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Unformatted text preview: The Absent Self David Hume (1711-1776) No Experience of Self ". . . nor have we any idea of self, after the manner it is here explain'd. For from what impression cou'd this idea be deriv'd?" Note the assumption, central to Hume's empiricism: ideas come from impressions (sensations, perceptions) Variation ". . . If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that impression must continue invariably the same, thro' the whole course of our lives; since self is suppos'd to exist after that manner. But there is no impression constant and invariable. . . . and consequently there is no such idea." No Experience of Self "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, and never can observe any thing but the perception." Hume's Argument vs. Self Source of idea of self? We do not find it in experience All identity through change is imposed by us, not there in the world 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. . . ." Nothing but perceptions 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 compos'd." True of all objects Example: Heraclitus: can't step in same river twice True of all objects The ship of Theseus H.M.S. Theseus Successions ". . . the objects, which are variable or interrupted, and yet are suppos'd to continue the same, are such only as consist of a succession of parts, connected together by resemblance, contiguity, or causation. . . . all objects, to which we ascribe identity, without observing their invariableness and uninterruptedness, are such as consist of a succession of related objects." Fictitious Identity "The identity, which we ascribe to the mind of man, is only a fictitious one. . . ." Imposed identity Mental states link to other mental states: memory, intention, desire, similarities We construct the idea of self Self is not a unified thing-- best compared to a commonwealth Questions about identity aren't about the world, but about language Verbal Disputes ". . . all the nice and subtile questions concerning personal identity can never possibly be decided, and are to be regarded rather as grammatical than as philosophical difficulties. . . . as the relations, and the easiness of the transition may diminish by insensible degrees, we have no just standard, by which we can decide any dispute concerning the time, when they acquire or lose a title to the name of identity. All the disputes concerning the identity of connected objects are merely verbal. . . ." Hume's Ethics Morals have an influence on actions and affections Reason alone can have no such influence So, morality is not a conclusion of reason It consists of no matter of fact Is --> Ought Moral "reasoning" goes from is and is not to ought and ought not How can we go from is to ought? Reason supplies no connection Feelings Why is cruelty wrong? Why is generosity good? No fact of the matter to be found in them ". . .'tis the object of feeling, not of reason. It lies in yourself, not in the object." Sentiment or feeling takes us from is to ought Slave of the passions "Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions." These feelings are particular "An action or sentiment, or character s virtuous or vicious; why? Because its view causes a pleasure or uneasiness of a particular kind." Moral sense: capacity for the feelings that constitute the basis for our moral judgments Is Hume a Subjectivist? Subjectivism: Moral truth depends on our subjective states of mind Moral truths depend on feelings Feelings are subjective states of mind Moral realism Moral realism: Moral truth depends on facts that are independent of us Is there a real basis for our feelings? Is our moral sense sensing anything real? Realism vs. Subjectivism Is morality like color? Color: There is a real basis for our color perceptions, which are quite regular Constant over time Intersubjective agreement Physical basis: wavelengths of light Realism vs. Subjectivism Or is morality like humor? Humor: judgments not very regular Not very constant over time Lots of disagreement No apparent physical basis Matter of taste De gustibus non disputandum Why there are no turtlefights Homer's head x-ray The pit-bull solution ...
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This note was uploaded on 03/19/2008 for the course PHL 301 taught by Professor Bonevac during the Fall '08 term at University of Texas at Austin.
- Fall '08