Happy New Year! The January Philosophy Book of the Month is The Runaway Species. Discuss it now.

The February Philosophy Book of the Month is The Fourth Age by Byron Reese (Nominated by RJG.)

Limits of Imagination

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
User avatar
mr533473
Posts: 59
Joined: July 1st, 2018, 8:12 am

Limits of Imagination

Post by mr533473 » July 2nd, 2018, 4:55 am

The following extract is from David Hume's An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and should set up the question reasonably well (Please read the extract before answering the question)

"...Here therefore we may divide all the perceptions of the mind into two classes or species, which are distinguished by their different degrees of force and vivacity. The less forcible and lively are commonly denominated Thoughts or Ideas. The other species want a name in our language, and in most others; I suppose, because it was not requisite for any, but philosophical purposes, to rank them under a general term or appellation. Let us, therefore, use a little freedom, and call them Impressions; employing that word in a sense somewhat different from the usual. By the term impression, then, I mean all our more lively perceptions, when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or desire, or will. And impressions are distinguished from ideas, which are the less lively perceptions, of which we are conscious, when we reflect on any of those sensations or movements above mentioned.

Nothing, at first view, may seem 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 the most natural and familiar objects. And while the body is confined to one planet, along which it creeps with pain and difficulty; the thought can in an instant transport us into the most distant regions of the universe; or even beyond the universe, into the unbounded chaos, where nature is supposed to lie in total confusion. What never was seen, or heard of, may yet be conceived; nor is any thing beyond the power of thought, except what implies an absolute contradiction.

But though our thought seems to possess this unbounded liberty, we shall find, upon a nearer examination, that it is really confined within very narrow limits, and that all this creative power of the mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing, augmenting, or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses and experience. When we think of a golden mountain, we only join two consistent ideas, gold, and mountain, with which we were formerly acquainted. A virtuous horse we can conceive; because, from our own feeling, we can conceive virtue; and this we may unite to the figure and shape of a horse, which is an animal familiar to us. In short, all the materials of thinking are derived either from our outward or inward sentiment: the mixture and composition of these belongs alone to the mind and will. Or, to express myself in philosophical language, all our ideas or more feeble perceptions are copies of our impressions or more lively ones."


The question is if anyone feels their imagination capable of forming an idea that has not compounded, transposed, augmented or diminished materials afforded them by the senses and experience?

Maxcady10001
Posts: 445
Joined: September 12th, 2017, 6:03 pm

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by Maxcady10001 » July 4th, 2018, 12:54 pm

No, Hume is right, the imagination is limited to past perceptions.
Another idea of Hume's is the absence of self, having read Hume, is perception then objective? Considering there is no self to bias this perception, but also considering Hume's arguments against an external world. Of course, this is a different subject, but it is somewhat related, and since most people don't read Hume why not ask? It seems correct, but not knowing anyone else to have read Hume, this seems to be a good opportunity.

User avatar
RJG
Moderator
Posts: 1182
Joined: March 28th, 2012, 8:52 pm

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by RJG » July 4th, 2018, 5:57 pm

mr533473 wrote:The question is if anyone feels their imagination capable of forming an idea that has not compounded, transposed, augmented or diminished materials afforded them by the senses and experience?
Not only can we not create/form 'something' (a thought/idea) from 'nothing' (from non-existent experiential material), but we can't even create/form 'something' from 'something'!!!

We can only EXPERIENCE thoughts/ideas, NOT CREATE, nor form (nor "compound/transpose/augment/diminish") them!

Creating/forming a thought (or idea) is a LOGICAL IMPOSSIBILITY. -- It is not logically possible to 'create' a thought without first 'experiencing' it. And once it is experienced, then it is too late to create it!

“All that I know about anything comes from my thoughts. Though, my thoughts are not my own. They are given to me. I become aware of them when they come to me, and not before. There is no other way, as it is not logically possible for me to pre-select those thoughts for which I am then to become aware of. I am only the receiver of my thoughts, not the giver. For if I could truly give, or pre-select, my own thoughts, then I would certainly select happy, pleasurable thoughts all the time.” --- RJG

Furthermore, "imagination" cannot form/do anything. "Imagination" is just a passive one-way experience(s). And WE are just the receivers of our experiences, not the givers or creators. -- We are just "experiencers", aka "experiential beings". Nothing more.

There is no "power of the mind", nor even a "mind" itself. There are only bodies that 'experience' (the thought/idea of) mind. A "mind" is not needed to experience. The body can experience (and auto-react accordingly) just fine all by itself, ...just like everything else in this universe.

