Hume's Theory of the External World

Hume's Theory of the External World

Hume's Theory of the External World

Hume's Theory of the External World

Excerpt

Hume's discussion of Causality and Induction is familiar to all students of Philosophy, some of whom seem almost to think that he never wrote about anything else. His theory of Personal Identity has also attracted a good deal of attention from subsequent philosophers and psychologists. But his theory of Perception and of the External World has been very little discussed, and seems to have had little or no influence upon his successors. Yet it is one of the most brilliant and most original parts of the Treatise of Human Nature, and the problems with which it is concerned have not lost their interest, or their importance. The theory is stated in Treatise Book I, Part iv, Section 2, the title of which is Of Scepticism with regard to the Senses; and some additional remarks are made about it in Part iv, Section 4, Of the Modern Philosophy, and in Section 5 of the same part, Of the Immateriality of the Soul. My aim in this book is to remedy the neglect into which these sections of the Treatise have fallen, particularly the section Of Scepticim with regard to the Senses.

Why have they been so neglected, even by those modern Empiricists who in other matters regard Hume as their master? It is partly Hume's own fault. When he came to write the Inquiry concerning Human Understanding, which professes to be the definitive reformulation of his theory of knowledge, he reduced these sections of the Treatise to a brief and sketchy summary, and omitted the most interesting passages altogether.1 The result was that this part of his philosophy, unlike his examination of Necessary Connexion, made very little impression upon his own contemporaries. Accordingly Kant did not feel called upon to produce an answer to it; and the philosophers of the nine . . .

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