"In short, the actions of the mind are, in this respect, the same with those of matter."

— Hume, David (1711-1776)

Place of Publication
Printed for John Noon
January 1739
"In short, the actions of the mind are, in this respect, the same with those of matter."
Metaphor in Context
Some have asserted that we feel an energy or power in our own mind; and that, having in this manner acquired the idea of power, we transfer that quality to matter, where we are not able immediately to discover it. The motions of our body, and the thoughts and sentiments of our mind (say they) obey the will; nor do we seek any further to acquire a just notion of force or power. But to convince us how fallacious this reasoning is, we need only consider, that the will being here considered as a cause has no more a discoverable connexion with its effects than any material cause has with its proper effect. So far from perceiving the connexion betwixt an act of volition and a motion of the body, it is allowed that no effect is more inexplicable from the powers and essence of thought and matter. Nor is the empire of the will over our mind more intelligible. The effect is there distinguishable and separable from the cause, and could not be foreseen without the experience of their constant conjunction. We have command over our mind to a certain degree, but beyond that lose all empire over it: and it is evidently impossible to fix any precise bounds to our authority, where we consult not experience. In short, the actions of the mind are, in this respect, the same with those of matter. We perceive only their constant conjunction; nor can we ever reason beyond it. No internal impression has an apparent energy, more than external objects have. Since, therefore, matter is confessed by philosophers to operate by an unknown force, we should in vain hope to attain an idea of force by consulting our own minds.
Past Masters
Published anonymously with vols. I and II appearing in January in 1739 and vol. III appearing in November of 1740. Only 1 entry in the ESTC (1740).

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature. Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects. 3 vols. (London: Printed for John Noon, 1739; Thomas Longman, 1740). <Link to ESTC><Link to ECCO><Link to ECCO-TCP><Link to OLL>

Reading David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, eds. D. F. and M. J. Norton (Oxford: OUP, 2000). Searching in Past Masters and OLL editions.
Date of Entry
Date of Review

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.