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 7611
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by Greta » July 4th, 2018, 7:33 pm

mr533473 wrote:
July 2nd, 2018, 4:55 am
The question is if anyone feels their imagination capable of forming an idea that has not compounded, transposed, augmented or diminished materials afforded them by the senses and experience?
In very small increments, yes, via unconscious synergies in processing the above inputs.

User avatar
mr533473
Posts: 59
Joined: July 1st, 2018, 8:12 am

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by mr533473 » July 5th, 2018, 12:26 am

Maxcady10001 wrote:
July 4th, 2018, 12:54 pm
No, Hume is right, the imagination is limited to past perceptions.
Another idea of Hume's is the absence of self, having read Hume, is perception then objective? Considering there is no self to bias this perception, but also considering Hume's arguments against an external world. Of course, this is a different subject, but it is somewhat related, and since most people don't read Hume why not ask? It seems correct, but not knowing anyone else to have read Hume, this seems to be a good opportunity.
Worth mentioning up front, I am reading Hume at the moment (not well read) and am no expert or authority on the matter. Also nowhere in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (that's what I'm reading after a few sections of the Treaties) does Hume use the word 'objective' so I'll try to answer but may fail to meet your expectation. Also, I'm not aware that Hume considered "there is no self" or made arguments "against the external world", where did you get these ideas from?

According to Hume, all perceptions of the human mind resolve themselves into two distinct kinds. They differ by degree of impact..

Impressions, have the most force, sensations, passions, emotions..

and

Ideas, more or less faint images in thinking and reasoning.

Each of these can be either of two things,

Simple, something singular, say..'red'

or

Complex like 'an apple' which may be red, sweet, has a shape...

Here's where your question "is perception then objective" becomes tricky. I'll just lay out an example (in order) and that might make at least my problem with the question clear. Note, "sensation" = arises in the soul, strikes senses, "reflection" = derived from ideas.

1. Impression of hot water
2. Sensation you sense heat, this is taken by the mind and remains until it returns upon the soul.
3. Reflection you recall the sensation (heat) by way of idea. This is the return upon the soul (you sense this) and it is a new impression. Call it desire (if the water was warm) or aversion (if it was boiling.) This is also taken by the mind until it returns upon the soul.

Each return upon the soul can result in a new impression to be taken by the mind until it returns upon the soul..

Could it be the case that what strikes your senses by way of exterior stimuli is an objective perception but the sensation that is felt when reflection occurs is subjective?

I don't know if this helps at all.. probs not. I'll admit, I'm not 100% clear on what you asked but thought I'd have a stab.

User avatar
mr533473
Posts: 59
Joined: July 1st, 2018, 8:12 am

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by mr533473 » July 5th, 2018, 12:50 am

RJG wrote: Not only can we not create/form 'something' (a thought/idea) from 'nothing' (from non-existent experiential material), but we can't even create/form 'something' from 'something'!!!
I ask then, who constructed that sentence?
RJG wrote:We can only EXPERIENCE thoughts/ideas, NOT CREATE, nor form (nor "compound/transpose/augment/diminish") them!

Creating/forming a thought (or idea) is a LOGICAL IMPOSSIBILITY. -- It is not logically possible to 'create' a thought without first 'experiencing' it. And once it is experienced, then it is too late to create it!
So when I pose the idea of a feathery umbrella running though burning astroturf on five of it's seventeen little toes purely for the sake of this argument I am not in fact compounding prior experience by way of ideas and imagination?
RJG wrote:“All that I know about anything comes from my thoughts. Though, my thoughts are not my own. They are given to me. I become aware of them when they come to me, and not before. There is no other way, as it is not logically possible for me to pre-select those thoughts for which I am then to become aware of. I am only the receiver of my thoughts, not the giver. For if I could truly give, or pre-select, my own thoughts, then I would certainly select happy, pleasurable thoughts all the time.” --- RJG
I'm glad you begin with "All that I know" otherwise there would be a fair bit to unpack.
RJG wrote:Furthermore, "imagination" cannot form/do anything. "Imagination" is just a passive one-way experience(s). And WE are just the receivers of our experiences, not the givers or creators. -- We are just "experiencers", aka "experiential beings". Nothing more.

There is no "power of the mind", nor even a "mind" itself. There are only bodies that 'experience' (the thought/idea of) mind. A "mind" is not needed to experience. The body can experience (and auto-react accordingly) just fine all by itself, ...just like everything else in this universe.
"The question is if anyone feels their imagination capable", you seem to feel yours is incapable (maybe even non existent). While for very different reasons, I too am yet to identify any imagining which has not compounded, transposed, augmented, diminished etc. materials afforded them by my senses and experience.

