Hume and Leibniz on Personal Identity

Jonathan Bennett

in Learning from Six Philosophers Volume 2

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780198250920
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597060 | DOI:

Series: Learning from Six Philosophers (2 Volumes)

 Hume and Leibniz on Personal Identity

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Hume's section ‘Of Personal Identity’ owes its shape to Locke's, and Hume evidently wants to capture and explain any of Locke's results that he thinks are true. Where Locke argues from conceptual intuitions about possible cases, Hume argues from high theory. He holds that all diachronic identity‐statements are, strictly speaking, false; but he has a theory about which of them will pass muster as truths in everyday life; and this, he thinks, enables him to predict which judgements of personal identity we will accept and which we will not. He recants his entire account in an appendix to the Treatise, for a cryptically expressed reason that seems to be valid. In Hume's view, there are strictly no persons, but what passes for persons in everyday life are sequences of perceptions, united in certain ways. Leibniz's main account of what a substance is is strikingly similar to that; likenesses and differences are teased out.

Keywords: Hume; identity; Leibniz; Locke; person; personal identity; substance

Chapter.  11887 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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