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§2. Classi .cation of the Passions
. I begin with Hume’s classiﬁcation of the passions. At the outset of
the Treatise (–; and later ff.), Hume classiﬁes the items of experience,
which he calls “perceptions,” as follows:
(e.g., of color, smell,
touch; of pleasure and pain)
(e.g., the passions, desires, emotions)
In Hume’s theory, impressions both of sensation and of reﬂection strike us
with greater force and violence than do the ideas that derive from them;
impressions are both prior to and more lively and vivid than ideas.
Impressions of reﬂection, however, may derive from impressions of sensation indirectly via ideas. Hume gives this account (T:f.): the impression
of sensation, say of a pleasure or a pain, gives rise to a corresponding idea
of pleasure or pain, which is “a copy taken by the mind” (T:). Then this
idea of a pleasure or pain, when it returns upon the soul (as Hume says),
produces a new impression of reﬂection, a reﬂexive impression of a desire
or an aversion, a hope or a fear, as the case may be. These impressions of
reﬂection may themselves be copied by memory or imagination, and in
this way they give rise to further ideas. Impressions of reﬂection are antecedent to the ideas derived from them, but they are posterior to impressions
of sensation from which they may be indirectly derived via an idea of pleasure or pain, this idea itself arising from an antecedent impression of pleasure or pain (T:). Thus all ideas originate from antecedent impressions of
sensation somewhere down the line; the same holds for impressions of
reﬂection, which derive from pleasures and pains. Hume’s concern is not
with natural philosophy—mechanics and astronomy—but with moral philosophy, with the science of human nature (see the Introduction to the
Treatise, xvii–xix). Since “the examination of our sensations belongs more
to anatomists and natural philosophers than to moral” (T:), it is impressions of reﬂection (passions, desires, and emotions) that are the focus of
his attention (T:).
. In II:i: Hume gives a classiﬁcation of impressions of reﬂection, which
include the passions. His arrangement is not altogether clear, but I think
the following ﬁts his intentions.
First, Hume distinguishes the passions according to how they arise, so
(i) Direct passions: these arise immediately from pleasure
or pain, or from good or evil. Hume often seems to
view pleasure and pain, and good and evil, as the same (T:
, , , most explicitly at ).
(ii) Indirect passions: these arise from pleasure and pain but require more complicated conditions that involve what Hume
describes as “this double relation of ideas and impressions”
(T:). Examples of indirect passions are pride and humility, ambition, vanity, and love and hate, as well as envy,
pity, and malice (T:).
(iii) Original passions (implanted instincts): these do not arise
from pleasure and pain, either directly or indirectly, although when acted upon they produce pleasure and pain
(or good or evil: T:).
Second, Hume distinguishes passions according to their turbulence and
felt intensity (T:). This distinction, Hume thinks, is not very exact: the
degrees of turbulence vary widely within passions of the same kind, and
there is much overlap. But we can still distinguish:
(i) calm passions (T:, ff., f.)
(ii) violent passions (ibid.)
Third and ﬁnally, Hume distinguishes the strong and weak passions
(T:). This distinction refers to the (causal) inﬂuence that a passion exerts.
A central point here is that certain calm passions may also be strong, that
is, exert a steady and controlling inﬂuence on our deliberation and conduct.
This may be so of the very important secondary passion which he calls
“the general appetite to good and aversion to evil” (T:). As we shall see,
it is because this and other calm passions may be strong that we wrongly
suppose, when acting from them, that we are acting from reason (alone).
We mistake the calm, steady, and controlling inﬂuence of these passions
for the operations of reason (T:f., f.).
. Putting all this together, we get (T:ff., ff., ff.):
(a) Original (primary) passions (implanted instincts [T:])
(i) Often violent: the desire to punish our enemies or
to give happiness to our friends; hunger, thirst,
(ii) Often calm: benevolence, resentment, love of life,
kindness to children
(b) Secondary (nonoriginal) passions
(i) Direct (arise directly from pleasure and pain)
. Often violent: desire and aversion, joy and grief,
hope and fear, despair and sense of security
. Often calm: general appetite to good and aversion to evil (T:; as mistaken for reason T:)
(ii) Indirect (not directly arising from pleasure and pain
but requiring in addition a double relation of ideas
and impressions [T:])
. Often violent: pride and humility; love and hate;
also ambition, vanity, envy, malice, pity, and
. Often calm: moral approval and disapproval
(T:); sense of beauty and deformity
Note that the distinction between the strong and weak passions applies
to all three main kinds of passions, since for the most part whether a passion
is strong or weak is a matter of its possessor’s character (the particular
conﬁguration of someone’s passions as a whole).
§. Outline of Section of Part III of Book II
I now turn to II:iii:. This section has ten paragraphs (T:–), some of
which I comment on in order to get Hume’s view before us. After doing
this, I sketch a general summary of his ofﬁcial view in II:iii:. As stated
above, I shall not critically assess Hume’s arguments here until later; for
the moment we focus on his account of rational deliberation.
(Paragraph One) Hume states the rationalist view as he understands it:
that all rational creatures are obliged to regulate their actions by reason.
And this view he will oppose by holding that:
(a) Reason alone can never be the motive to any action of the
(b) Reason alone can never oppose passion in the direction of
(Paragraph Two) The two functions of reason that Hume recognizes are
stated as follows:
(a) Reason may establish demonstrative truths founded on the abstract relations among our ideas. These we may think of as
the truths of logic and mathematics and the like. (This is a
fair enough rendering for our purposes.)
(b) Reason may also establish, on the basis of experience, the
relations of cause and effect between objects and events.
The point he emphasizes is that the effectiveness of demonstrative reasoning presupposes some desired end or purpose: it inﬂuences our actions only
insofar “as it directs our judgment concerning cause and effects” (T:).
(Paragraph Three) The effectiveness of reasoning showing the relations
of cause and effect likewise presupposes some desired end. We want to
ascertain the means to our ends only because we desire to achieve these
ends. The impulse to reason about means and to adopt them does not “arise
from reason but is only directed by it.” By a psychological principle of transfer, as we may call it, our concern with ends spreads backward to the appropriate means and forward to their consequences. Without concern for ends,
we would be indifferent to means and to the consequences of their use. In
the practical sphere, reasoning from experience is simply the attempt to
discover the causal and other relations between means and the ends we
desire for their own sake, as well as the true qualities and features of those
(Paragraph Four) So far Hume takes himself to have sketched the argument for the ﬁrst point of paragraph , that reason alone can never be a