Introduction A brief look at the competing present-day interpretations of Hume's philosophy will leave the uninitiated reader completely baffled. On the one hand , Hume is seen as a philosopher who attempted to analyse concepts with ...
David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature presents the most important account of skepticism in the history of modern philosophy. In this lucid and thorough introduction to the work, John P. Wright examines the development of Hume's ideas in the Treatise, their relation to eighteenth-century theories of the imagination and passions, and the reception they received when Hume published the Treatise. He explains Hume's arguments concerning the inability of reason to establish the basic beliefs which underlie science and morals, as (...) well as his arguments showing why we are nevertheless psychologically compelled to accept such beliefs. The book will be a valuable guide for those seeking to understand the nature of modern skepticism and its connection with the founding of the human sciences during the Enlightenment. (shrink)
The article discusses the varying conceptions of the faculty of ‘the understanding’ in 18th-century British philosophy and logic. Topics include the distinction between the understanding and the will, the traditional division of three acts of understanding and its critics, the naturalizing of human understanding, conceiving of the limits of human understanding, British innatism and the critique of empiricist conceptions of the understanding, and reconceiving the understanding and the elimination of scepticism. Authors discussed include Richard Price, James Harris, Zachary Mayne, Edward (...) Bentham, Isaac Watts, Dugald Stewart, John Norris—as well as Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Reid. (shrink)
This is a review article discussing James Harris’s excellent study of David Hume’s full philosophical career including his epistemology, moral philosophy, politics, economics, religion, and history. Harris argues against a common view that in his later writings Hume is merely working out and developing the ideas of his Treatise of Human Nature. He even argues that Hume’s two Enquiries are substantially new works and not mere recasting of his youthful Treatise. Harris writes that philosophy for Hume is a ‘a style (...) of thought and of writing rather than a subject matter or body of doctrine.’. He carefully analyses Hume’s many essays, including those on economics and politics and provides the context which is needed to understand their significance. He explains how Hume modified and built his views on his reading of both contemporary and ancient authors. Each chapter provides a careful study of Hume’s writings in the context of his extant letters and manuscripts. Harris’s Intellectual Biography is recommended for anyone who wishes to understand his individual writings as well as those who seek to an overall understanding of his intellectual development. (shrink)
Psyche and Soma is a multi-disciplinary exploration of the history of understanding of the human mind or soul and its relationship to the body, through the course of more than two thousand years. Thirteen specially commissioned chapters, each written by a recognized expert, discuss such figures as the doctors Hippocrates and Galen, the theologians St Paul, Augustine, and Aquinas, and philosophers from Plato to Leibniz.
In this article I contrast 17th and 18th explanations of hysteria including those of Sydenham and Willis with those given by Plato and pre-modern medicine. I show that beginning in the second decade of the 17th century the locus of the disorder was transferred to the nervous system and it was no longer connected with the womb as in Hippocrates and Galen; hysteria became identified with hypochondria, and was a disease contracted by men as well as women. I discuss the (...) purely mechanical explanation of hysteria given by Robert Boyle who attributed its cause to corporeal ideas as well as overly sensitive disposition of the nervous system. I relate this the mechanical theory of the nervous system prominent in Descartes' writings on physiology. The paper closes with a discussion of the contrast between early modern explanations of hysteria and the nature of man with those of Freud in the early 20th century. (shrink)
The publication of a new intellectual biography of George Cheyne provides a "propitious" occasion for "a thoroughly skeptical review" of the question which has long exercised Hume scholars, whether Cheyne was the intended recipient of David Hume's fascinating pre-Treatise Letter to a Physician, the letter which describes his own hypochondriacal physical and mental symptoms and gives an account of his early philosophical development. Hume's nineteenth-century biographer, John Hill Burton, argued that Hume was probably writing to Cheyne, while Ernest Mossner claimed (...) to definitively refute that hypothesis in an article entitled "Hume's Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," published in 1944. Anita Guerrini's intellectual biography does not discuss Cheyne as a possible recipient of Hume's letter, but she does present a well-rounded picture of this interesting eighteenth-century physician from which we can judge his appropriateness as its addressee. In the following discussion I will make use of the biographical material found in this new biography of Cheyne, as well as other sources, to show that Mossner's arguments are less than definitive, and that it would be wrong to dismiss the possibility that the letter was sent to George Cheyne. This is a possibility that, for reasons that I will make clear, makes good biographical and philosophical sense. At the same time, it is important to keep a proper suspense of judgment as Burton did, for the evidence that the letter was either intended for or actually sent to Cheyne is not definitive. (shrink)
In the newly discovered letter Hume answers Reid's charge that he held a theory of ideas derived from his predecessors and criticizes Reid's own theory of innate ideas. He defends his own theory that ideas are derived from impressions. I discuss Reid's own puzzlement that in the first _Enquiry_ Hume ascribes a natural belief in necessary connections to the vulgar without an idea--and its influence on subsequent readings of Hume as a 'regularity theorist.' I argue that it was the 'Common (...) Sense' school of philosophers following Reid, rather than Hume, who insisted that beliefs must be based on legitimate ideas. (shrink)
This paper replies to Peter Millican (Mind, 2009), who argues that Hume denies the possible existence of causal powers which underlie the regularities that we observe in nature. I argue that Hume's own philosophical views on causal power cannot be considered apart from his mitigated skepticism. His account of the origin of the idea of causal power, which traces it to a subjective impression, only leads to what he calls ‘Pyrrhonian scepticism’. He holds that we can only escape such excessive (...) skepticism by way of a natural judgment based on the association of ideas, which forms the basis of what he calls ‘a legitimate ground of Assent’. (shrink)
In this paper I show how what came to be known as “the double law of habit,” first formulated by Joseph Butler in a discussion of moral psychology in 1736, was taken up and developed by medical physiologists William Porterfield, Robert Whytt, and William Cullen as they disputed fundamental questions regarding the influence of the mind on the body, the possibility of unconscious mental processes, and the nature and extent of voluntary action. The paper shows, on a particular topic, the (...) overlap between eighteenth-century philosophical writings on the science of human nature on the one hand,and medical writings and lectures in physiology on the other. Other early modern writers discussed in the paper include René Descartes, Herman Boerhaave and David Hume. (shrink)
John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding is among the most important books in philosophy ever written. It is a difficult work dealing with many themes, including the origin of ideas; the extent and limits of human knowledge; the philosophy of perception; and religion and morality. This volume focuses on the last two topics and provides a clear and insightful survey of these overlooked aspects of Locke's best-known work. Four eminent Locke scholars present authoritative discussions of Locke's view on the ethics (...) of belief, personal identity, free will and moral theory. (shrink)
Presenting significant new research on the moral and religious philosophy of David Hume, this volume illustrates the importance of intellectual context in understanding the work and career of one of the most important thinkers of the eighteenth century. Distinctive in its reappraisal of the influence of John Locke, Francis Hutcheson, and others, it examines how Hume reacted to, and in turn affected, other thinkers whose views, like his own, were bound up with specific philosophical, theological, and scientific traditions and commitments. (...) This volume also publishes for the first time in facsimile form the newly discovered fragment on evil. (shrink)