Hume's Second Thoughts on Belief


When we see the way that the parts of the Appendix concerning belief hang together, we can understand how and why Hume moved from saying that belief is a vivid idea to saying that belief is a sui generis feeling. In the Appendix to the Treatise, Hume retracts his claim that perceptions with the same object only vary with respect to vivacity. In material in the appendix that he tells his reader to insert in Book 1, he explains his reasons: the vivacity connected to belief is different in kind from that from the vivacity connected to poetry. Poetry can be more vivid, in its way, than belief. Since Hume’s main arguments for the thesis that beliefs are vivid ideas in the main body of the Treatise depend on the assumption that ideas with the same object only vary in vivacity, he owes us new arguments from his claim. He provides various arguments for a slightly revised thesis that belief is a particular sort of vivid idea at the beginning of the Appendix.

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Michael Jacovides
Purdue University


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