The Legacy of Humeanism: Unity of Mind, Temporal Awareness, and Personal Identity

Dissertation, University of California, Irvine (2016)
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David Hume’s thought has interrupted entire disciplines from dogmatic slumbers. Yet Hume’s influence is even more expansive and continuous than we might have thought. There are two significant areas of inquiry where Hume’s influence has not been adequately appreciated or articulated: analytic phenomenology and analytic process philosophy. My dissertation explores these traditions’ indebtedness to Hume by engaging with the work of Edmund Husserl and Alfred North Whitehead, who introduce consequential changes into their systems in direct response to what they see as Humean problems with their initial models. Three major themes are of special interest. First, vis-à-vis “Unity of Mind,” each philosopher asks what accounts for the apparent unity of mind and experience, including what principles connect distinct experiences. Second, vis-à-vis “Temporal Awareness,” each philosopher inquires into what grounds temporality and the experience of temporal passage, including what principles connect distinct moments. Third, vis-à-vis “Personal Identity,” each philosopher investigates what constitutes the experience of continuity and unity over time, including personal continuity and unity qua “personal identity.” A fourth concordance is methodological. In pursuing the aforementioned themes, each philosopher accords epistemic primacy to lived experience and what discloses itself therein. An overarching Humean problem for all, correlatively, is how continuity and unity arise from distinct items: perceptions, intentional experiences, and actual occasions, respectively. My dissertation attempts to explicate this and related systematic issues from a historical perspective informed by contemporary analytic metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and recent scholarship in Hume, Husserl, and Whitehead studies. Chapter One argues that Hume’s infamous “Appendix problem” concerns reconciling the incontrovertible unity of mind with his unrenounceable epistemological principle that the mind never perceives real connections between distinct perceptions. Chapter Two traces Hume’s proto-phenomenological influence on Husserl’s theories (not theory) of temporal awareness. Chapter Three examines Hume’s proto-processual influence on Whitehead's theories (not theory) of personal identity. Unfortunately, neither Husserl nor Whitehead read each other’s work. Nevertheless, both take Hume to be the one who knocks at, yet ultimately fails to walk through the doors that his explorations unveil. By so doing, they beg that we do the same with them.
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