An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding HTML version

Footnote 5:
For instance, Contrast or Contrariety is also a connexion among Ideas: but it may,
perhaps, be considered as a mixture of Causation and Resemblance. Where two objects
are contrary, the one destroys the other; that is, the cause of its annihilation, and the idea
of the annihilation of an object, implies the idea of its former existence.
Footnote 6:
The word, Power, is here used in a loose and popular sense. The more accurate
explication of it would give additional evidence to this argument. See Sect. 7.
Footnote 7:
Nothing is more useful than for writers, even, on moral, political, or physical subjects, to
distinguish between reason and experience, and to suppose, that these species of
argumentation are entirely different from each other. The former are taken for the mere
result of our intellectual faculties, which, by considering priori the nature of things, and
examining the effects, that must follow from their operation, establish particular
principles of science and philosophy. The latter are supposed to be derived entirely from
sense and observation, by which we learn what has actually resulted from the operation
of particular objects, and are thence able to infer, what will, for the future, result from
them. Thus, for instance, the limitations and restraints of civil government, and a legal
constitution, may be defended, either from reason, which reflecting on the great frailty
and corruption of human nature, teaches, that no man can safely be trusted with unlimited
authority; or from experience and history, which inform us of the enormous abuses, that
ambition, in every age and country, has been found to make of so imprudent a
The same distinction between reason and experience is maintained in all our deliberations
concerning the conduct of life; while the experienced statesman, general, physician, or
merchant is trusted and followed; and the unpractised novice, with whatever natural
talents endowed, neglected and despised. Though it be allowed, that reason may form
very plausible conjectures with regard to the consequences of such a particular conduct in
such particular circumstances; it is still supposed imperfect, without the assistance of
experience, which is alone able to give stability and certainty to the maxims, derived
from study and reflection.
But notwithstanding that this distinction be thus universally received, both in the active
speculative scenes of life, I shall not scruple to pronounce, that it is, at bottom, erroneous,
at least, superficial.
If we examine those arguments, which, in any of the sciences above mentioned, are
supposed to be the mere effects of reasoning and reflection, they will be found to
terminate, at last, in some general principle or conclusion, for which we can assign no
reason but observation and experience. The only difference between them and those
maxims, which are vulgarly esteemed the result of pure experience, is, that the former