"Is Hume's account of the Soul contradictory?"

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In his Treatise of Human Nature Hume argues for a provocative account of the soul; the soul - or self, as he prefers to call it - is nothing but a bundle of perceptions. But this bold thesis, concedes Hume, gives rise to a predicament concerning two incompatible propositions, or principles as he calls them: one on the nature of perceptions, the other on the capabilities of the mind: "In short, there are two principles, which I cannot render consistent; nor is it in my power to renounce either of them, viz. that all our distinct perceptions are distinct existences, and that the mind never perceives any real connexion among distinct existences". But the situation is not hopeless, thinks Hume. Someone might be able to show that these principles are actually consistent: "Others, perhaps, or myself, upon more mature reflection, may discover some hypothesis, that will reconcile those contradictions". (Treatise 636, my emphasis) My paper is an attempt to throw light on this important component in Hume’s analysis of his account of the self. In the course of our investigation of Hume's suggestion that an hypothesis can resolve his contradiction we will learn more about his conception of a contradiction - ultimately enriching our understanding of his account of the soul.
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First archival date: 2015-11-21
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