In the “Appendix” to the Treatise, Hume claims that he has discovered a “very considerable” mistake in his earlier discussion of the self. Hume's expression of the problem is notoriously opaque, leading to a vast scholarly debate as to exactly what problem he identified in his earlier account of the self. I propose a new solution to this interpretive puzzle. I argue that a tension generated by Hume's conceptual skepticism about real “principles of union” and his account of fictions of (...) the imagination is the defect identified in the “Appendix.”. (shrink)
This essay examines the relation between philosophical questions concerning personal identity and character development in Shaftesbury’s and Hume’s philosophy. Shaftesbury combines a metaphysical account of personal identity with a normative approach to character development. By contrasting Shaftesbury’s and Hume’s views on these issues, I examine whether character development presupposes specific metaphysical views about personal identity, and in particular whether it presupposes the continued existence of a substance, as Shaftesbury assumes. I show that Hume’s philosophy offers at least two alternatives. Moreover, (...) I consider whether and how Hume’s philosophy leaves scope for character development and how he departs from Shaftesbury’s normative project of self-formation. (shrink)
In “Of Personal Identity”, Hume attempts to understand why we ordinarily believe in persistent selves. He proposes that this ontological commitment depends on illusions and fictions: the imagination tricks us into supposing that an unchanging core self remains static through the flux and change of experience. Recent work in cognitive science provides a good deal of support for Hume’s hypothesis that common beliefs about the self are founded on psychological biases rather than rational insight or evidence. We naturally believe in (...) personal persistence, according to this emerging research, because we are prone to categorize the world in terms of hidden essences and structure our lives in terms of whole life stories. (shrink)
En este texto se aborda el problema del yo en David Hume, Para comprender la inconsistencia del pensamiento de Hume en lo tocante a la identidad personal, misma que ha sido señalada por diversos comentaristas, nos serviremos de dos conceptos: la ironía y el utilitarismo. El primero nos permitirá ver más allá de las propias afirmaciones de Hume para descubrir un conjunto de temas, problemas y elementos teóricos implícitos y poco desarrollados por él mismo, pero muy prolíficos en los estudios (...) actuales de su pensamiento, así como aplicables a temas actuales de filosofía. Asimismo, la ironía nos permitirá abordar el problema de la identidad personal sobre la base de una metafísica de la intermitencia y una ambivalencia epistemológica. El utilitarismo, por su parte, nos permitirá interpretar a Hume como un antecesor del pragmatismo, un pensador que no se preocupaba tanto del aspecto teórico como del aspecto práctico de la filosofía. Asimismo, nos ayudará a delimitar la concepción de la identidad personal que se propone y a apreciar sus ventajas en la actualidad. (shrink)
Hume’s understanding of the external world, particularly, his conception of objects, or what he occasionally refers to as “bodies,” is the subject of much dispute. Are objects mind-independent? Or, are they just what we see, feel, smell, taste, or touch? In other words, are objects just sense data? Or, are they ideas about sense data? Or, are objects, somehow, mind-independent, but we have ideas of them, and we receive sense data from them? In this paper, I provide some answers to (...) these questions—by way of distinguishing between the vulgar position, the philosophical position, and Hume’s position. (shrink)
Este trabajo se divide en dos partes relacionadas pero independientes. La primera es un estudio de las percepciones y la subjetividad en el pensamiento de Hume. Del estudio mencionado se extraen elementos para una ontología de la imaginación, en particular la idea de intermitencia ontológica que se deriva del primer libro del Tratado de la naturaleza humana. En la segunda parte se estudia la epistemología de las virtudes de Ernest Sosa y se introduce el concepto de imaginación, así como la (...) idea de intermitencia extraída del pensamiento de Hume. A partir de lo anterior se pondera el valor epistémico de la imaginación y se postula la noción de paradigma de verdad. (shrink)
In this paper I try to understand David Hume’s theory of the ideas as an alternative ontology. I assume that David Hume seeks to establish a criterion of human knowledge and moral behavior by thinking the fundamental concepts from philosophical tradition, such as substance and personal identity or subjectivity, and turning between the denial and the affirmation of them. In this sense, the criticism of the metaphysical tradition, to which some interpreters reduce his theory, and the alternative ontology which we (...) purpose here, have to promote a middle ground between common sense and philosophical meaning of life, truth and morality. In the development of this interpretation the classifi cations perceptions are exposed, being independent existences and the basis of Hume’s epistemology. Subsequently, the elements of an intermittent subjectivity that can be derived from them are exposed. Finally, we consider the figments of the imagination, being the latter, rather than a power of representation among others, a substance between substances. (shrink)
Hume’s Treatise, with its celebrated bundle theory of the self, is a significant contribution to the embryonic Newtonian experimental philosophy of the enlightenment. But the theory is inadequate as it stands, as the appendix to the Treatise makes clear. For this account of the self, apparently, rests on contradictory principles — propositions, fortunately, that can be reconciled, according to Hume. My paper is a critical exploration of Hume’s argument for this intriguing suggestion.
