Chapter

Hume on the Existence of Bodies

Jonathan Bennett

in Learning from Six Philosophers Volume 2

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780198250920
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597060 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198250924.003.0017

Series: Learning from Six Philosophers (2 Volumes)

 Hume on the Existence of Bodies

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Hume's great section on why we believe in the existence of bodies outside ourselves is a masterpiece of controlled complexity; and this chapter analyses it. Starting with the same foundationalism as Berkeley and Locke, Hume thinks he must choose between the two: either our impressions are the only things we perceive, or we conjecture the existence of other things through an inductive inference across the veil of perception. Neither option is satisfactory, he concludes, but he can see no third way. En route to this conclusion he discovers something much better, and gives a curiously weak reason for rejecting it. The section involves a treatment of identity, which is deeply flawed but also brilliantly impressive.

Keywords: Berkeley; body; Hume; identity; Locke

Chapter.  12253 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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