Hume on Meaning

Hume Studies 32 (2):233-252 (2006)
Hume’s views on language have been widely misunderstood. Typical discussions cast Hume as either a linguistic idealist who holds that words refer to ideas or a proto-verificationist. I argue that both readings are wide of the mark and develop my own positive account. Humean signification emerges as a relation whereby a word can both indicate ideas in the mind of the speaker and cause us to have those ideas. If I am right, Hume offers a consistent view on meaning that is neither linguistic idealism nor positivism but a genuine alternative to these, one that deserves to be taken seriously
Keywords Hume  meaning  signification  positivism
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