ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

David Hume: Empiricism and Sense Impression

Updated on April 14, 2012

David Hume's philosophical view point revolves around sense impression. He believed that all ideas, beliefs, abstracts, and events become meaningful to an individual through sense impression. For instance, an object exists because the individual believe that its existence is meaningful and having sense that such an object exist. I.e. I believe that there is an apple on top of the television because I sense its existence and its existence is meaningful to me especially since apple is my favorite fruit.

If then, Hume's philosophical view relies on sense impression and that both rationalism and empiricism relies on sense experience to gain knowledge and concepts, how is Hume's philosophical thought categorized? To be able to distinguish or to establish that Hume is an empiricist we have to first distinguish the diverging point of rationalism and empiricism.

It is through sensory faculty for empiricists and experiences for rationalists that people are able to gain understanding and makes sense of the world. Rationalists argue their case in two ways: one is that there are concepts and knowledge of the world that cannot be explained by the mere use of the senses and that second, it values that a people's construct of the world through reason provides the additional information in understanding the world.

Empiricists on the other hand believes that the only true source of concepts and knowledge in the world is through sensory experience. It is only through the use of the senses that we gain understanding. Ergo, empiricism rejects the presumption of the rationalists' that there is innate concept or knowledge because to assume something and give reason to a concept base on the innate assumption would be invalid because it does not use the sensory tool to justify its validity. Again, if the senses are not used to explain a concept or knowledge then it is not the truth.

Hume is an empiricists because he has systematically developed a conclusion that empiricism's principles are based solely on subjective impressions which also happen to be the immediate objects of knowledge. Reasoning outside the sense impression is not possible. Ergo, without the senses, then logically such things do not exist.


David Hume is definitely an empiricist and an extreme empiricist at that since his philosophies only and solely revolves around the sense impression. Furthermore, he does not merit the reasoning or rationalists views that when senses fails to explain things, concepts, ideas, and abstracts, it relies to reason and logic—while for Hume, if the sense cannot justify the existence of an object, therefore it cannot exists. Ergo, in the sense there is no metaphysics for Hume.

The problem with Hume's philosophical thought is that our sense impression could only take us so far. For case in point is the idea of the universe. We have not been to go physically and experience other galaxies ergo the idea of other galaxies does not exists. Yet through logical rationalization and deduction, galaxies might exist but since we cannot imprint our sense impression on the idea of galaxies then it does not exists. The concept of God is also vague when evaluating it using Hume's philosophy. Though logically we have to acknowledge that a creature cannot create itself and thus need a primordial being—a creator for it to find existence, called God, but the concept of God does not exist because again, we cannot "sense" its existence, ergo there is no God. There is no soul, there is no concept of love, and no metaphysics because our sense impression fails to recognize its existence. In a way Hume's philosophical thought is very limiting in that it rejects all other arguments that do not involve sense impression.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • IntroduceCroatia profile image

      Ante Rajic 5 years ago from Croatia

      I just finished learning about Kant, in my philosophy lecture. And we talked a little about Hume, this is a great insight into his work.

      Thanks and voted up :)

    • profile image

      Rebecca 6 years ago


      While most of your post is pretty good - the 'retrospect' part appears quite biased (knowledge of God - does everyone 'know' there needs to be an ultimate parent?) or wrong - (no concept of love? We can feel love - can 'sense' it - and Hume even notes that we understand someone else when they say they're in love, because we're able to look inwards at ourselves) and we actually CAN use our sense impressions to prove other galaxies - look up in the sky on a clear night - and now with additional technology, like telescopes (and the space shuttle, hubble telescope) we can see even further.

      Not going to say Hume is absolutely right, but he's worth another look.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)