David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Scottish Philosophy 8 (2):169-187 (2010)
In Treatise 1.4.2, David Hume seeks to explain how we come to believe in the external existence of bodies. He offers a complicated psychological account, where the imagination operates on the raw data of the senses to produce the ‘vulgar’ belief in the continued existence of the very things we sense. On behalf of philosophers, he presents a perceptual relativity argument that purports to show that the vulgar belief is false. I argue that scholars have failed to appreciate Hume's peculiar formulation of the perceptual relativity argument and its relation to his psychological account of the vulgar belief. On my interpretation, in order to account for all the premises that Hume explicitly offers, the argument is best interpreted as beginning with a reductio that opposes the effects of the senses and the imagination in the vulgar belief. Thus Hume can be interpreted as identifying an ‘antinomy’ in the habits of the vulgar mind that produce belief in bodies.
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