Hume – An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Hume – An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Human understanding has raised concerns among different philosophers and psychologists, who are continually formulating different arguments on the same. Human beings can perceive an object as good or bad, right or wrong, depending on the appearance and the role of that particular object that will lead to a specific effect on human life. According to David Hume, two factors are determining the level of understanding of human beings. The two elements are ideas and facts (Hume, 2016). The interrelation between these two aspects assesses the level of knowledge among different people. On the other hand, some philosophers and psychologists stage a different argument, incorporating the role played by cognition in human understanding. In this scenario, human intelligence is directly linked to knowledge gain, which is through two processes namely empiricism and rationalization. Furthermore, Hume argues that everything that happens on earth has natural cause and effect, which are beyond scientific explanation. On the other hand, it is apparent that every human being has a different perception of different objects. In this essay, I will argue that human understanding is based on individual interpretation of natural facts and ideas, which is influenced by each person’s experience.

My arguments draw the critical concepts from Hume’s Inquiry, which states three crucial rationales. The rationale includes the role played by nature in human understanding, the influence of individual experience on understanding objects, and the part of cognition on human perception (Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 2017). The mentioned premises are just ideas that can be debated on and proved wrong or right. First, the opinion suggests that nature plays a vital role in initiating human understanding. Secondly, individual experience greatly influences human knowledge and perception of different objects and situations.  Lastly, human understanding is dependent on the cognitive ability of each. Although the premises may have some objections from other individuals with different opinions, they can be proved to facts and not ideas. The tests are experimentally certified and are factually based on observation and reasoning.

In defense of my first argument, all incidents happening on earth are naturally controlled and are beyond the control of human beings. In other words, human beings do not understand the occurrence of various natural phenomena. Instead, they only form theories to predict the cause and infer meanings from the effects of these happenings. Contrary, every scientist will derive their understanding of these phenomena, breeding further questions on the validity of their claims. However, human beings can partially understand nature by studying the repeated trends of the various aspects of the environment. The insight gained from this may be useful in understanding the general constituents of life apart from the natural occurrences. Through this, objects are perceived, and situations and are recognized or inferred based on their causes and effects (Yanow, 2015). Conditions with a positive impact on human life are perceived to be good, while those with adverse effects are bad. Taking a keen look at this argument shows that human beings only have a choice to make after the occurrence of objects or situations, but not the cause.

Most philosophers will agree with me on my second premise about the influence of experience on human understanding. According to science, it is right to say that repeated encounter with a particular object builds its comprehensive insight and understanding. On the same note, continued interaction with the purpose and situations will build an extensive knowledge on how that specific object is function and its effects on human life. The experience gained from this kind of encounter is necessary for increased human understanding about the purpose and other related objects. Relating one object with known characteristics to another is a right approach of extending the understandability of as many aspects of life as possible. For example, being aware that lion is dangerous can be used to understand the nature of other big five animals because all are wild animals. However, the generalization is only possible after learning the characteristics of one object or aspect.

My final premise has a close relationship with some of the scientifically proven facts; hence, it can be argued to be valid. Human cognition has a significant influence on how different people view, understand, and interpret objects. Different humans have different understanding abilities based on genetics and environment, which is termed as nature-nurture controversy. In simple terms, this is the interaction between human and their environment and in-build wit to understand the universe. Human understanding according to this premise is based on the knowledge acquittance ability, which is through two major theories, empiricism and rationalism. The idea of empiricism suggests that knowledge is acquired as a result of self-experience through sensory and motor behaviors (Ben-Chaim, 2017). On the other hand, rationalism suggests that knowledge gain and understanding in human beings is; as a result of natural intelligence. An insight into social cognition provides the required knowledge to understand the difference in human perception.

However, some ideas may oppose that there is the possibility of understanding objects without necessarily having experience with them. As much as this claim may be having some elements of truth, it is not apparent. The petition needs several proofs, which are not available. In this case, we are forced to use probability to gauge the accuracy of my second premise and the opposing claim.  I am sure that 80% of the total world population would best learn from their previous experiences, through correcting any mistake done previously. Only 20% of the world’s population may be a position of understanding nature without applying the concept of knowledge, which is a rare case. Therefore, I would again restate my premise and validate its applicability as far as human understanding is concerned, not forgetting that the assumption is also in line with Hume’s findings and explanations.

Other opposing claims may arise against my last premise, which is the effects of human cognition on understanding. Even though the idea is supported psychologically compared to philosophically, I stand firm by this claim since; it holds most philosophical concepts. On the other hand, it has a close relationship with Hume’s assertion of the role of experience in human understanding, which is also my second premise.  We can satisfactorily make an assumption n that a combination of the three premises discussed will probably increase our insight on how we perceive, understand, and relate every object, situation, or incidents we encounter in daily life. On the other hand, it is important to note the possibility of connecting similarities between objects to find their general characteristics that would help in predicting their causes and effects. Ultimately, all the provided claims are valid since; they have enough evidence over the conflicting claims.



Ben-Chaim, M. (2017). Experimental Philosophy and the Birth of Empirical Science: Boyle, Locke, and Newton. Routledge.

Hume, D. (2016). An enquiry concerning human understanding. In Seven Masterpieces of Philosophy (pp. 191-284). Routledge.

Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (2017). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. MIT press.

Yanow, D. (2015). Thinking Interpretively Philosophical Presuppositions and the Human Sciences. In Interpretation and Method (pp. 37-58). Routledge.