precepts and most illustrious examples.

They make us feel the difference between vice and virtue; they excite and regulate sentiments; they bend hearts to the love of virtue and true honor.

The other species of philosophers consider man in the light of a reasonable rather than an active being, endeavor to form his understanding more than cultivate his manners.

It is easy for a rational philosopher to commit a mistake and one mistake is the necessary parent of another.

Speculations appear abstract and unintelligible to common readers.

It is certain that the easy and obvious philosophy will always have the preference above the accurate and abstruse; and by many will be recommended, not only as more agreeable, but more useful than the other.

It enters more into common life; molds the heart and affections; and, by touching those principles which actuate men, reforms their conduct, and brings them nearer to that model of perfection which it describes.

This also must be confessed, durable fame has been acquired by the easy philosophy; abstract reasoners appear hitherto to have enjoyed only a momentary reputation, from the caprice or ignorance of their own age, but have not been able to support their renown with more equitable posterity.

A philosopher, who purposes only to represent common sense in beautiful engaging colors, if by accident he falls into error, sees his error, returns onto the right path, renews his appeal to common sense and the natural sentiments of the mind securing himself from any dangerous illusions.

Accurate and just reasoning is the only remedy, fitted for all dispositions; it alone is able to subvert that abstruse philosophy and metaphysical jargon, which being mixed up with popular superstition, renders it in a manner impenetrable to careless thinkers, and gives it the air of science.

Besides this advantage of rejecting, after deliberate inquiry, the most uncertain and disagreeable part of man's purported knowledge, there are many positive advantages, which result from an accurate scrutiny into the powers and faculties of human nature.

It is remarkable concerning the operation of the mind, that, though most intimately present to us, yet, whenever thoughts become the object of reflection, they appear involved in obscurity; nor can the mind's eye readily find those lines and boundaries, which discriminate and distinguish them.

The objects are too fine to remain long in the same aspect or situation; and must be apperceived in an instant, by a superior penetration, derived from natural reflection, and improved by habit and study.

It becomes, therefore, no inconsiderable part of science barely to know the different operations of the mind, to separate them from each other to class them under their proper heads, and to correct all that seeming disorder when made the object of reflection and inquiry.

Everyone will readily allow that there is considerable difference between the perceptions of the mind, when a man feels the pain of excessive heat, or the pleasure of moderate warmth, and when he afterwards recalls to his memory this sensation, or anticipates it by his imagination.

These faculties may mimic or copy the perceptions of the senses; but they never can entirely reach the force and vivacity of the original sentiment.

When they operate with greatest vigor they represent their object in so lively a manner that we could almost say we feel or see it.

All the colors of poetry, however splendid, can never paint natural objects in such a manner as to make the description be taken for a real landscape.

The most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation.

We may observe the same to run through all perceptions of the mind.

A man in a fit of anger, is actuated in a very different manner from a man who only thinks of that emotion.

If you tell me, that an individual is in love, I easily understand your meaning, and from a just conception of his situation; but never can mistake that conception for the real disorders and agitations of the passion.

When we reflect on past sentiments and affections, thought is a unfaithful mirror attempting to copy objects truly; but the colors are faint and dull in comparison of those in which our original perceptions were clothed.

It requires no discernment to mark the distinction between them.

Nothing, at first view, may appear more unbounded than the thought of man, which not only escapes all human power and authority, but is not even restrained within the limits of nature and reality.

To form monsters, and join incongruous shapes and appearances, costs the imagination no more trouble than to conceive natural and familiar objects.

While the body is confined to the Earth, along which it creeps with difficulty; thought can in an instant transport us into distant regions of reality; or even beyond reality, into unbounded chaos, where natural law no longer exists.

Though thought appears to possess unbounded liberty we find upon nearer examination it is really confined within very narrow limits.

All this creative power of the mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding the materials afforded us by the senses and experience.

All ideas, especially abstract ones, are naturally faint and obscure: the mind has but a slender hold of them: they are apt to be confounded with other resembling ideas; we are apt to imagine a determinate idea annexed to it.

We must bring ideas into so clear a light we may reasonably hope to remove all dispute which may arise, concerning their nature!

It is evident there is a principle of connection between the different thoughts or ideas of the mind, and their appearance to the memory or imagination; they introduce each other with a certain degree of methodical regularity.

In serious thinking this is so observable that any particular thought, which breaks in upon the regular tract or chain of ideas, is eventually examined.

