2005-02-25

Hume Paper

Here's an abstract of the paper I did for Prof. Strawson's class on Hume. He seemed to like it, which is fortunate since much of it is based on his work and I was a bit worried that he'd tell me I'd got him wrong. Now I'm working on presentation-izing it for CUNY's Graduate Student Colloquium Series; I'll be going sometime in March.

REALISM & NATURALISM
Limits on Metaphysical Speculation and 
the Problem of Personal Identity in Hume’s Treatise
ABSTRACT: Building upon realist interpretations of Hume, I highlight the tension between Hume’s realism and his desire to limit metaphysical speculation, and argue that his naturalism reconciles between the two, confining his realism to the category of natural beliefs. Turning to the Hume’s account of personal identity in the Treatise, and the problem he confesses to find with it in the Appendix, I offer an interpretation on which belief in the unitary, persistent self is unique among natural beliefs in facing a direct challenge from experience according to Hume’s theory of ideas. I argue that Hume’s difficulty is not metaphysical but explanatory: while he is a realist about the self just as he is a realist elsewhere, only with regard to the self must he explain how he is entitled to his realism in the face of experience; he is unable to meet this explanatory burden on his empiricist principles.

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