The thesis of self-elusiveness says, roughly, that the self fails to be phenomenally manifest from the first-person perspective. This thesis has a long history. Yet many who endorse it do so only in a very specific sense. They say that the self fails to be phenomenally manifest as an object from the first-person perspective; they say that self-experience is not a species of ‘object-consciousness’. Yet if consciousness outstrips object-consciousness, then we are left with the possibility that there is another sense (...) in which the self is phenomenally manifest. Alas, efforts to articulate just what this form of self-experience comes to—often a holy grail of sorts for those in, and influenced by, the phenomenological tradition—have remained stubbornly obscure. This essay attempts a partial remedy. Taking a cue from Bernard Lonergan, I suggest that self-experience, while not a species of object-consciousness, is nonetheless partially grounded in it. The result is a view that is compatible with self-experience being representational and relational, contra tradition. (shrink)
In her book Experience Embodied, Anik Waldow challenges and reimagines the traditional interpretative approach to the concept of experience in the early modern period. Traditionally, commentators have emphasized early moderns’ views on the first-person perspective and eschewed the relevance of our embodiment to their epistemological outlooks. My focus here is on Waldow’s chapter on Hume, wherein she analyzes Hume’s account of our capacity for reflective moral judgment, arguing that he understands it as natural despite the countless ways in which our (...) embodied social experiences impinge on it. After detailing Waldow’s contributions, I clarify, corroborate, and criticize them. Since I contend that Waldow is broadly successful in her interpretative efforts, I suggest that she undermines the traditional interpretative approach to experience in the early modern period, but not in the sense that she moves us away from the epistemological towards other lenses. Rather, Waldow should be understood as showing that, at least in the case of Hume’s metaethics, the epistemological is embodied, is social, and is both cognitive and sentimental. (shrink)
Response to Don Baxter, Don Garrett and Jennifer Marusic regarding my book Imagined Causes: Hume's Conception of Objects; initially delivered at the 2016 Hume Conference in Sydney, Australia as part of the Author Meets Critics session.
Hume is an experimental philosopher who attempts to understand why we think, feel, and act as we do. But how should we evaluate the adequacy of his proposals? This chapter examines Hume’s account from the perspective of interdisciplinary work in cognitive science.
In a recent paper, Karl Schafer argues that Hume's theory of mental representation has two distinct components, unified by their shared feature of having accuracy conditions. As Schafer sees it, simple and complex ideas represent the intrinsic imagistic features of their objects whereas abstract ideas represent the relations or structures in which multiple objects stand. This distinction, however, is untenable for at least two related reasons. Firstly, complex ideas represent the relations or structures in which the impressions that are the (...) objects of their simple components stand. Secondly, abstract ideas are themselves instances of complex ideas. I draw two important conclusions from these facts. Firstly, contra Schafer and Garrett, the Copy Principle, properly emended, constitutes the entirety of Hume's theory of mental representation. Secondly, whereas paradigm examples of complex ideas, e.g. ideas of spatial and temporal complexes, are structured by relations of contiguity, abstract ideas are those complex ideas instead structured by relations of resemblance. As such, they represent their objects not as spatially or temporally contiguous but rather as resembling. (shrink)
Reid’s dilemma concludes that, whether the idea associated with a denied proposition is lively or faint, Hume is committed to saying that it is either believed or merely conceived. In neither case would there be denial. If so, then Hume cannot give an adequate account of denial. I consider and reject Powell’s suggestion that Hume could have advanced a “Content Contrary” account of denial that avoids Reid’s dilemma. However, not only would a Humean Content Contrary account be viciously circular, textual (...) evidence suggests that Hume did not hold such an account. I then argue that Govier’s distinction between force and vivacity cannot help Hume. Not only did Hume fail to recognize this distinction, we can advance a variant of Reid’s dilemma even if we distinguish force from vivacity. (shrink)
Although ambivalence in a strict sense, according to which a person holds opposed attitudes, and holds them as opposed, is an ordinary and widespread phenomenon, it appears impossible on the common presupposition that persons are either unitary or plural. These two conceptions of personhood call for dispensing with ambivalence by employing tactics of harmonizing, splitting, or annulling the unitary subject. However, such tactics are useless if ambivalence is sometimes strictly conscious. This paper sharpens the notion of conscious ambivalence, such that (...) the above tactics cannot be applied to ordinary moments of explicit and clear ambivalent consciousness. It is shown that such moments reveal ambivalence as an attitude that is part of human life. The argument employs three features of consciousness that together capture its outgoing character. In the last section some of the implications of conscious ambivalence for consciousness and the mind are clarified as the analysis of conscious ambivalence in this paper is compared with Hume’s and John Barth’s phenomenalist conceptions. -/- An additional note: See Razinsky, Ambivalence: A Philosohical Exploration (Rowman & Littlefield Int., 2016), Ch. 5 for a version of this paper that also includes a long section on the unity of consciousness (but does not include the section named 'Phenomenalist Ambivalence?'). (shrink)