Even in our wildest and most wandering reveries, nay in our very dreams, we shall find, if we reflect, the imagination ran not altogether wild as there is a connection upheld among the different ideas, which succeed each other.

Were the loosest and freest conversation to be transcribed, there would immediately be observed something which connected it in all its transitions.

Or where this is wanting, the individual who broke the thread of discourse might still inform you, that there had revolved in his mind a succession of thought, which had gradually led him from the subject of conversation.

It is found simple ideas are comprehended in compound ones bound together by some universal principle which has an equal influence on all mankind.

All the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, relations of ideas and matters of fact.

Relations of ideas are geometrically calculable; every affirmation, either intuitively or demonstratively certain, must be provable to become fact.

That the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the square of the two sides, is a statement which expresses a relation between these figures.

That three times five is equal to the half of thirty, expresses a relation between these numbers.

Statements of this category are discovered by the mere operation of thought.

Though there never was a circle or triangle in nature, truths demonstrated by Euclid retain their material certainty through factual evidence.

Matters of fact are accepted rather than ascertained; the negation of every matter of fact is a possiblity, conceived by the mind with the same facility and distinctness as if it was conformable to reality.

replace fear of the unknown with curiosity

It may be a subject worthy of curiosity, to enquire what is the nature of that evidence which assures us of any real existence and matter of fact, beyond the present testimony of our senses, or the records of our memory.

Such enquiries may even prove useful, by exciting curiosity but halting implicit faith and security, the bane of all reasoning and free enquiry.

In reality, all arguments from experience are founded on the similarity which we discover among natural objects, and by which we are induced to expect effects similar to those which we have found to follow from such objects.

None but a fool will ever pretend to dispute the authority of experience.

It is only after a long course of uniform experiments in any category, that we attain a firm reliance and security with regard to a particular event.

A long course of uniform experiments shows us a number of uniform effects, resulting from certain objects, and teaches us that those particular objects, at that particular time, were endowed with such powers and forces.

When a new object, endowed with similar sensible qualities, is produced, we expect similar powers and forces, and look for a like effect.

All inferences from experience suppose that the future will resemble the past, and that similar powers will be connected with similar sensible qualities.

If there be suspicion the course of nature may change, and the past may be no rule in the future, all experience becomes useless with no ability to infer.

All inferences from experience are effects of expectations, not of reasoning.

Expectation, then, is the great guide of human life.

It is that principle alone which renders experience useful; allowing us to expect in the future a similar course of events with those of the past.

Without the influence of expectation, we should be entirely ignorant of every matter of fact beyond what is immediately here in the present.

There would be an end at once of all action.

It may be proper to remark, though conclusions from experience carry beyond memory and senses, and assure matters of fact which happened in the most distant places and most remote ages, yet some facts must always be present to the senses or memory to proceed in drawing these conclusions.

A man finding in a desert country the remains of pompous buildings would conclude the country had been cultivated by civilized inhabitants; but did nothing of this nature occur to him, he could never form such an inference.

Taught the events of former ages from history we must peruse the original manuscript carrying inferences from one testimony to another, till we arrive at the eyewitness' and spectators of these distant events.

Proceeding upon some fact present to the memory or senses our reasoning becomes merely hypothetical; even though links might be connected with each other, the whole chain of inferences would have nothing to support it.

If I ask why you believe any particular matter of fact, which you relate, you must tell me some reason; and this reason will be some other matter of fact.

As you cannot proceed after this manner, ad infinitum, you must terminate in some matter of fact present to your memory or senses; or must allow that your belief is entirely without foundation.

All belief of matter of fact is derived from an object present to the memory or senses and a perceived connection between that and another object.

Having found that any two kinds of object - flame and heat, snow and cold - have always been connected together; if flame or snow be presented anew to the senses, the mind expects heat or cold.

This belief is the necessary result of placing the mind in such circumstances.

It is an operation of the soul as unavoidable as to feel gratitude when we receive benefits or hatred when we meet with injuries.

All these operations are of natural instincts, which no reasoning or process of thinking or understanding is able either to produce or to prevent.

The Monkey Business Illusion

The great advantage of the mathematical sciences is ideas are always determinate, the smallest distinction between them is perceptible.

An oval is never mistaken for a circle, nor an hyperbola for an ellipse.

The isosceles and right triangles are distinguished by boundaries more exact than vice and virtue, right and wrong.