User avatar
mr533473
Posts: 59
Joined: July 1st, 2018, 8:12 am

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by mr533473 » July 5th, 2018, 12:52 am

Greta wrote:
July 4th, 2018, 7:33 pm
mr533473 wrote:
July 2nd, 2018, 4:55 am
The question is if anyone feels their imagination capable of forming an idea that has not compounded, transposed, augmented or diminished materials afforded them by the senses and experience?
In very small increments, yes, via unconscious synergies in processing the above inputs.
Cool, are you able to give me an example of what your imagined?

Maxcady10001
Posts: 445
Joined: September 12th, 2017, 6:03 pm

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by Maxcady10001 » July 5th, 2018, 3:16 am

Well, having read Hume's A Treatise on Human Nature (though limited in understanding), Hume rejects the idea of an immutable soul, which was mentioned in the earlier post. Quite a bit of Hume's philosophy is against any metaphysics, especially a soul. Also, the relationship between mind and soul mentioned in the earlier post does not sound like Hume. Here's a quote of Hume on the mind:

"As to causation; we may observe that the true idea of the mind is to consider it as a system of different perceptions or different existences, which are linked together by the relation of cause and effect, and mutually produce, destroy, influence and modify each other." (Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pg. 247)

He doesn't mention a soul in this process.

On the absence of self:

"It must be some one impression that gives rise to every real idea. But self or person is not any one impression, but that to which several impressions and ideas are supposed to have a reference. If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that impression must continue invariably the same, through the whole course of our lives; since self is supposed to exist after that manner. But there is no impression constant and invariable.

Pain and pleasure, grief and joy, passions and sensations succeed each other, and never exist at the same time. It cannot therefore be from any of these impressions, or any other, that the idea of self is derived; and consequently there is no such idea." (Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pg. 239)

On external existence:

"We may observe, that it is universally allowed by philosophers, and is pretty obvious of itself, that nothing is ever really present with the mind but its perceptions or impressions and ideas, and that external objects become known to us only by those perceptions they occasion. To hate, to love, to think, to feel, to see; all this is nothing but to perceive." (Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pg. 71)

There is a link here to download a pdf of A Treatise of Human Nature, although the pages are different from the book owned, included are the page numbers for the quotes in order.


Pg. 138
Pg. 133
Pg. 41-42

And the style of English is a bit different in this version.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source= ... nnE8y8TcN8

Maxcady10001
Posts: 445
Joined: September 12th, 2017, 6:03 pm

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by Maxcady10001 » July 5th, 2018, 3:41 am

If more quotes or an explanation is needed, they can be provided.

User avatar
Mosesquine
Posts: 183
Joined: September 3rd, 2016, 4:17 am

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by Mosesquine » July 5th, 2018, 5:49 am

The question in the OP seems not clear. The quoted passages are famous parts of Hume's Enquiry. Merely one sentence is not enough to show what the author of the OP above is asking about.

User avatar
mr533473
Posts: 59
Joined: July 1st, 2018, 8:12 am

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by mr533473 » July 5th, 2018, 6:17 am

Maxcady10001 wrote: Well, having read Hume's A Treatise on Human Nature (though limited in understanding), Hume rejects the idea of an immutable soul, which was mentioned in the earlier post. Quite a bit of Hume's philosophy is against any metaphysics, especially a soul. Also, the relationship between mind and soul mentioned in the earlier post does not sound like Hume. Here's a quote of Hume on the mind:

"As to causation; we may observe that the true idea of the mind is to consider it as a system of different perceptions or different existences, which are linked together by the relation of cause and effect, and mutually produce, destroy, influence and modify each other." (Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pg. 247)

He doesn't mention a soul in this process.
Treaties of Human Nature, Part I, Section II (Division of the Subject)

"Impressions may be divided into two kinds, those of sensation and those of reflection. The first kind arises in the soul originally, from unknown causes..."

"This idea of pleasure or pain, when it returns upon the soul, produces the new impression.."

Direct quotes, I would not have used "soul" personally but was trying to best represent.
Maxcady10001 wrote:On the absence of self:

"It must be some one impression that gives rise to every real idea. But self or person is not any one impression, but that to which several impressions and ideas are supposed to have a reference. If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that impression must continue invariably the same, through the whole course of our lives; since self is supposed to exist after that manner. But there is no impression constant and invariable.

Pain and pleasure, grief and joy, passions and sensations succeed each other, and never exist at the same time. It cannot therefore be from any of these impressions, or any other, that the idea of self is derived; and consequently there is no such idea." (Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pg. 239)
In the first quote he seems to be saying that 'self' is not a single impression or idea. He questions if any impression can give rise to the idea of 'self' and concludes that it cant. Notice how he says "idea of self", If he was to determine if an impression could give rise to it then surely he has an idea of what it is.

