David Hume is a well known philosopher from the 18th century, he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on the 26th of April 1711 and died on the 25th of August 1776 meaning he lived right in the enlightenment period. David Hume was a economist, historian, essayist and a well known philosopher. Because David Hume believed in atheism he missed out on a lot of high standing careers and high positions he wanted to obtain. As atheism wasn’t respected back in the 18th century. David spent a lot of his time writing books, with some of his most famous being “A Treatise of Human Nature”, “The History of England”, “Four Dissertations” and “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”. David Hume was known as “One of the most important figures of Western philosophy” because of his influential work in the 18th century Influencing other famous 18th century philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Adam Smith.
A Treatise of Human Nature was considered to be one of David Hume’s most influential philosophical books he ever wrote, which focuses on empiricism, skepticism and naturalism. He believes that each simple idea we have is made from a single impression and all of our ideas we think of are made from experience. This means that we would not think the same ideas if we never experienced something that triggered them. David explains this as “an attempt to introduce the experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects.” David Hume’s most successful and well known theory was that everything we know is completely made up out of previous experiences as it was believed that we were born with knowledge that we already have back in the 18th century and earlier. David was very stressed and pressured to commit to his theory as he was lying to his parents about studying in law, which resulted in him having a mental breakdown and never fully recovering from it.
David Hume’s theory on our ideas relates to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by the Creature gaining knowledge from experience. when the creature was created and brought to life he didn’t know how to speak any English or how to behave like a normal human. He had to rely on his emotions and natural instincts. As time went on in the book Frankenstein’s creation learned to speak and act by listening to other humans conversations and watching them, gaining knowledge and ideas from his experiences. I believe Mary Shelley expressed David Hume’s theory in the book Frankenstein by making the monster have no memories or thoughts when he was first created, and not knowing how to act because he had never had previous experiences. before the age of enlightenment most people believed that we were born with knowledge and it was not gained from past experiences or memories. David Hume explained the difference between impressions and ideas as “Impressions come through our senses, emotions and other mental phenomena, whereas ideas are thoughts, beliefs, or memories that we connect to our impressions. We construct ideas from simple impressions in three ways: resemblance, contiguity, and cause and effect.” And just like David Hume’s prediction, the creature finds out about “cause and effect” as he acquires more experience. An example of this is when the creature was first created, and didn’t know what fire was he put his hand into the embers of the fire, and pulls his hand away with a cry of pain. This is a good example of cause and effect, and the experiences we remember when we feel pain. If the creature had experienced with fire before, he would know not to put his hand anywhere near it, as it can cause pain which he would have remembered from his specific experience with the fire.
Overall, the book Frankenstein shows many of David Hume’s ideas and theories. If the reader was familiar with David Hume’s theories they would notice all the connections to David and the book very easily. But the main theory that stood out to me from the book was his theory on experience and cause and effect, as that is how we learn and adapt to things. We are shown in the book that there are consequences to everything that happens, even if it doesn’t seem like there will be at the time. I feel like this also relates to life, we never really understand the full consequences or how bad they will really be from our actions until they actually happen. I think this explains why children often do more silly things compared to adults, because children don’t fully understand the effect they will have on something until they actually experience it and gain knowledge from it. Just like Frankenstein experienced when putting his hand into the embers of the fire, whereas if he had seen other people specifically avoiding the flame or saw someone get burned by it he would know not to get too close to it, But he had no experience at all. This is the exact same when Victor created the monster, he had no idea that it would end up resulting in William and his wife’s death while he was making him. I believe this is also why Victor refused to making another female monster for Frankenstein, because he learnt from experience that his actions would have consequences if he made another one, and didn’t want the same effect to happen again. Victor was convinced that if he made another monster, they would both destroy the human race together and that is a consequence that he only would have realized if he created the first monster, as he learnt from experience that they have the potential to kill other humans, and could wipe out the entire human race.