If any term be defined in geometry, the mind readily, of itself, substitutes, on all occasions, the definition for the term defined: or even when no definition is employed, the object itself may be presented to the senses, and by that means be steadily and clearly apperceived.

The finer sentiments of the mind, the operations of the understanding, the various agitations of the passion, though really in themselves distinct, easily escape us, when surveyed by reflection; nor is it in our power to recall the original object, as often as we have occasion to contemplate it.

Ambiguity, by this means, is gradually introduced into our reasoning: similar objects are readily taken to be the same: and the conclusion becomes at last very wide of the premises.

If the mind retains the ideas of geometry determinately, it must carry on a much longer and more intricate chain of reasoning and compare ideas much wider of each other in order to reach the abstruse truths of morality.

Where we trace the principles of reason through a few steps consider how soon nature throws a bar to all our enquiries, and reduces us to an acknowledgment of ignorance.

The chief obstacle, therefore, to our improvement in the philosophical or metaphysical sciences is the obscurity of ideas, and ambiguity of terms.

The principal difficulty in the mathematics is the length of inferences and compass of thought, requisite to the forming of any conclusion.

Our progress in physics is retarded by the want of proper experiments and phenomena, which are often discovered by chance, and cannot always be found, when requisite, even by the most diligent and prudent inquiry.

The science of human nature requires superior care to be surmounted.

All ideas are nothing but copies of impressions; it is impossible to think of anything not antecedently noted by either our external or internal senses.

Complex ideas, may, perhaps, be well known by definition, which is nothing but an enumeration of those parts or simple ideas, that compose them.

When we have pushed up definitions to the most simple ideas, and find still more ambiguity and obscurity; what resource are we then possessed of?

By what technique can we throw light upon these indeterminate ideas, and render them altogether precise and determinate to our intellectual view?

It might reasonably be expected in questions disputed with great eagerness that the meaning of all the terms should have been agreed upon among the disputants over the course of two thousand years.

How easy it appears to give exact definitions to the terms employed in reasoning, upon further scrutiny we shall draw a quite opposite conclusion.

From this circumstance alone, that a controversy has been long kept on foot, and remains still undecided, we may presume that there is some ambiguity in expression, and the disputants affix different ideas to the words employed.

The faculties of the mind are naturally alike in every individual; if men define terms they no long form different opinions of the same subject.

If men attempt discussion of questions entirely beyond the reach of human capacity they may long beat the air in their fruitless contests.

Intelligible definitions would immediately put an end to the controversy.

I own this dispute has led philosophers into such a labyrinth of obscure sophistry, it is no wonder a sensible reader indulge his ease by turning a deaf ear as he can expect neither instruction or entertainment.


How to Argue - Philosophical Reasoning

How to Argue - Induction & Abduction

The state of the argument proposed may serve to renew attention; as it has more novelty, promises at least some decision of the controversy, and will not much disturb his ease by any intricate or obscure reasoning.

I hope, therefore, to make it appear that all men have ever agreed in theory both of connection and of liberty, according to any reasonable sense, which can be put on these terms; and that the whole controversy, has hitherto turned merely upon words.

We shall begin with examining theory of connection.

It appears evident that, if all the scenes of nature were continually shifted in such a manner that no two events bore any resemblance to each other, but every object was entirely new, without any similitude to whatever had been seen before, we would be unable to correlate these objects.

Inference and reasoning concerning the operations of nature would be at an end; the memory and senses would remain the only vehicles by which the knowledge of existence could possibly have access to the mind.

Synchronicity arises from the uniformity observable in the operations of nature, where similar objects are constantly connected together; the mind is determined by expectation to infer the one from the appearance of the other.

Beyond the constant connection of similar objects, and the consequent inference from one to the other, we have no notion of any connection.

If it appear that these connections take place in the voluntary actions of men, and in the operations of mind; all mankind have ever agreed in theory of connection, and they have hitherto disputed merely for not understanding.

Human nature remains forever and always still the same, in its principles and operations; the same motives always produce the same actions.

Ambition, avarice, narcissism, vanity, friendship, generosity, public spirit: this passion, from the beginning, the source of all the actions and enterprises.

Would you know the sentiments and inclinations of the Greeks and Romans?

Study well the temper and actions of the French and English.

Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular.

Watching men in all varieties of circumstances and situations, and become acquainted with the regular springs of human action and behavior.

