The Importance of "Mere Conception" in David Hume's Theory of Belief

Dissertation, State University of New York at Stony Brook (1995)

Catherine Kemp
John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY)
Belief is a species of mere conception, and is modifiable, rather than bivalent (believing or disbelieving). The attendant-impression theory of transformation of conception into belief expresses the moral dimension of one and the same thing, of which the manner-of-conception (without attendant impression) theory of the transformation refers to the epistemic dimension of that same thing. These two aspects of the transformation of conception into belief point to an ambiguity in Hume's use of the term IDEA: as act and as content. The act of conception, its content, and the pedigree of that content are all mutually indeterminate. The imagination conceives, constructs contents, and transforms conception into belief. The foundation of the role of mere conception in belief is the mind's "native situation of indifference", which makes it possible for Hume to account not only for warranted but also unwarranted belief. Hume is interested not only in what should actuate the soul but what does so in fact. Hume's real innovation lies in a theory of belief unburdened by traditional representation and in the effects rather than the external foundations of certitude.
Keywords Hume  Belief  Conception  Idea
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