Unperceived Existence and Hume's Theory of Ideas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Hume seems committed to an inconsistent triad: (i) we believe certain things to exist unperceived; (ii) if we believe a certain thing to exist unperceived, then we have (at our disposal) an idea that represents it as existing unperceived; and (iii) we do not have (at our disposal) an idea that represents anything as existing unperceived. This chapter aims to acquit him of this seeming inconsistency by arguing that, contrary to what others have claimed, Hume does not explicitly argue for (iii); his theory of mental representation does not implicitly commit him to (iii); and, moreover, this theory allows him to explain our having ideas that represent things as existing unperceived, contrary to (iii). To this end, the chapter offers Hume an account of negation modeled on his accounts of abstract ideas and ideas of substances and modes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy
EditorsDonald Rutherford
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191886911
ISBN (Print)9780198852452
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • David Hume
  • continued existence
  • distinct existence
  • belief
  • copy principle
  • impressions
  • ideas
  • mental representation
  • negation


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