Philosophy | Seminar in History of Philosophy
P710 | 22949 | Schmitt


Topic: Hume: Metaphysics, Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind

In this course we will examine Book I of Hume's Treatise of Human
Nature. We will focus on the following topics. Under the heading of
Hume's philosophy of mind, we will treat his theory of perceptions,
impressions, ideas, and beliefs, and his theory of mental
representation, especially abstract ideas. Much of this material is
indebted to Locke and Berkeley and is organized as an alternative to
innatism about ideas. We will pay some attention to Thomas Reid's
attack on the theory of ideas, and his alternative accounts of
sensations and concepts (rejected by Hume as an attempt to revive
innatism). Most of the course will concern Hume's epistemology. In
what sense, if any, was Hume a skeptic? What basic epistemology, if
any, underlies his accounts of causal inference and identity
ascriptions and his epistemic evaluations of beliefs about bodies,
material substances, matter, and mental substances? Does he
subscribe fundamentally to empiricism in epistemology, or to some
other view? We will consider David Owen's account of Hume on reason
in Hume's Reason, and Louis Loeb's stability interpretation of
Hume's epistemology in Stability and Justification in Hume's
Treatise. We will also spend time, perhaps a lot of time, on my own
ever growing manuscript on Hume's epistemology. We will probably
touch here and there on the New Hume--the question whether Hume is
in some sense a realist about causal power and other spooky items.
Hume's metaphysics will come under discussion throughout--e.g.,
whether he is an idealist about relations, just what he takes
causation and bodies to be, his stance on the mind-body problem. If
time permits, we will discuss personal identity and space and time
in Hume.  If even more time permits, we can move on to consider the
basics of Hume's treatment of the teleological argument in the
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Our attention will be trained
on matters of interpretation, but philosophical substance will enter
repeatedly. It is unavoidable to assign a lot of difficult reading
for this course--Book I of Hume's Treatise and a large amount of
pretty hard secondary literature. I will assume no knowledge of Hume
or other history of philosophy--background will be filled in as we
go--but it will certainly be helpful to know something about
Descartes, Locke, and Berkeley.