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HUME'S USE OF ILLICIT SUBSTANCES Now as every perception is distinguishable from another, and may be consider 'd as separately existent; it evidently follows, that there is no absurdity in separating any particular perception from the mind; that is, in breaking off all its relations, with that connected mass of perceptions, which constitute a thinking being. 1. The Problem Hume is often classified as an 'atomist'. He is alleged to hold that every simple perception (impression and idea) is 'independent': to say that a simple perception P. exists does not entail the existence of any other entity. As the passage above makes clear, part of this atomism is a neutral monism. That is, no perception is intrinsically mental, or material. Yet, he is also claimed to adhere staunchly to the so-called theory of ideas. Indeed, Stroud devotes the entire second chapter of his book Hume to discussion of Hume's adaptation of it. Now we shall argue that any plausible reading of the theory of ideas identifies that which is directly perceived -in Hume's case, (at least) simple perceptions -- as intrinsically mental. This means either that every perception P_ must be in some mind, thus violating one tenet of atomism, or that perceptions themselves are intrinsically mental , thus compromising their neutrality . Can Hume escape this apparent dilemma? The answer seems reasonably clear if one knows Hume. He claims that the mind is a bundle of perceptions . As a member of the bundle, a perception is mental. However, this notion of the mental is genuinely contextual; that is, no perception is, despite appearances, intrinsically mental, due to some nonrelational quality it has. To say the same thing differently, Hume holds merely that perceptions must, as a matter of fact, be 'in' minds in order to exist. Why he thinks this, according to Stroud (and others), is probably at least a function of the reasons other members of the way of ideas tradition classify the directly perceived as mental. More accurately, the following two propositions are considered to be merely contingent, i.e., non-necessary truths for Hume; one can imagine their contradictories: (1)In order to exist, a perception must be 'in' a mind, i.e., some mind or other. (2)If a person S_ has a perception P., then P_ is 'in' S., in the sense that P is a member of a collection of perceptions that constitute S_. Thus, if a perception exists, it must as a matter of fact be in some mind or other, but it is not connected necessarily to any mind. Hence perceptions are mental, yet independent i.e., neither necessarily in the collections they are in fact in, nor necessarily in any collections at all. Given (1) and (2), the existence of a perception entails the existence of a mind only in a contingent, not a logical, sense. As the reader shall see, this defense of Hume comes in the end to classifying him as some sort of phenomenalist, who reconstructs the 1 notions of mental and physical from a given data base. Ne are not satisfied with this answer. Indeed, we think it quite inadequate. To begin to show that, let us turn to a set of passages in the Treatise that set the problem we have been trying to outline. Hume himself speculates, in an infamous passage in the Appendix, that something is radically wrong with his claims about the self, that somewhere in his system there is a contradiction and, indeed, he senses that the contradiction has something to do with his atomism (T 633ff). We think he is right. Our thesis is as follows. The contradiction Hume senses is that he both holds and disavows the claim that g perceptions are mind dependent in an intrinsic sense. Thus, though a given perception is (perhaps) not necessarily in a given mind, it must either be in some mind or other in a logical sense of "must," or intrinsically mental in the sense of being intentional. As we explain in detail in section 2, the argument from perceptual variation, a cornerstone of the theory of ideas, leads inevitably to the view that there are intentional entities. Not only is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 1-38
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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