Knowledge and Sensory Knowledge in Hume's Treatise

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In this paper, I argue that we should attribute to Hume an account of knowledge that I call the ‘Constitutive Account.’ On this account, Hume holds that (i) every instance of knowledge must be an immediately present perception (i.e., an impression or an idea); (ii) an object of this perception must be a token of a knowable relation; (iii) this token knowable relation must have parts of the instance of knowledge as relata (i.e., the same perception that has it as an object); and any perception that satisfies (i)-(iii) is an instance of knowledge. I then apply the Constitutive Account to the case of sense perception. With the help of some relevant passages from the Treatise, I argue that Hume holds that there are relations of impressions that can be intuited, are knowable, and are necessary. These relations constitute Humean sensory knowledge and they are widespread in vision. On Hume’s view, all one needs to do is sense and, if the objects of one’s senses are of the right sort, one will thereby know. While Hume is rightly labeled an empiricist for many different reasons, a close inspection of his account of knowledge reveals yet another way in which he merits the label.
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Hume and the Mechanics of Mind : Impressions, Ideas, and Association.David Owen - 2009 - In David Fate Norton & Jacqueline Anne Taylor (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Hume. Cambridge University Press.
Humes Reason.Owen, David

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