This essay gives a new interpretation of Hume's second thoughts about minds in the Appendix, based on a new interpretation of his view of composition. In Book 1 of the Treatise, Hume argued that, as far as we can conceive it, a mind is a whole composed by all its perceptions. But—this essay argues—he also held that several perceptions form a whole only if the mind to which they belong supplies a “connexion” among them. In order to do so, it (...) must contain a further perception or perceptions. But when the perceptions in question are all of those belonging to a given mind—as in the section “Of personal identity” and the Appendix—there cannot be a further perception in that mind, and so those perceptions do not form a whole. Hence, Hume's views were inconsistent. This essay argues that, unlike most others, this interpretation explains his retreat to skepticism in the Appendix. (shrink)
In this paper, I return to the well-known apparent inconsistencies in Hume’s treatment of personal identity in the three books of A Treatise of Human Nature, and try to defend a Humean narrative interpretation of the self. I argue that in Book 1 of the Treatise Hume is answering (to use Marya Schechtman’s expressions in The Constitution of Selves) a “reidentification” question concerning personal identity, which is different from the “characterization” question of Books 2 and 3. That is, I maintain (...) that whereas in Book 1 Hume is using his philosophical empiricism to provide his own version of the problem of how to recognize persons as the same at different times, in Books 2 and 3 he is presenting selves from a different, both sentimental and ethical standpoint, as the focus of people’s concerns. I start by discussing Hume’s notion of personal identity as presented in Book 1 and in the “Appendix.” I then specify the narrative conception of the self Hume relies on when dealing with passions and morality as the self-consciousness persons develop as bearers of characters of or about which they can be morally proud or humble. I finally conclude by distinguishing Hume’s narrative self from the idea of “the unity of human life” that Alasdair MacIntyre puts forward in After Virtue. (shrink)
La interpretación estándar de la teoría humeana sobre la identidad personal suele aceptar dos tesis importantes: (T1) no existe un yo o mente dotada de simplicidad e identidad perfecta; (T2) Hume defiende una teoría metafísica específica acerca de la naturaleza del yo o de la mente, según la cual esta es solo un haz de percepciones. Se argumenta que ambas afirmaciones, son falsas. Su aceptación comprometería a Hume con una forma de dogmatismo epistémico y metafísico incompatible con su filosofía experimental. (...) The standard interpretation of Hume's theory of personal identity usually accepts two important theses: (T1) there is no self or mind endowed with simplicity and perfect identity; (T2) Hume defends a specific metaphysical theory regarding the nature of the self or of the mind, according to which it is only a bundle of perceptions. The article argues that both of those statements are false. Accepting them would commit Hume to a form of epistemic and metaphysical dogmatism that is incompatible with his experimental philosophy. A interpretação padrão da teoria humeana sobre a identidade pessoal costuma aceitar duas teses importantes: 1) não existe um eu ou mente dotada de simplicidade e identidade perfeita; 2) Hume defende uma teoria metafísica específica sobre a natureza do eu ou da mente, segundo a qual esta é só uma face de percepções. Neste artigo, argumenta-se que ambas as afirmações são falsas. Sua aceitação comprometeria a Hume com uma forma de dogmatismo epistêmico e metafísico incompatível com sua filosofia experimental. (shrink)
La interpretación estándar de la teoría humeana sobre la identidad personal suele aceptar dos tesisinterpretativas importantes: Hume sostiene que no existe un yo o mente dotada de simplicidad e identidad perfecta y Hume defiende una teoría metafísica específica acerca de la naturaleza del yo o de la mente, según la cual esta es solo un haz de percepciones. En este artículo argumentaré que estas dos afirmaciones interpretativas, T1 y T2, son falsas. A mi juicio,la aceptación de estas tesis comprometería a (...) Hume con una forma de dogmatismo epistémico y metafísico incompatible con su filosofía experimental. (shrink)
This paper offers an overview of consciousness and personal identity in eighteenth-century philosophy. Locke introduces the concept of persons as subjects of consciousness who also simultaneously recognize themselves as such subjects. Hume, however, argues that minds are nothing but bundles of perceptions, lacking intrinsic unity at a time or across time. Yet Hume thinks our emotional responses to one another mean that persons in everyday life are defined by their virtues, vices, bodily qualities, property, riches, and the like. Rousseau also (...) takes persons to be fundamentally determined by our socially-mediated emotional responses to one another, though unlike Hume or Locke, he has little interest in placing this account of persons alongside a larger discussion of the human mind and its operations. Developing this idea further, Kant argues that our moral commitments require that we must take ourselves to be free. The fundamental equality that Rousseau sought in the political order is, for Kant, a requirement that reason puts on all of us. (shrink)
