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To give greater authority to these experiments, let us change the situation of affairs as much as possible, and place the passions and objects in all the different positions, of which they are susceptible. Let us suppose, beside the relations above-mention’d, that the person, along with whom I make all these experiments, is closely connected with me either by blood or friendship. He is, we shall suppose, my son or brother, or is united to me by a long and familiar acquaintance. Let us next suppose, that the cause of the passion acquires a double relation of impressions and ideas to this person; and let us see what the effects are of all these complicated attractions and relations.

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, book II, part II, section II

An object or a person which causes an impression of double relation (from self to others and from others to self) necessarily brings a passion—one of the four passions of Hume’s system, i.e. pride, humility, love and hatred. Hume demonstrates it further along, when the causal chain of this double relation is broken, the passion disappears, even if the two objects continue to exist.

The person has a relation of ideas to myself, according to the supposition; the passion, of which he is the object, by being either agreeable or uneasy, has a relation of impressions to pride or humility. ’Tis evident, then, that one of these passions must arise from the love or hatred.

Hume has already shown it: the passions are mutually caused by resemblance, and the transition between the four passions comes easily. These passions arise merely in the case of a double relation, when the person or the object has some kind of connection to the self—especially if this connection is intimate, such as a close parent or an affectionate acquaintance.

Hume, by principle of sufficient reason, is satisfied by his reasoning, hence the partial conclusion of this experiment:

Nothing causes greater vanity than any shining quality in our relations; as nothing mortifies us more than their vice or infamy. This exact conformity of experience to our reasoning is a convincing proof of the solidity of that hypothesis, upon which we reason.

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, book II, part II, section II

The passage from love to hatred, such strong and opposite passions, is incredibly trivial in Hume’s system. The takeaway is that passions may be particularly labile1, depending on whether one faces an agreeable quality, a virtue, or an uneasy fault, a vice.


  1. Labile: they change easily. ↩︎