Constancy and Coherence in 1.4.2 of Hume’s Treatise: The Root of “Indirect” Causation and Hume’s Position on Objects

The European Legacy (4):444-456 (2013)
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This article shows that in of the Treatise of Human Nature, Hume presents his own position on objects, which is to be distinguished from both the vulgar and philosophical conception of objects. Here, Hume argues that objects that are effectively imagined to have a “perfect identity” are imagined due to the constancy and coherence of our perceptions (what we may call ‘level 1 constancy and coherence’). In particular, we imagine that objects cause such perceptions, via what I call ‘indirect causation.’ In virtue of imagining ideas of objects that have a perfect identity, our perceptions seem to be even more constant and coherent (what we may call ‘level 2 constancy and coherence’). Thus, in addition to seeing that Hume is presenting his own position on objects in this section of the Treatise, we see that he is working with a previously unrecognized kind of causation, i.e., indirect causation, and that he has two kinds of constancy and coherence in mind: level 1 and level 2.

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Stefanie Rocknak
Hartwick College


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