Records of wars, intrigues, factions, and revolutions, are collections of social experiments; the politician fixes the principles of his science by experiments which he forms concerning them.

vivid conception

To explode any forgery in history, we cannot make use of a more convincing argument, than to prove, that the actions ascribed to any individual are directly contrary to the course of nature, and that human motives, in such circumstances, induced the storyteller to inaccurately report matters of fact.

The principles of human nature informs us of nothing new or strange and that uniformity in every particular, is found in throughout nature.

The constant and universal principles of human nature furnish us with materials from which we may form our observations and become acquainted with the regular springs of human action and behavior.

The aged gardener more skillful in his calling than the young beginner as there is a certain uniformity in the operation of the sun, rain, and Earth towards the production of vegetables; and experience teaches the old practitioner the rules by which this operation is governed and directed.

Are the manners of men different in different ages and countries?

We learn the great force of education whichs mold the human mind from its infancy and forms it into a fixed and established character.

Are the actions of the same individual much diversified in the different periods of his life, from infancy to old age?

This affords room for many general observations concerning the gradual change of our sentiments and inclinations, and the different maxims which prevail in the different ages of human life.

Even the characters, which are peculiar to each individual, have a uniformity of character; otherwise our acquaintance with the individuals and our observation of their conduct could never teach us their dispositions, or serve to direct our behavior with regard to them.

The mutual dependence of men is so great in all societies no human action is entirely complete in itself, or is performed without reference to the actions of others, requisite to make it answer fully the intention of the agent acting.

The poorest craftsman, who labors alone, expects at least the protection of the magistrate, to ensure him the enjoyment of the fruits of his labor.

He expects when he carries his goods to market and offers them at a reasonable price he shall find purchasers and shall be able to engage others to supply him with those commodities which are requisite for his subsistence.

In these conclusions they take their measures from past experience; and firmly believe that men are to continue in operations as they always have.

Experimental inference concerning the actions of others enters so much into life that no man, while awake, is ever a moment without employing it.

Mankind has agreed in theory on liberty as well as on that of connection.

When we consider how aptly natural and moral evidence links together we shall allow they are of the same nature, derived from the same principles.

Liberty is the ability to act or not act.

When any opinion leads to absurdities, it is certainly false; but it is not certain that an opinion is false, because it seems of dangerous consequence.

I affirm that the doctrines, both of connection and of liberty are not only consistent with morality, but are absolutely essential to it.

The mind of man, formed by nature, displaying certain characteristics and having dispositions immediately feels the sentiment of approbation or blame.

These distinctions are found in the natural sentiments of the human mind and will not be altered by any philosophical theory or speculation.

The origin of the passions of man will acquire authority if we find the same theory is requisite in explaining the same phenomena in all other animals.

Animals as well as men learn many things from experience.

Both infer the same events will always follow from the same causes.

By this principle they become acquainted with the properties of matter.

The ignorance of youth contrasts the plainly distinguishable sagacity of the aged, who after long observation, avoid pain while in pursuit of pleasure.

A horse, accustomed to the field, becomes acquainted with the proper height which he can leap, and will never attempt what exceeds his force and ability.

The horse infers some matter of fact beyond what immediately strikes his senses and this inference is altogether founded on past experience.

He expects from the present situation the same consequences which it has always found in observation to result from similar objects and conditions.

Though animals learn from observation, many actions derive from the hand of nature; they improve, little or nothing, by the longest practice and experience.

These are denominate instincts, to be admired as something extraordinary, and inexplicable by the disquisitions of human understanding.

The reasoning we possess in common with beasts on which the conduct of life depends is nothing but instinct; its operations are not directed by relations or comparisons of ideas, as are the objects of our intellectual faculties.

Though the instinct be different, yet still it is an instinct, which teaches a man to avoid the fire; as much as that, which teaches a bird, with such exactness, the incubation, and the whole economy and order of its nursery.


Although without hesitation mankind acknowledges the doctrine of connection in all ages they profess the contrary opinion of separation.

Uncertainty proceeds from the secret opposition of contrary causes.

There is no method of reasoning more common, and yet none more false in philosophical disputes than to endeavor the refutation of any hypothesis by a pretense of its dangerous consequences to religious morality.

The general observations treasured up by a course of experience, give us the clue of human nature, and teach us to unravel all its intricacies.

Pretexts and appearances no longer deceive us.

A man is guilty of unpardonable arrogance who concludes that an argument that has escaped his own investigation does not really exist.

Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the ease with which the many are governed by a few.

David Hume

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