Dr. Ari Santas Notes on

Humes Enquiry III, Of the Association of Ideas


A.     Principles of Association

Besides the ability of our mind to actively conjure up new ideas by combining old ones, it has the ability to bring one idea after another into consciousness

What is a train of thought?

A series of ideas, one leasing to another

Hume believes that you can take any sequence of ideas, and no matter how wild it gets, or how much difference there is between the 1st and the last, there is an order to the sequence

One thought leads to another

What made you think of that?


look at grade book think of students one student looks like brother think of brother think of family think of childhood think of long lost friend he calls I was just thinking of you! why? I was looking at my grade book!


The order is reducible to 3 principles of association

1)      Resemblance

2)      Contiguity

3)      Cause and Effect


B. Sources of Ideas


Creative Imagination we (actively)

compound, transpose, conjure up

augment, diminsh new ideas


Impressions Ideas


Automatic Association one idea

experience copies of resemblance, contiguity, (passively) leads

experience cause and effect to another




Manipulation of Experience Contents of Thought

(powers of the mind)


C.     The Question

Hume has great interest in these principles of association - particularly the third one - Causation

What he wants to know is how ideas get connected in this way

What accounts from one idea following another?

Are we born with it?

Do we learn it?

Does reason have anything to do with it?

The significance of the answer is that it will account for the origin of relations

And these will account for the origin of inference

Ultimately, he will use this to evaluate inference

Sections IV and V are an attempt to answer the question of the origin of association (relation)