Ourself, independent of the perception of every other object, is in reality nothing. An issue which has become prominent in recent discussions of Hume on personal identity 1 concerns the nature of the account to be found there of the mind or self.2 Hume famously rejects the idea of the self as something perfectly identical and simple in favor of the view that each of us is “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with (...) an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement”. On the face of it, Hume endorses here a metaphysical claim about what the self is, namely, that it is a bundle of perceptions rather than.. (shrink)
Hume understands identity as “invariableness and uninterruptedness” through a supposed change in time, something true only of objects he calls steadfast. And Hume discerns nothing steadfast about the mind or self—nothing like a substance or soul underlying the changing and interrupted succession of perceptions we experience in ourselves. I nevertheless think of myself as the same person over time. A central concern of the Treatise discussion of personal identity is to give a psychological explanation of how we arrive at this (...) belief in personal identity. The answer, very broadly, is that it is a fiction of the imagination produced by certain associative principles. Hume notoriously goes on to disavow this .. (shrink)
The History of Western Philosophy enhanced Russell’s broad reputation among members of the public and helped secure his finances. But the academic community was less enthusiastic about the text and tended to treat it with contempt. My paper is a critical investigation of one of the central chapters of Russell’s History: namely, Russell’s rendition of David Hume’s views on the self. My argument is that Russell’s concise treatment of le bon David’s provocative views on the self must be read with (...) great care—otherwise a misunderstanding of Russell’s interpretation is likely to be foisted on this popular and influential twentieth-century text. (shrink)
In The Early Modern Subject, Udo Thiel explores early modern writings spanning approximately the seventeenth century to the first half of the eighteenth century on two topics of self consciousness, the human subject’s ‘awareness or consciousness of one’s own self’, and personal identity, the human subject’s tendency to regard one’s own self as the same identical self or person that persists through time (p. 1). The aim of the book is twofold. First, to provide an account of the development of (...) self-consciousness and personal identity covering prominent French, British, and German thinkers such as Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Wolff, and Hume, as well as their critics, their followers, and to ‘critically evaluate their contributions’ (p. 3). The second aim is to situate the contributions of these philosophers within their historical context. In this review I summarize and evaluate The Early Modern Subject. (shrink)
In the Appendix to A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume famously retracts his account of personal identity by confessing that it involves a profound problem he cannot solve, which I have elsewhere identified and called the Bundling Problem. Neither of the two possible solutions that Hume himself considers in the Appendix is a viable option for him by his own lights, which might suggest that any successful account of a unified self must go beyond the empirical framework. In this paper, (...) I argue that we can find a strictly empiricist solution to Hume's problem in William James. I attempt to show that James's descriptions of our experience are phenomenologically more detailed and faithful to how experience is undergone from the first-person perspective, which allows him to explain our belief in an identical, unified self solely on empirical grounds. James finds unity and continuity right in the content of the stream of experience itself. A detailed investigation of James's accounts reveals that Hume's fundamental problem does not stem merely from his lack of empirical resources but, more importantly, from his tacit abandonment of the professed empiricist methodology. (shrink)
This book provides the first comprehensive account of Hume’s conception of objects in Book I of the Treatise. What, according to Hume, are objects? Ideas? Impressions? Mind-independent objects? All three? None of the above? Through a close textual analysis, I show that Hume thought that objects are imagined ideas. However, I argue that he struggled with two accounts of how and when we imagine such ideas. On the one hand, Hume believed that we always and universally imagine that objects are (...) the causes of our perceptions. On the other hand, he thought that we only imagine such causes when we reach a “philosophical” level of thought. This tension manifests itself in Hume’s account of personal identity; a tension that, I argue, Hume acknowledges in the Appendix to the Treatise. As a result of presenting a detailed account of Hume’s conception of objects, we are forced to accommodate new interpretations of, at least, Hume’s notions of belief, personal identity, justification and causality. (shrink)