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)
Kant’s Inferentialism draws on a wide range of sources to present a reading of Kant’s theory of mental representation as a direct response to the challenges issued by Hume in A Treatise of Human Nature. Kant rejects the conclusions that Hume draws on the grounds that these are predicated on Hume’s theory of mental representation, which Kant refutes by presenting objections to Hume’s treatment of representations of complex states of affairs and the nature of judgment. In its place, Kant combines (...) an account of concepts as rules of inference with a detailed account of perception and of the self as the locus of conceptual norms to form a complete theory of human experience as an essentially rule-governed enterprise aimed at producing a representation of the world as a system of objects necessarily connected to one another via causal laws. This interpretation of the historical dialectic enriches our understanding of both Hume and Kant and brings to bear Kant’s insights into mental representation on contemporary debates in philosophy of mind. Kant’s version of inferentialism is both resistant to objections to contemporary accounts that cast these as forms of linguistic idealism, and serves as a remedy to misplaced Humean scientism about representation. (shrink)
In 1739 Hume bequeathed a bold view of the self to the philosophical community that would prove highly influential, but equally controversial. His bundle theory of the self elicited substantial opposition soon after its appearance in the Treatise of Human Nature. Yet Hume makes it clear to his readers that his views on the self rest on respectable foundations: namely, the views of the highly regarded Irish philosopher, George Berkeley. As the author of the Treatise sees it, his account of (...) the self draws on Berkeley’s conception of language, especially his views on singular terms. But Hume, as impressed as he is with Berkeley’s account of language, deems it necessary to defend this view against possible criticism. In the process Hume modifies Berkeley’s views. My paper is a critical investigation of Hume’s defense of Berkeley on language and an attempt to highlight the extent to which Hume departs from the views of his Irish colleague. -/- . (shrink)
In his Treatise Hume makes a profound suggestion: philosophical problems, especially problems in metaphysics, are verbal. This view is most vigorously articulated and defended in the course of his investigation of the problem of the self, in the section “Of personal identity.” My paper is a critical exploration of Hume's arguments for this influential thesis and an analysis of the context that informs this 1739 version of the nature of philosophical problems that anticipates the linguistic turn in philosophy. -/- .
David Hume fancied himself the Newton of the mind, aiming to reinvent the study of human mental life in the same way that Newton had revolutionized physics. And it was his view that the novel account of belief he proposed in his Treatise of Human Nature was one of that work’s central philosophical contributions. From the earliest responses to the Treatise forward, however, there was deep pessimism about the prospects for his account. It is easy to understand the source of (...) this pessimism: The constraints he employed in theorizing stem from his Newtonian ambitions. Constraints such as his copy principle and his decision to rely only on variations in “force and vivacity” for differentiating types of mental states severely limit his available explanatory resources. However, it is one thing to regard an account as untenable, and quite another to understand where it fails. In this paper, I focus on one long-standing objection to Hume’s account — the objection that Hume cannot offer an account of negative belief or denial — as presented by Hume’s contemporary Thomas Reid, as well as more recently by Barry Stroud, and defend Hume from this objection. I argue that Hume both should and does endorse an account of negative belief based in relations of contrariety between contents, rather than between mental activities, and survey the different options available to Hume for spelling out an account of contrary contents. (shrink)
In his Treatise of Human Nature Hume argues for a provocative account of the soul; the soul - or self, as he prefers to call it - is nothing but a bundle of perceptions. But this bold thesis, concedes Hume, gives rise to a predicament concerning two incompatible propositions, or principles as he calls them: one on the nature of perceptions, the other on the capabilities of the mind: "In short, there are two principles, which I cannot render consistent; nor (...) is it in my power to renounce either of them, viz. that all our distinct perceptions are distinct existences, and that the mind never perceives any real connexion among distinct existences". But the situation is not hopeless, thinks Hume. Someone might be able to show that these principles are actually consistent: "Others, perhaps, or myself, upon more mature reflection, may discover some hypothesis, that will reconcile those contradictions". (Treatise 636, my emphasis) My paper is an attempt to throw light on this important component in Hume’s analysis of his account of the self. In the course of our investigation of Hume's suggestion that an hypothesis can resolve his contradiction we will learn more about his conception of a contradiction - ultimately enriching our understanding of his account of the soul. (shrink)
