Understanding the distinction between impressions and ideas that Hume draws in the opening paragraphs of his A Treatise on Human Nature is essential for understanding much of Hume's philosophy. This, however, is a task that has been the cause of a good deal of controversy in the literature on Hume. I here argue that the significant philosophical and exegetical issues previous treatments of this distinction (such as the force and vivacity reading and the external-world reading) encounter are extremely problematic. I propose an alternative reading of this distinction as being between original mental entities and copied mental entities. I argue that Hume takes himself to discover this distinction as that which underlies our pre-theoretical sorting of mental entities. Thus, while the Copy Principle is initially treated by Hume as a mere empirical fact, it later comes to play a more substantial explanatory role in his account of human nature. This reading makes Hume's distinction a more philosophically robust one, and avoids many of the exegetical difficulties of previous interpretations.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 119-139
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.