In his magnum opus, David Hume asserts that a person is “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.” (Treatise 252) Hume is clearly proud of his bold thesis, as is borne out by his categorical arguments and analyses on the self. Contributions like this will, in his opinion, help establish a new science of human nature, “which will not be inferior in certainty, (...) and will be much superior in utility to any other of human comprehension.” (Treatise xix) Unfortunately for Hume, the bundle theory of the self subsequently elicits substantial criticism and hostility from numerous critics, both philosophical and non-philosophical. As confident as the young Scot is about the merits of his theory when he first proposes it, the sharp critical responses to his thought on the self ultimately compel him to withdraw his controversial views from public scrutiny. The irony is that the author of the bundle theory of the self himself acknowledges that his account of the self is seriously defective. In his appendix to the Treatise, Hume decries the labyrinth that his views on the self have driven him into. Five years in the making, Hume's Labyrinth: A Search for the Self explores in detail both Hume's views on the self and his critical reservations on an account of the self that would subsequently become highly influential in the philosophy of mind. -/- Central to Hume's Labyrinth is the suggestion that a careful analysis of the appendix to the Treatise throws an invaluable light on a number of elements fundamental to Hume's views on the self, not least of which is the role of Berkeley s views on language. While Hume often acknowledges the significance of Berkeley's philosophy in the Treatise, the argument here is that Berkeley's account of terms is the foundation of Hume's philosophy of the mind, with its contentious bundle theory of the self. And when this influence is assayed a new dimension of Hume's views on the self emerges. For now it appears that the bundle theory of the self is nothing but a heuristic device adopted by Hume to help further philosophical investigations into the mind. In short, it turns out that Hume is a pragmatist, intent on presenting an account of the self that researchers interested in the problems of human nature will find useful. (shrink)
We might be inclined to think of the mind as a kind of theatre in which our thoughts and feelings – or “perceptions” – make their appearance; but if so we are misled, for the mind is constituted by its perceptions.
Explores the understanding of self-consciousness and personal identity - two fundamendtal features of human subjectivity - as it developed in early modern philosophy. Udo Thiel presents a critical evaluation of these features as they were conceived in the sevententh and eighteenth centuries. He explains the arguments of thinkers such as Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Wolff, and Hume, as well as their early critics, followers, and other philosophical contemporaries, and situates them within their historical contexts. Interest in the issues of self-consciousness and (...) personal identity is in many ways characteristic [of] and even central to early modern thought, but Thiel argues here that this is also an interest that continues to this day, in a form still strongly influenced by the conceptual frameworks of early modern thought. In this book he attempts to broaden the scope of the treatment of these issues considerably, covering more than a hundred years of philosophical debate in France, Britain, and Germany while remaining attentive to the details of the arguments under scrutiny and discussing alternative interpretations in many cases"--Publisher's description, p.  of dust jacket. (shrink)
The reading of the Enlightenment we present here seeks to identify, among the different conceptualisations of reason displayed by enlightened thinking, the one offering the greatest emancipatory virtualities for feminism. The starting point is an analysis of Hume’s concept of personal identity that exposes its patriarchal bias. Against Hume’s notion of an inert reason we set the train of thought that led Poullain de la Barre to conceive reason as permanent work, or effort. The contribution of this feminist philosopher, an (...) epigone of cartesianism, is liked to the spinozian “conatus” by a line that takes us all the way to Mary Wollstonecraft’s idea of reason as “meriting reason”: a reason that is free of adscriptive privileges in the network of forces in which it operates together with passions, a reason that is endowed with emerging critical value towards the Ancien Régime. (shrink)
P. J. E. Kail's Projection and Realism in Hume's Philosophy is an excellent book, consisting—like Hume's Treatise itself—of three excellent parts. I will comment on one central aspect of its second part: its explanation of the source of the second thoughts that Hume famously expressed, with a frustrating lack of specificity, about his own initial discussion of personal identity in the Treatise.As is well known, Hume holds in the section "Of personal identity" (T 1.4.6) that a self, mind, or person (...) is "nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions" (T 18.104.22.168; SBN 252) and, more specifically, a "system of different perceptions or different existences link'd together by the relation of cause and .. (shrink)
The title of my book, Projection and Realism in Hume's Philosophy, might mislead. One might protest, with some justification, that since neither "projection" nor "realism" is Hume's term and that both carry a severe threat of anachronism, discussing them in connection with Hume is misguided. Why might the readers of this journal wish to read such a work?Well, the first thing to note is that Hume's name has come to be associated with the metaphor of projection, understood as having some (...) kind of "non-realist" connotations, and, at the same time, he attracted readings that make him a "realist" of some sort or another in different areas.1 So, there seems to be some tension here.. (shrink)
