Hume, Substance, and Causation: A Solution to a Nasty Problem

Hume Studies 48 (2):263-282 (2023)
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Louis Loeb has identified a “nasty problem” in connection with Hume’s theory of meaning. The problem is that Hume seemingly claims we lack ideas corresponding to key metaphysical terms, such as terms like “substance” and “necessary connection,” but he then proceeds to explain why philosophers believe in the existence of entities denoted by such terms. In short, Hume seems motivated to explain belief in the existence of certain entities, despite his claiming we have no ideas corresponding to them. In this paper, I strive to solve the problem by noting the important role of clear and distinct perception in his thought. In particular, I argue Hume only wishes to deny that we have clear and distinct ideas of substance and necessary connection, and not that we altogether lack any idea of substance and necessary connection, traditionally conceived.



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Alexander Bozzo
University of Wisconsin, Stout

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