Hume’s “projectivism” explained

Synthese: Humeanisms (2020)
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Hume appeals to a mysterious mental process to explain how to world appears to possess features that are not present in sense perceptions, namely causal, moral, and aesthetic properties. He famously writes that the mind spreads itself onto the external world, and that we stain or gild natural objects with our sentiments. Projectivism is founded on these texts but it assumes a reading of Hume’s language as merely metaphorical. This assumption, however, conflicts sharply with the important explanatory role that “spreading” and “staining” are supposed to play, which, ironically, is the very appeal of Hume’s texts to projectivists. In this paper, I first consider the difficulties readers of Hume have encountered in their attempts to ascertain nature of the key psychological process. I then identify in Hume’s texts novel theoretical resources that allow Hume to produce a satisfying answer to the question of process, that is, an account of the precise nature of the key process. I offer this explanation assuming what I take to be Hume’s austere conception of the elements involved in the process: sense impressions and “internal impressions” lacking intrinsic intentionality. On my reading, the spreading process explains the gap between the meager input and the rich, novel output: causal, moral and aesthetic judgments.
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First archival date: 2020-06-06
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