Another Look at Flage's Hume

Hume Studies 19 (1):177-186 (1993)
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Another Look at Flage's Hume Lesley Friedman In recent articles, Daniel Flage (1985a, 1985b) offers an interpretation of Humean memory-ideas as relative ideas: ideas of memory are analogous to definite descriptionsinsofar as they single outexactly one entity.1 Consequently, Flage argues that Hume has provided an adequate distinction between ideas generated by memory and ideas generated by imagination. It is my contention that Flage's reading is neither consonant with Hume's remarks in the Treatise nor successful in reducing the number ofdifficulties with Hume's theory ofmemory. I shall argue that (1) it is not clear that all memory-ideas are complex (an assumption necessary for Flage's interpretation); (2) Flage construes all memory as episodic, but he overlooks semantic memory; and (3) there isa distinction between mis-remembering and imagining which Flage's account cannot accommodate. It is worth noting that Flage contends that he is giving an interpretation ofHume's account ofmemory; he is not simply attempting to find out the truth ofthe matter. That is, Flage's position is that there is good reason to think that Hume construed memory-ideas as relative ideas. Accordingly, Flage must provide evidence, preferably textual, for the claim that Hume held such a view. My position is thatit is unlikely that Hume held such a view, and even if he did, it is inadequate for grounding an external distinction between memory-ideas and imagination-ideas. In short, claiming that Hume was interested in a decisive distinction between ideas ofmemory and ideas ofimagination is to involve Hume in problems with which he was not concerned. Not only are Flage's remarks in conflict with Hume's, but ifwe readhim as Flage suggests, Hume's theory ofmemory becomes considerably more riddled with problems than it is if we do not so read him. Flage and Hume In section 1 of Treatise 1.1, Hume draws his celebrated distinction between ideas and impressions. In the second section he considers impressions in some detail and he does the same for ideas in section three. Following every impression, Hume claims, there is a corresponding idea, either produced by the faculty of memory or the faculty of imagination. He takes it as no less than obvious that memory-ideas are more "lively and strong" than imagination-ideas: Volume XDi Number 1 177 LESLEY FRIEDMAN Tis evident at first sight, that the ideas of the memory are much more lively and strong than those of the imagination, and that the former faculty paints its objects in more distinct colours, than any which are emplo/d by the latter.2 That memory-ideas are more lively than their counterparts in imagination Hume construes as asensible difference between the two. Accordingly, I shall refer to this difference as the internal difference. Thereis,however,another difference betweenthesekinds ofideas, namely, that memory-ideas preserve the order and form of their corresponding simple ideas, while imagination-ideas need not: Tis evident, that the memory preserves the original form, in which its objects were presented, and that where-ever we depart from it in recollecting any thing, it proceeds from some defect or imperfection in that faculty.... The chiefexercise of the memoryis not to preserve the simpleideas, but their order and position.... The same evidence follows us in our second principle, of the Uberty ofthe imagination to transpose andchange its ideas. (T 9-10) I shall refer to the above as the external difference between memory-ideas andimagination-ideas.3 During his discussion ofcausation, Hume elaborates on the above differences. The external difference, he claims, "is not sufficient to... make us know the one from the other; it being impossible to recai the pastimpressions, in order to compare them with our present ideas, and see whether theirarrangementbe exactlysimilar" (T85). He concludes that the difference between memory and imagination is simply that memory-ideas are more forceful and vivacious than imagination-ideas. In short, since the external difference is non-phenomenal, it is inadequate for distinguishing, in practice, between ideas that are the product ofmemory and ideas that are the product of the imagination. Before concluding his discussion of the above differences Hume voices anote ofscepticismconcerningthe internal difference. He argues that theinternal...

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Hume's Social Theory of Memory.Siyaves Azeri - 2013 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 11 (1):53-68.

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Hume on Memory and Causation.Daniel E. Flage - 1985 - Hume Studies 1985 (1):168-188.
Hume on Memory and Causation.Daniel E. Flage - 1985 - Hume Studies 1985 (1):168-188.
'Lively' Memory and 'Past' Memory.Oliver Johnson - 1987 - Hume Studies 13 (2):343-359.
Flage on Hume's Account of Memory.Saul Traiger - 1985 - Hume Studies 11 (2):166-172.

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