Chapter

The Propensity to Ascribe Identity to Related Objects

Louis E. Loeb

in Stability and Justification in Hume's Treatise

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780195146585
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833405 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195146581.003.0005
 The Propensity to Ascribe Identity to Related Objects

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In Treatise I.4, Hume appeals to a propensity to ascribe identity to related objects to explain the belief in the continued existence of perceptions (insofar as it arises from ”constancy”), in material substances or substrata, in souls, and in the double existence of perceptions and objects. The propensity contributes to contradictions, and hence uneasiness that we seek to relieve, resulting in conflicted and unstable doxastic states. For this reason, beliefs produced by the propensity are unjustified, due merely to the ”imagination.” Further, although the metaphysical beliefs do not satisfy the constraints of Locke's meaning empiricism, they are not entirely devoid of content; they involve ”fictions” or conceptual confusions that obscure underlying conflicts. Unfortunately, the propensity is characterized by irresistibility and unavoidability in producing the belief in body, whereas it is weak and avoidable in producing the belief in material substrata.

Keywords: confusion; constancy; double existence; fiction; Hume; meaning empiricism; error; identity; imagination; irresistibility; Locke; meaning; substance

Chapter.  21142 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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