Continuing directly on from the second quote.. "But farther, what must become of all our particular perceptions upon this hypothesis? All these are different, and distinguishable, and separable from each other, and may be separately considered, and may exist separately, and have no Deed of tiny thing to support their existence. After what manner, therefore, do they belong to self; and how are they connected with it? For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself..."

I don't think the idea of self is in question as much us the reasons for it. As you quoted, "But self or person is not any one impression, but that to which several impressions and ideas are supposed to have a reference." << Hume's idea of self

It's like causation, we assert a cause, though don't have good reason to. We have an 'idea of self', we are just not reasonably justified. He is questioning the justification. I don't think this is necessarily an argument for the "absence of self" as you first put it.
Maxcady10001 wrote: On external existence:

"We may observe, that it is universally allowed by philosophers, and is pretty obvious of itself, that nothing is ever really present with the mind but its perceptions or impressions and ideas, and that external objects become known to us only by those perceptions they occasion. To hate, to love, to think, to feel, to see; all this is nothing but to perceive." (Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pg. 71)
I don't see this as an "argument against an external world" as you first put it, rather an argument that the external world is mediated by our perceptions on all accounts. The external objects are said not to be present with the mind The external objects ARE present with its perceptions or impressions and ideas and the "external objects become known to us only by those perceptions they occasion".

I think it's important to keep in mind that Hume is questioning our reasons, justifications etc. not so much trying to prove things in and out of existence. That's what I'm getting from him anyway.
Maxcady10001 wrote:There is a link here to download a pdf of A Treatise of Human Nature, although the pages are different from the book owned, included are the page numbers for the quotes in order.
Thanks, I got a pdf version, it's handy because I can do a word search and see that Hume says "soul" 68 times throughout the book. I don't know how you missed all 68.

User avatar
mr533473
Posts: 59
Joined: July 1st, 2018, 8:12 am

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by mr533473 » July 5th, 2018, 6:18 am

Mosesquine wrote:
July 5th, 2018, 5:49 am
The question in the OP seems not clear. The quoted passages are famous parts of Hume's Enquiry. Merely one sentence is not enough to show what the author of the OP above is asking about.
Hi, sorry I don't understand, whats the OP?

User avatar
Mosesquine
Posts: 183
Joined: September 3rd, 2016, 4:17 am

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by Mosesquine » July 5th, 2018, 6:41 am

mr533473 wrote:
July 5th, 2018, 6:18 am
Mosesquine wrote:
July 5th, 2018, 5:49 am
The question in the OP seems not clear. The quoted passages are famous parts of Hume's Enquiry. Merely one sentence is not enough to show what the author of the OP above is asking about.
Hi, sorry I don't understand, whats the OP?

'The OP' is an abbreviated expression of 'the original post'. It's a commonly used term on the web. You are not qualified, it seems, to participate in discussion on the community online.

User avatar
mr533473
Posts: 59
Joined: July 1st, 2018, 8:12 am

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by mr533473 » July 5th, 2018, 6:44 am

Mosesquine wrote:
July 5th, 2018, 6:41 am
mr533473 wrote:
July 5th, 2018, 6:18 am


Hi, sorry I don't understand, whats the OP?

'The OP' is an abbreviated expression of 'the original post'. It's a commonly used term on the web. You are not qualified, it seems, to participate in discussion on the community online.
Oh, that's a shame, where do I go to get my qualification?

Maxcady10001
Posts: 445
Joined: September 12th, 2017, 6:03 pm

Re: Limits of Imagination

Post by Maxcady10001 » July 5th, 2018, 6:53 am

Having said there is no such idea of self, how could he only be questioning the justification?

Just continue reading from the second quote, it is a clear absolute denial of the self, as anything but a general term in language referring to a collection of perceptions. He goes so far as to say people that believe otherwise cannot be reasoned with. Honestly, not going keep quote mining, after this post, speaking from understanding. Also, it should be understood that a failure of Hume was in continuing to use I or My, even though he explains what he means, he should have cut his use of the words completely.

Continued from the second quote

"...when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception. When my perceptions are removed for any time as by sound sleep, so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist. And were all my perceptions removed by death, and could I neither think, nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate, after the dissolution of my body, I should be entirely annihilated, nor do I conceive what is further requisite to make me a perfect nonentity. If anyone, upon serious and unprejudiced reflection thinks he has a different notion of himself, I must confess I can reason no longer with him. All I can allow him is, that he may be in the right as well as I, and that we are essentially different in this particular. He may, perhaps, perceive something simple and continued, which he calls himself; though I am certain there is no such principle in me."

Post Reply