Hume's concern in the Appendix of the Treatise. The problem of content in the formation of the idea of the identical self

This paper engages in the interpretative effort of elucidating the causes and the scope of Hume’s alleged retraction of his views on personal identity.The part of the Appendix concerned with personal identity includes positive and negative aspects. In the first part of the paper, I will begin by examining the statements of the theory with which Hume is still clearly satisfied. I will compare those to the earlier exposition of the question in T I.4.6 in order to provide a working account of Hume’s theory of personal identity. Then, I will focus on the features of the theory that he considers ‘defective’ and, on the basis of this textual analysis, I will propose the requirements that any interpretation of the Appendix must meet. This part will be mainly an explanatory comparison and it will serve as the grounds for the interpretation of Hume’s retraction. In the second part I will put forward an interpretation of Hume’s concern along the lines of the ‘problem of content’. Roughly, I will argue that his dissatisfaction arises in finding out that his genetic explanation of the idea of the self does not work, and that the associative principles that he had proudly presented throughout the Treatise -and that he considers the core of his science of human nature- cannot apply to the analysis of personal identity. In the third and last part, I will show how this interpretation meets the previous requirements and I will briefly trace back Hume’s problem in order to elucidate where and why he entered the ‘labyrinth’ in the first place.
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