Hume concludes Book II of his Treatise of Human Nature with a section on the passion of curiosity, ‘that love of truth, which was the first source of all our enquiries’. At first sight, this characterisation of curiosity – as the motivating factor in that specifically human activity that is the pursuit of knowledge – may seem unoriginal. However, when Hume speaks of the ‘source of all our enquiries’, he is referring both to the universal human pursuit of knowledge and (...) to his own philosophical project. Seen in this light, his discussion of curiosity takes on a new significance, as it weaves together elements of his systematic account of human nature – notably, his theory of cognition and motivation – with observations about the pursuit of philosophy as well as the progress of the arts and sciences. In the present paper, I offer a reconstruction of Hume’s view on curiosity and its role in cognition and inquiry. (shrink)
This article is an exploration of David Hume's philosophy of custom and habit as a way of living with skepticism. For Hume, man is a habit-forming animal, and all politics and history take place within a history of custom and habit. This is not a bad thing: life without custom and habit would be a nightmare. Hume draws on the "new science" of thinkers such as Locke, Shaftesbury, Mandeville, Hutcheson, and Butler to foreground the importance of custom and habit. His (...) own contribution is a detailed exploration of philosophical psychology that brings out the role of habits of action such as politeness and manners and habits of thinking such as opinion and reasoning. Finally, life in accordance with customs and habits is not inherently conservative or quietist: there are endogenous and exogenous sources of change and progress in custom and habits. (shrink)
An important part of David Hume’s work is his attempt to put the natural sciences on a firmer foundation by introducing the scientific method into the study of human nature. This investigation resulted in a novel understanding of the mind, which in turn informed Hume’s critical evaluation of the scope and limits of the scientific method as such. However, while these latter reflections continue to influence today’s philosophy of science, his theory of mind is nowadays mainly of interest in terms (...) of philosophical scholarship. This paper aims to show that, even though Hume’s recognition in the cognitive sciences has so far been limited, there is an opportunity to reevaluate his work in the context of more recent scientific developments. In particular, it is argued that we can gain a better understanding of his overall philosophy by tracing the ongoing establishment of the enactive approach. In return, this novel interpretation of Hume’s ‘science of man’ is used as the basis for a consideration of the current and future status of the cognitive sciences. (shrink)
The problem of other minds has widely been considered as a special problem within the debate about scepticism. If one cannot be sure that there is a world existing independently of one's mind, how can we be sure that there are minds - minds which we cannot even experience the way we experience material objects? This book shows, through a detailed examination of David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature, that these concerns are unfounded. By focusing on Hume's discussion of (...) sympathy - the ability to connect with the mental contents of other persons - Anik Waldow demonstrates that belief in other minds can be justified by the same means as belief in material objects. The book thus not only provides the first large-scale treatment of the function of the belief in other minds within the Treatise, thereby adding a new dimension to Hume's realism, but also serves as an invaluable guide to the complexity of the problem of other minds and its various responses in contemporary debate. (shrink)
In this essay, I investigate the dynamic foundations of Hume’s philosophy which is so heavily dependent upon Newton’s physics. Hume’s ubiquitous phrase „force and vivacity” is symptomatic of his dynamic, rather than voluntaristic, position that dominates his interpretation of impressions, ideas, and causality in particular. After pointing out some inconsistencies of Hume’s Newtonism, I concentrate on Hume’s treatment of power. It is a well-known fact that Hume rejected natural powers, in fear of their occult character, but accepted human powers giving (...) them an actualist interpretation. I suggest that there is a dispositional treatment hidden in Hume’s statements which puts Hume in line with other philosophers of power. (shrink)
