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Hume Studies Volume XXI, Number 1, April 1995, pp. 25-45 Hume and Reid on the Simplicity of the Soul LORNE FALKENSTEIN In Book I Part iv Section 5 of A Treatise of Human Nature,1 David Hume launched a sceptical attack on the possibility of making any claims about the substance of the soul, be it on the materialist or the immaterialist side of the question. I believe that this attack exercised a profound influence on Thomas Reid. Reid was a committed dualist who saw Hume's attack as a challenge that had to be overcome.2 In his Inquiry into the Human Mind, he referred explicitly to the central argument of T I iv 5 and tried to articulate an account of the workings of the human mind against which the presuppositions of Hume's sceptical attack would not apply. Central to this account was a theory of what it means for an object of knowledge to be "before" the mind and a fascinating critique of what Reid called the "analogical thinking" that leads us to suppose that an object of knowledge must be literally in the mind, the way chocolates are in a box3—a critique which has been recognized as a profound anticipation of modern work in epistemology. I do not want to suggest that it was Reid's encounter with TI iv 5 that led to the development of his account of representation. The relation could have been the reverse—his position on representation could have been what established his conviction that Hume's attack rests on premises that a dualist need not accept. What I would like to do, however, is argue that TI iv 5 played a central role in Reid's understanding of Hume's position on representation. It grounded his belief that Hume had seriously misunderstood the nature of representation and it made him convinced that he (Reid) was advancing a quite different theory. Lome Falkenstein is at the Department of Philosophy, Talbot College, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, N6A 3K7 Canada, e-mail: LFalkens@uwovax.uwo.ca 26 Lome Falkenstein Reid's proclamations on the topic of his differences with Hume have been received with scepticism, if not outright derision, ever since the days of Immanuel Kant and Thomas Brown.4 If I am right, T I iv 5 has an important bearing on this issue. A careful look at it and how Reid understood it can do much to illuminate the questions of who meant what and who misunderstood whom, that have for so long vexed our accounts of the relation between Hume and Reid. Soul and Self in Hume T I iv 5 is entitled "Of the immateriality of the soul." Unlike the more famous TI iv 6, "Of personal identity," it is not concerned with question of what it is that gives us the idea that we are the same selves from one moment to the next. It is concerned rather with the question of whether there is a peculiar substance, called the mind or the soul, in which all our perceptions inhere. The two questions are distinct, because the mind, even if it exists, may be perceived only intermittently5 and so may not give us that one, constant, abiding impression which Hume initially searches for as the origin of our idea of the self. For its part the self, insofar as we know it, turns out for Hume to be something quite different from a mental substance, be it material or immaterial. But though the questions of soul and self are distinct, they are related. TI iv 5 establishes the negative thesis that we have no idea of mind or soul and no justification, therefore, for supposing that there is any such thing. This negative result immediately raises a question. If we really have no idea of ourselves as minds or souls, continuing in existence from one moment to the next and entertaining our perceptions as we have them, then what is it that makes us even able to think that we exist as some one thing, and what allows us to think that we continue in existence from one moment to the next? What...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 25-45
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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