AFRREV IJAH: An International Journal of Arts and Humanities

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David Hume’s Notion of Perception and his Problem with Causality

Emmanuel Kelechi Iwuagwu, Gabriel Akwaji Agabi


This work is a critical exposition of the core aspects of Hume’s empiricist epistemological views. The epistemological problem of the origin, scope and certainty of knowledge was a subject of fierce debate between the Continental Rationalists and the British Empiricists. While the rationalists argued for the supremacy of reason, the empiricists stood for experience. As an empiricist Hume believed that certain knowledge is only gained through experience which consists of sensations, emotions and passions. Hume reduced the contents of the mind to perception which he divided into impressions and ideas. He also copiously addressed the idea of causality questioning the impressions that provide one with such an idea. This work employing the critical and expository methods surveyed the key points in Hume’s discussion on perception and the association of ideas as well as Hume’s analysis of the idea of causality. It gave a background of the empiricists project before presenting his epistemological theory of perception. The work further treated Hume’s position with regard to the association of ideas and his analysis of causality. In the area of causality, the work critically looked at Hume’s consideration of temporal succession, contiguity and necessary connection. In conclusion the work praised Hume’s courageous, rigorous and consistent empiricist stance whose intensity led to a skeptic logical conclusion which is a necessary “antidote to dogmatism and fanaticism.”

Key Words: Causality, Empiricism, Ideas, Impression, Perception

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