Sie sind auf Seite 1von 32

Personal Identity: Hume

This lecture will help you


understand:
Humes Empiricism:
Impressions
Ideas

Humes Theory of Personal


Identity

Ren Magritte, Not to Be


Reproduced (La
Reproduction Interdit),
(1937)

David Hume (1711-76)


A Treatise of Human Nature (1740)
Denied the existence of
an unchanging or
continual self.

Hume
Empiricism
Skepticism

Empiricism
Empiricism (from Greek empeirikos, experienced)
Reliance on experience as the source of ideas and
knowledge. Information about the world must be
acquired by a posteriori means, so that nothing can be
thought without first being sensed.

Skepticism
Skepticism (skeptomai, to look about, to consider)
The doctrine that absolute knowledge or knowledge in
a particular area is uncertain or doubtful.

For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I


call myself, I always stumble on some particular
perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love
or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at
any time without a perception. When my perceptions
are remov'd for any time, as by sound sleep; [I am]
insensible [unaware] of myself, and may truly be said not
to exist. . . I may venture to affirm of the rest of
mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or
collection of different perceptions, which succeed each
other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a
perpetual flux and movement (IP 294-295).

Quiz Question 1: Who does Hume


most sound like here?
A.
B.
C.
D.

Protagoras
Pythagoras
Heraclitus
Parmenides

Impressions and Ideas


Perceptions (i.e., contents of the mind)
Impressions
Ideas

impression

Impressions and Ideas


Perceptions (i.e., contents of the mind) =
impressions and ideas.
Impressions and ideas resemble each other in
all other respects but force and vivacity.

impression

idea

Impressions and Ideas


Perceptions (i.e., contents of the mind) =
impressions and ideas.
Impressions and ideas resemble each other in
all other respects but force and vivacity.
If nothing is distinguishable in an impression
it is simple; otherwise complex. Similarly
with ideas.

Simple and Complex

Simple
impression

Complex
impression

Simple idea

Complex idea

Impressions and Ideas


Perceptions (i.e., contents of the mind) = impressions
and ideas.
Impressions and ideas resemble each other in all
other respects but force and vivacity.
If nothing is distinguishable in an idea it is simple;
otherwise complex.
If nothing is distinguishable in an impression it is
simple; otherwise complex. Similarly with ideas.

Impressions and Ideas


Perceptions (i.e., contents of the mind) =
impressions and ideas.
Impressions and ideas resemble each other in
all other respects but force and vivacity.
If nothing is distinguishable in an impression it
is simple; otherwise complex. Similarly with
ideas.
Impressions and ideas are always doubled
up.
Exception: complex ideas may lack complex
impressions as originals.

Imaginary Objects

+
(Complex)
Impression of a Horse

(Complex)
Impression of a Horn

(Complex)
Idea of a Unicorn

Ordinarily impressions and ideas doubled up.

Ordinarily impressions and ideas


double up

impression

idea

Thesis
Thesis: All simple ideas are derived from,
correspondent to, and exactly represent
simple impressions.

Two Proofs
1) Constant conjunction shows the connection
is not from chance. The order of dependence
is found in the order of succession: the
impression always comes first, so the idea
depends on it.

Two Proofs

2) Lack of impressions always


accompanies lack of ideas. We have
no idea of a pineapples taste
without going to the Indies and
tasting one, and in general a person
lacking sense modalities (e.g. sense
of taste) lacks the impressions, and
has no ideas proper to that sense.

Exception?
Missing Shade of Blue Example

Back to the Self


But self or person is not any one impression,
but that to which our several impressions and
ideas are supposed to have reference (IP
294).
In other words, there seems to be no
impression of a constant or abiding self.
If there is, where is it?

Bundle Theory of the Self


I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind,
that they are nothing but a bundle or collection
of different perceptions, which succeed each
other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a
perpetual flux and movement (IP 295).

Metaphor of Theater
The mind is a kind of theatre, where several
perceptions successively make their
appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away, and
mingle in an infinite variety of postures and
situations. There is properly no simplicity in it
at one time, nor identity in different [times];
whatever natural propension we may have to
imagine that simplicity and identity. The
comparison of the theatre must not mislead
us. They are the successive perceptions
only, that constitute the mind; nor have we
the most distant notion of the place, where
these scenes are represented, or of the
materials, of which it is composed (IP 295).

Our eyes cannot turn in


their sockets without varying
our perceptions. Our thought
is still more variable than our
sight; and all our other
senses and faculties
contribute to this change;
nor is there any single power
of the soul, which remains
unalterably the same,
perhaps for one moment (IP
295).

Criticism 1
1. Responsibility: If the self is for always changing,
if I am not the same self now as I was ten years
ago, ten days ago, or even ten seconds ago,
what are we to make of the idea of
accountability, responsibility, and guilt? How are
we to go about deciding questions of right and
responsibility for crimes?

Criticism 2
2. Substance vs. Continuity Criterion: Yet, is it
really true to say that the self changes because
the body changes? Am I different because I
have shaved today? Is it not natural for
something like a tree or person to grow? Would
it not be precisely what it is (i.e. a tree) if it
didn't grow?

Same Tree?

What about if it grew wings, however! Would


it still be the same tree then?
Clearly, whatever happens to something has,
in some sense, to be allowed for in its very
concept.

A Final Reflection
Clearly, whatever happens to something has,
in some sense, to be allowed for in its very
concept.
For example, I can take the same bus, without it
actually being the same bus!