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» Law, Culture and Conventions. Answers from the Others Of the Effects of Custom from A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE by David Hume

Law, Culture and Conventions. Answers from the Others Of the Effects of Custom from A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE by David Hume

Law, Culture and Conventions. Answers from the Others Of the Effects of Custom from A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE by David Hume

Supplementary text

Nothing has a greater effect both to encrease and diminish our passions, to convert pleasure into pain, and pain into pleasure, than custom and repetition. Custom has two original effects upon the mind, in bestowing a facility in the performance of any action or the conception of any object; and afterwards a tendency or inclination towards it; and from these we may account for all its other effects, however extraordinary.

When the soul applies itself to the performance of any action, or the conception of any object, to which it is not accustomed, there is a certain unpliableness in the faculties, and a difficulty of the spirit's moving in their new direction. As this difficulty excites the spirits, it is the source of wonder, surprize, and of all the emotions, which arise from novelty; and is in itself very agreeable, like every thing, which inlivens the mind to a moderate degree. But though surprize be agreeable in itself, yet as it puts the spirits in agitation, it not only augments our agreeable affections, but also our painful, according to the foregoing principle, that every emotion, which precedes or attends a passion, is easily converted into it. Hence every thing, that is new, is most affecting, and gives us either more pleasure or pain, than what, strictly speaking, naturally belongs to it. When it often returns upon us, the novelty wears off; the passions subside; the hurry of the spirits is over; and we survey the objects with greater tranquillity.

By degrees the repetition produces a facility of the human mind, and an infallible source of pleasure, where the facility goes not beyond a certain degree. And here it is remarkable that the pleasure, which arises from a moderate facility, has not the same tendency with that which arises from novelty, to augment the painful, as well as the agreeable affections. The pleasure of facility does not so much consist in any ferment of the spirits, as in their orderly motion; which will sometimes be so powerful as even to convert pain into pleasure, and give us a relish in time what at first was most harsh and disagreeable. But again, as facility converts pain into pleasure, so it often converts pleasure into pain, when it is too great, and renders the actions of the mind so faint and languid, that they are no longer able to interest and support it.

And indeed, scarce any other objects become disagreeable through custom; but such as are naturally attended with some emotion or affection, which is destroyed by the too frequent repetition. One can consider the clouds, and heavens, and trees, and stones, however frequently repeated, without ever feeling any aversion. But when the fair sex, or music, or good cheer, or any thing, that naturally ought to be agreeable, becomes indifferent, it easily produces the opposite affection. Custom not only gives a facility to perform any action, but likewise an inclination and tendency towards it, where it is not entirely disagreeable, and can never be the object of inclination. And this is the reason why custom encreases all active habits, but diminishes passive, according to the observation of a late eminent philosopher. The facility takes off from the force of the passive habits by rendering the motion of the spirits faint and languid. But as in the active, the spirits are sufficiently supported of themselves, the tendency of the mind gives them new force, and bends them more strongly to the action.


Comment upon the antagonism between the effects of habitude upon sustained activities on the one hand, and upon emotions on the other hand.

Translate the first paragraph of the text into Romanian.


Concordanta timpurilor se aplica, desigur, nu in propozitii, ci in fraze. Ea consta in aceea ca folosirea unui anumit timp in propozitia principala obliga la folosirea unui timp adecvat in propozitia secundara. Ce inseamna "un timp adecvat' se va vedea in continuare.






The child says


Alice knew


he can't eat this.


(that)Henry loved her.



I know

The students don't remember


The students didn't remember



(that) you have done your lessons.

what I taught them last week.


what I had taught them the week before.



I hope


I hoped


that Miss Grant will change the subject.


that Miss Grant would change the subject.

Normally the word THAT may or may not be used after the main verb:

He knew (that) he was going to come later.

Exceptii de la concordanta timpurilor:

cand propozitia secundara exprima un adevar general valabil.
The teacher told the pupils water boils at 100 oC.

Profesorul le-a spus elevilor ca apa fierbe la 100 oC.

cand propozitia secundara este atributiva.
The book I am reading now was given to me by my brother.
Cartea pe care o citesc acum mi-a fost data de fratele meu.

cand propozitia secundara este comparativa.

Last year I worked more than I have done this year.
Anul trecut am muncit mai mult decat anul acesta.

NOTE: In limba engleza contemporana, se poate observa uneori o oarecare tendinta de a nu se respecta concordanta timpurilor atunci cand verbul din propozitia principala este la trecut. Se poate intalni, de exemplu, o formulare de tipul: "He said he loves me'. Este posibil ca ceea ce apare acum ca tendinta, cu timpul, sa ajunga regula. Pentru moment insa, vorbitorii romani de limba engleza ar trebui sa respecte regulile de concordanta a timpurilor asa cum sunt prezentate mai sus.


1. Put the verbs in brackets into the right tense (Past Tense Simple or Continuous

1) It was clear they (talk) business again.

2) I believed you (be) at the seaside.

3) I understood you (be) a painter.

4) They didn't know that I (play) football.

5) He realized he (not remember) John's phone number.

6) I was not sure if you (speak) English.

7) Looking out of the window, she saw the sun (shine) brightly.

8) He asked me if I usually (read) that newspaper.

9) You didn't tell me you (have to) type this report.

10) He was in a hurry because he (want) to catch the train.

2. Put the verbs in brackets into the right tense (Past Perfect Simple or Continuous

1) She told me his name after he (leave).

2) She didn't even say thank you after all I (do) for her.

3) After I (hear) the news, I congratulated him.

4) When I arrived, the concert already (begin).

5) When it started to rain, we (dig) in the garden for an hour.

6) He didn't admit that he (steal) the book.

7) He just (leave) home when he came across John.

8) Yesterday I bought a new umbrella because I (lose) my old one.

9) When he finally reached London, he was tired because he (travel) for three days.

10) I didn't think that book to be a nice birthday present for you because I (read) it and I (not enjoy) it.

3. Change the verbs in brackets to the Future-in-the-Past.

1) They said they (remain) at the seaside for another week.

2) He hoped he (finish) reading the book in two days.

3) I thought you soon (have) a holiday.

4) I was not sure I (remain) at home that evening.

5) He believed the strike (end) very soon.

6) He promised he (drive) me home.

7) We all believed he (win) the competition.

8) As wages had gone up, we supposed prices (go up), too.

9) He was sure he (pass) the exam and he promised he (give) a party afterwards.

10) When I heard the main actor was ill, I was sue the performance (be cancelled).

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