The following essay, whose title has been provided by me for this occasion, is taken from James Ferrier's work The Institutes of Metaphysic where it appears in Section I., the general theme of which is ‘The Epistemology, or Theory of Knowing’. The essay is a statement and elaboration of the ‘ninth proposition’ of the Institutes, and an examination of its implications as these bear upon knowledge of mind and self. The precise source of the text is the 3rd edition of (...) the Institutes of Metaphysic. Ferrier indicates earlier that ‘generally throughout this work the word “cognition” signifi es the known, the cognitum. This remark is necessary lest the reader should suppose that it signifi es the act rather than the object of knowledge’. In the last section of this introduction I list the preceding eight propositions. (shrink)
It is not uncommon for philosophers to seek the imprimatur of a great predecessor by attempting to show that the truths they proclaim have been perceived by the latter, even if only through a glass darkly. In this slim but rich volume, it is Jerry Fodor’s turn to claim Hume as a philosophical ancestor, both for cognitive science, in general, and for the theory of the mind he has championed for some time, in particular. He writes: “Hume’s Treatise is the (...) foundational document of cognitive science: it made explicit, for the first time, the project of constructing an empirical psychology on the basis of a representational theory of the mind”. (shrink)
Hume? Yes, David Hume, that's who Jerry Fodor looks to for help in advancing our understanding of the mind. Fodor claims his Treatise of Human Nature as the foundational document of cognitive science: it launched the project of constructing an empirical psychology on the basis of a representational theory of mind. Going back to this work after more than 250 years we find that Hume is remarkably perceptive about the components and structure that a theory of mind requires. Careful study (...) of the Treatise helps us to see what's amiss with much twentieth-century philosophy of mind, and to get on the right track. Hume says in the Treatise that his main project is to construct a theory of human nature and, in particular, a theory of the mind. Hume Variations examines his account of cognition and how it is grounded in his 'theory of ideas'. Fodor discusses such key topics as the distinction between 'simple' and 'complex' ideas, the thesis that an idea is some kind of picture, and the roles that 'association' and 'imagination' play in cognitive processes. He argues that the theory of ideas, as Hume develops it, is both historically and ideologically continuous with the representational theory of mind as it is now widely endorsed by cognitive scientists. This view of Hume is explicitly opposed to recent discussions by critics who hold that the theory of ideas is the Achilles heel of his philosophy and that he would surely have abandoned it if only he had read Wittgenstein carefully.You don't have to know much about Hume to enjoy this inventively argued, provocative, and stimulating defence of the representational theory of mind--which is looking increasingly hard to resist.LINES OF THOUGHTPhilosophy books don't need to be hundreds of pages long to make a substantial contribution to the subject. This new series presents original works by leading philosophers at an affordable price and a readable length. Series EditorsPeter Ludlow Scott Sturgeon. (shrink)
An appreciation of Hume’s psychology of object identity allows us to recognize certain tensions in his discussion of the origin of our belief in personal identity---tensions which have gone largely unnoticed in the secondary literature. This will serve to provide a new solution to the problem of explaining why Hume finds that discussion of personal identity so problematic when he famously disavows it in the Appendix to the Treatise. It turns out that the two psychological mechanisms which respectively generate the (...) ideas of object and of personal identity are mutually incompatible. It is this sort of conflict within Hume’s introspective or subjectivist psychology which is the source of his worry. (shrink)
This book is a penetrating study of the theory of mind and morality that Hume developed in his Treatise of Human Nature and other writings. Hume rejects any conception of moral beliefs and moral truths. He understands morality in terms of distinctive desires and other sentiments that arise through the correction of sympathy. Hume's theory presents a powerful challenge to recent cognitivist theories of moral judgement, Bricke argues, and suggests significant limitations to recent conventionalist and contractarian accounts of morality's content.
The overall purpose of Bricke’s book is to assess the prospects for a coherent theory of mind based on Humean principles. In the light of "recent work in philosophy" Bricke examines what is purported to be Hume’s philosophy of mind as found primarily in book 1 of the Treatise and the first Enquiry. The author also claims that he is "particularly concerned to give an accurate rendering: hence the amount of space devoted to close scrutiny of the texts, and of (...) any arguments Hume presents.... I make little effort to map my interpretation on to those of others.... In the relevant way my account saves the textual appearances". Bricke assesses the adequacy of these views, and attempts to make "some advance on the philosophical issues themselves.". (shrink)
Impressed by Isaac Newton's success at explaining the apparently diverse and chaotic physical world with a few universal principles, David Hume (1711-1776), while still in his teens, proposed that the same might be done for the realm of the mind. Through observation and experimentation, Hume hoped to uncover the mind's "secret springs and principles." Hume's proposal for a science of the mind was published as..