"golden mountain"

English translation: an idea (not experienced), formed by combining memories of separate impressions

GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:"golden mountain"
Selected answer:an idea (not experienced), formed by combining memories of separate impressions
Entered by: Charles Davis

20:46 Jul 21, 2011
English language (monolingual) [PRO]
Art/Literary - Philosophy / David Hume
English term or phrase: "golden mountain"
Къде в бълграския превод е параграфът: "When we think of a golden mountain, we only join two consistent ideas, gold, and mountains, with which we are formerly acquainted."
wordsbuster
Local time: 18:45
an idea (not experienced), formed by combining memories of separate impressions
Explanation:
This is a philosophical rather than a linguistic question.

The "golden mountain" comes from David Hume's A Treatise on Human Nature (1739-40), vol. I, part 1. Hume's argument here can be summarised as follows:

An experience is stronger and more vivid than the memory of that experience.
Lively and forceful perceptions of the mind can be called impressions.
Thoughts or ideas are less forceful.
The imagination seems to be unrestrained, but actually all complex ideas are derived from simple impressions, by compounding (putting together), transposing, augmenting or diminishing mental materials derived from experience (senses or feelings).

For example, the idea of a golden mountain can be traced back to our experience of "gold" and "mountain": it compounds or joins these two simple ideas, with which we are acquainted.

Hume is not referring to a mountain that looks golden (perhaps because of a trick of the light), but a mountain that is actually made of gold. This is something which, necessarily, we have not experienced. We can think about it, but that thought is simply a conjunction of the ideas of gold and mountain derived from our experience.

Following this, he gives a second example: a virtuous horse. Again, we cannot have experienced this; it is an idea that combines or compounds the simple ideas of virtue and horses, both of which we know separately.

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Note added at 1 hr (2011-07-21 22:10:17 GMT)
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The very interesting passage Stephanie quotes from a letter to the London Magazine illustrates the lively debate that took place on Hume's ideas in the following decades. The writer of this letter is actually saying that the idea of a golden mountain cannot be contained in the mind; the best a person can do is recollect a mountain and the colour of gold, but this is not the same thing: "We cannot properly be said to imagine what does not, or has not, really existed."
Selected response from:

Charles Davis
Spain
Local time: 17:45
Grading comment
Thank you, Charles Davis!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



SUMMARY OF ALL EXPLANATIONS PROVIDED
4 +6an idea (not experienced), formed by combining memories of separate impressions
Charles Davis
4 +1think of possibilia
DLyons
3mountain that appears to be golden colored
Stephanie Ezrol


  

Answers


24 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
mountain that appears to be golden colored


Explanation:
Hume is using the phrase "golden mountain" to illustrate the workings of the human mind according to his philosophical view of empiricism.

I do not know if he has a particular golden mountain in mind, but there are mountains that have rock formations that appear to have a gold like color especially when the sun hits those rocks at certain times of day.



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Note added at 49 mins (2011-07-21 21:36:29 GMT)
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This example "golden mountain" was part of the philosophical discussion in Hume's time period. The following quote from the 1763 "London Magazine" does make it clear that that golden is referring to color as part of this extended philosophical discussion about the workings of the mind and imagination.

"father Malebranche indeed tells us, that a man may have an idea of a golden mountain that never existed, and I can admit a man may recollect the figure of a mountain which he has formerly imagined, and remember the colour of gold which he lately had a perception of, and suppose it possible they may be connected, and call this operation of his mind, an idea if he pleases ...
http://books.google.com/books?id=iboPAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA131&dq="g...

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Note added at 50 mins (2011-07-21 21:37:07 GMT)
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THE LONDON MAGAZINE OR GENTLEMEN'S MONTHLY INTELLIGENCE (Google eBook)


Stephanie Ezrol
United States
Local time: 11:45
Works in field
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 4
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +6
golden mountain
an idea (not experienced), formed by combining memories of separate impressions


Explanation:
This is a philosophical rather than a linguistic question.

The "golden mountain" comes from David Hume's A Treatise on Human Nature (1739-40), vol. I, part 1. Hume's argument here can be summarised as follows:

An experience is stronger and more vivid than the memory of that experience.
Lively and forceful perceptions of the mind can be called impressions.
Thoughts or ideas are less forceful.
The imagination seems to be unrestrained, but actually all complex ideas are derived from simple impressions, by compounding (putting together), transposing, augmenting or diminishing mental materials derived from experience (senses or feelings).

For example, the idea of a golden mountain can be traced back to our experience of "gold" and "mountain": it compounds or joins these two simple ideas, with which we are acquainted.

Hume is not referring to a mountain that looks golden (perhaps because of a trick of the light), but a mountain that is actually made of gold. This is something which, necessarily, we have not experienced. We can think about it, but that thought is simply a conjunction of the ideas of gold and mountain derived from our experience.

Following this, he gives a second example: a virtuous horse. Again, we cannot have experienced this; it is an idea that combines or compounds the simple ideas of virtue and horses, both of which we know separately.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2011-07-21 22:10:17 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

The very interesting passage Stephanie quotes from a letter to the London Magazine illustrates the lively debate that took place on Hume's ideas in the following decades. The writer of this letter is actually saying that the idea of a golden mountain cannot be contained in the mind; the best a person can do is recollect a mountain and the colour of gold, but this is not the same thing: "We cannot properly be said to imagine what does not, or has not, really existed."

Charles Davis
Spain
Local time: 17:45
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 16
Grading comment
Thank you, Charles Davis!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Hassan Lotfy
1 hr
  -> Thanks, Hassan!

agree  Liz Dexter (was Broomfield)
4 hrs
  -> Thanks, Liz!

agree  Phong Le
15 hrs
  -> Thanks, Phong

agree  Gert Sass (M.A.): "nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu"; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensualism; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empiricism//BTW, the quote is from J. Locke and was famously answered by Leibniz adding "...nisi intellectus ipse"
20 hrs
  -> Thank you, Gert. As you rightly imply, Hume's position can be traced back to the Aristotelian tradition. // True, though Aquinas said it previously (De veritate q. 2, a. 3, arg. 19; http://www.corpusthomisticum.org/qdv02.html ). Thanks again.

agree  Eski
1 day 19 mins
  -> Thanks, eski :)

agree  Elizabeth Joy Pitt de Morales: Another late thank-you! It brought to mind "black swan".
3279 days
  -> Thanks, Liz :-) I find it very cheering that people look at these questions years later!
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3 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
think of a golden mountain
think of possibilia


Explanation:
The round square and the golden mountain are probably the most common examples of what are known in Philosophy as "possibilia".

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Note added at 3 hrs (2011-07-22 00:42:42 GMT)
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Stanford claims the singular is "posibile" and who am I to disagree.

But "Think of a posibile" sounds odd?

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Note added at 3 hrs (2011-07-22 00:44:51 GMT)
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I suppose it should really be phrased here as

"think of possibilia, such as golden mountains, "


    Reference: http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&lr=&safe=off&q=%2...
DLyons
Ireland
Local time: 16:45
Works in field
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 4
Notes to answerer
Asker: Thank you, DLyons, So astute!


Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Thuy-PTT (X)
1 hr
  -> Thanks Thuy-PTT.
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