Filling the Gaps in Hume's Vacuums


The paper addresses two difficulties that arise in Treatise 1.2.5. First, Hume appears to be inconsistent when he denies that we have an idea of a vacuum or empty space yet allows for the idea of an "invisible and intangible distance." My solution to this difficulty is to develop the overlooked possibility that Hume does not take the invisible and intangible distance to be a distance at all. Second, although Hume denies that we have an idea of a vacuum, some texts in Treatise 1.2.5 are taken by interpreters to suggest that Hume nonetheless believes that there are vacuums in nature. I discuss the relevant texts and defend the view that Hume does not in fact countenance belief in vacuums. I conclude by outlining an interpretation of Hume's intention in the Treatise that allows us to understand his discussion of ideas as having implications for the sciences.