Hume and Cognitive Science: The Current Status of the Controversy over Abstract Ideas

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 4 (2):197-207 (2005)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

In Book I, Part I, Section VII of the Treatise, Hume sets out to settle, once and for all, the early modern controversy over abstract ideas. In order to do so, he tries to accomplish two tasks: (1) he attempts to defend an exemplar-based theory of general language and thought, and (2) he sets out to refute the rival abstraction-based account. This paper examines the successes and failures of these two projects. I argue that Hume manages to articulate a plausible theory of general ideas; indeed, a version of his account has defenders in contemporary cognitive science. But Hume fails to refute the abstraction-based account, and as a result, the early modern controversy ends in a stalemate, with both sides able to explain how we manage to speak and think in general terms. Although Hume fails to settle the controversy, he nevertheless advances it to a point from which we have yet to progress: the contemporary debate over abstract ideas in cognitive science has stalled on precisely this point.

Similar books and articles

Hume and Abstract General Ideas.George S. Pappas - 1977 - Hume Studies 3 (1):17-31.
Hume on morality.James Baillie - 2000 - New York: Routledge.
Hume’s Ontology.Ingvar Johansson - 2012 - Metaphysica 13 (1):87-105.
Hume on Meaning.Walter Ott - 2006 - Hume Studies 32 (2):233-252.
Hume’s Progressive View of Human Nature.Michael Gill - 2000 - Hume Studies 26 (1):87-108.
Abstract General Ideas in Hume.George S. Pappas - 1989 - Hume Studies 15 (2):339-352.

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-01-28

Downloads
509 (#37,376)

6 months
125 (#31,963)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Mark Collier
University of Minnesota, Morris

Citations of this work

Hume and the enactive approach to mind.Tom Froese - 2009 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 8 (1):95-133.

Add more citations

References found in this work

A treatise of human nature.David Hume & D. G. C. Macnabb (eds.) - 1977 - New York: Dutton.
A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1958 - Philosophical Quarterly 8 (33):379-380.
Categories and Concepts.Edward E. Smith & L. Douglas - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
A theory of memory retrieval.Roger Ratcliff - 1978 - Psychological Review 85 (2):59-108.

View all 35 references / Add more references