In Part IV of Book I of Hume’s Treatise Hume frequently appeals to an identity ascribing mechanism of the imagination. A psychological mechanism of which it is a special case, to ‘compleat the union’, is also prominent. These mechanisms belong to the imagination narrowly conceived according to a distinction in section ix of Part III. The role and significance of these mechanisms in the development of Hume’s scepticism is explored. Appreciation of their significance is also argued to cast light on (...) Hume’s refusal to locate necessity in objects and to suggest a plausible explanation of his second thoughts about personal identity. (shrink)
The concept of the self is a highly contested topic. Traditionally it belonged to speculative metaphysics. Almost every philosopher, whether Western or Indian, has tried to explore the nature of self. Generally, the self is taken as a substance which has permanent existence, which is eternal and non-specio-temporal. In some traditions, like the Hindu tradition, it is believed to take rebirth as the body perishes. Many Western philosophers also think that it is immortal. The nature of the self also has (...) then ethical implications. The views of David Hume and Gautama Buddha on the self, which I have chosen to discuss here, are similar. Though both belong to different traditions, both are skeptical of any permanent existence of self. This is not to say that one has borrowed from the other. For the nature and purpose of denial of the self in both the philosophers is different. So a comprehensive and comparative study of their views is very interesting. It is the intention of this article to analyze and compare the philosophical positions of Gautama and Hume on the self—a problem which was of central concern to both and which has since exercised a continuing fascination for philosophers, both of the East and the West. (shrink)
The utilization of Western canonical thinkers to inform and understand thinkers from India and China is nothing new. More specifically, it is very tempting for a Western-trained philosopher to explain the Buddhist conception of the self by reference to David Hume; both seem to be bundle theories. Moreover, in making such a comparison we seem to get a solution to the puzzle that Hume leaves at the end of A Treatise of Human Nature concerning personal identity. Briefly, Hume holds that (...) we are simply bundles of perceptions. He then admits that he has nothing to hold the perceptions together. The Buddhist conception of the self is as a bundle of five aggregates (skandhas) that are continually changing. In the Buddhist .. (shrink)
Peter Kail’s comprehensive, thoughtful, and challenging book focuses on Hume’s use of projectionFthe appeal to mental phenomena to explain manifest features of the worldFin his treatments of external objects, causation, and morality. Almost all interpreters of Hume acknowledge a role for projection, but Kail is the first to unpack the metaphor, and to show the different ways in which projection works in different domains.
Pace Perry, wondering whether perceived things are identical is thinking about them, for Hume, with no thought of perceptions of them. Hume is not a proto-Fregean; Hume's Difficulty is not a version of Frege's Puzzle. Pace Falkenstein, wondering about an identity is not wondering whether clearly distinct things--stages, surfaces, names--are connected in some way. Pace Garrett, wondering about the identity of an observed object is wondering whether it is really one or two things, not whether there is one F or (...) two Fs. Second, Humean consciousness is apperception, not immediate awareness. Third, Hume finds nothing with epistemic merit. (shrink)
Hume’s mysterious words, “we must distinguish betwixt personal identity, as it regards our thought or imagination, and as it regards our passions or the concern we take in ourselves” have been the focus of a variety of different interpretations, some more creative than others. But the solution to this interpretative problem is indeed very simple, too simple to occur to most readers. What Hume has in mind is actually nothing but the different ways association works with regard to, on the (...) one hand, imagination, and, on the other hand, passion. Hence, one may easily read the entire Treatise as containing just one idea of self, that is, the bundle of perceptions discussed in “On personal identity.” Contrary to what many scholars have recently suggested, this idea may very well be “the idea, or rather impression” of self at play in the mechanism of sympathy, as well as the object of pride and humility. This faithful but dull reading makes Hume coherent, probably more coherent than any two-ideas interpretation does. (shrink)
Hume talks of our ‚Äògilding and staining‚Äô natural objects, and of the mind's propensity to ‚Äòspread itself‚Äô on the world. This has led commentators to use the metaphor of ‚Äòprojection‚Äô in connection with his philosophy. This book spells out its meaning, the role it plays in Hume's work, and examines how, if at all, what sounds ‚Äòprojective‚Äô in Hume can be reconciled with what sounds ‚Äòrealist‚Äô. In addition to offering some original readings of Hume's central ideas on God and the (...) Self among other things, this book offers a detailed examination of the notion of projection and the problems it faces. (shrink)
This chapter contains section titled: Introduction Locke on Personal Identity Hume's Critique of Locke The Belief in Mental Unity Hume's Second Thoughts Some Interpretations Unity in Reflection References.