Infomotions, Inc.The central problem of David Hume's philosophy. / Salmon, Christopher Verney




Author: Salmon, Christopher Verney
Title: The central problem of David Hume's philosophy.
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HANDBOUND 
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UNIVERSITY OF 
TORONTO PRESS 







The Central Problem of 
David Hume s Philosophy 

An Essay towards a 

Phenomenological Interpretation of the First Book 
of the Treatise of Human Nature 



by 
C. V. Salmon 

M. A. Oxon 



Offprint at: 

,,Jahrbuch fur Philosophic und phanomenologische Forschung", vol. X 
edited by . Husserl, Freiburg i. Br. 







**/* 



Halle a. d. S. 

Max Niemeyer Verlag 
1929 



Alle Rechte, 

auch das der Obersetzung in fremde 
Copyright by Max Niemeyer Verlag, Halle (Saale), 1929 
Printed in Germany 



Druck von Karras, Krober & Nietschmann, Halle (Saale 



To my Father 



xa ViOfl<i$ xa ravg xa 



Table of Contents. 



Pagre 
Introduction 1 

Part I. 
Concerning the Generalities of Hume s Position. 

Chapter 1. "The Way of Ideas". Hume s Heritage 4 

1. The "Idea". Descartes and Locke 4 

2. Subjectivism and Psychology. Hume s Attitude towards himself. 

The "philosophic" and the "natural" state of mind 7 

Chapter 2. The Nature and Necessity of Introspection. . . 11 
3. Hume s notion of Introspection on the field of consciousness. 

J. S. Mill on the "psychological" and "introspective" mode ... 11 

4. Hume vindicated, and Mill criticized 14 

5. Concerning the nature of Introspection. Real Hypostases ... 17 
6. Hume confused between the "psychological" and "introspective" 

modes 19 

7. Final vindication of the Introspective Mode 24 

Chapter 3. TheplaceofLogicintheSciences 30 

8. Locke s Division of the Sciences. The Rational Hypostasis and 

the two operations of Abstraction 30 

9. Hume s excess of zeal against the Continental Rationalists. First 
distinction of the elements of the Impression. Hume s view of 
Abstract Ideas 33 

Chapter 4. TheAscentofthelmagination 38 

10. First appearance of Hume s notion of the "Imagination". A 

parallel between Causality and the Abstract Ideas 38 

11. Hume s subordination of the Quantitative to the Qualitative 
Ideas implies that he does not consider them to be examples of 
analytical relation 40 

12. Brief statement of Hume s contradictory attitudes towards Cau 
sality 43 

13. Hume s ultimate division of the powers of Consciousness into 
Reason, Sensation and Imagination, is latent in his treatment of 
Causality . . . 46 



yj Table of Contents. 

Page 
Chapter 5. The History of the "Impression" and the "Idea" 49 

14. A caution concerning Hume s use of the Impression-Idea anti 
thesis 49 

15. Hume s Impression-Idea antithesis 51 

16. The variety of functions actually attributed to the Impression 

and the Idea 54 

17. Serving to connect Part I. Sect. 3 in the Treatise, with Part I. 
Sect. 4. What resulted from Hume s proposal to derive the Idea 
from the Impression 57 

Chapter 6. An Estimate of the Scepticism to which Hume is 
led by his misconception of the Subject-Object 
relation 61 

18. General Estimate of Hume s conception of the Subject-Object 

relation 61 

19. Hume s Scepticism , harmless when it is absolute, false when it 
is partial. Hume s Comparative Subjectivism, converning A. the 
Objective World of Reality 63 

20. Hume s Comparative Subjectivism, concerning B. the Subjective 
world of Consciousness. The strange conclusion brought about 
by the relation of these two Scepticisms 68 

21. Hume s Scepticism concluded in a kind of Berkeleyan Idealism . 71 

Chapter 7. Hum e s Theory of Belief 77 

22. Hume s general conception of Belief. Rational and Perceptual 

Belief 77 

23. Hume s particular account of the Belief, which is general tq 

Consciousness 82 

Part II. 
Concerning Hum e s Particular Problem. 

24. The Programme of Part II 86 

A. Hum e s Methodic. Emergence of the Phenomenon . . . 87 

25. Neither the Senses nor the Reason present us with the objects of 

our Perception. Hume s estimate of Sense-Data ...... 88 

26. The "Imagination" in Perception. Hume fails to distinguish 

between Sensation and Sense-Data 92 

27. The Three-fold division of Perception. Further Development of 

Hume s notion of the Fiction as the Object-in-Consciousness . . 96 
28. Protention and Retention part of the Apprehension of all 

Consciousness 100 

29. Hume s paradoxical Appearance-Theory . That which it involved 

and that to which it leads . . . ... . . . . . . . . 102 

B. Hume s "System". The Problem of Identity in External 

Perception . . . 107 

30. Introduction to Hume s Principium In dividual ion is, or special 

problem of Identity in Consciousness . . . ... v . . . . 108 

31. Part I of Hume s System. Principium Individuationis. I. Identity 110 






Table of Contents. VII 

Page 

32. Part II of Hume s System. Principium Individuationis. II. Unity 113 
33. Survey of Hume s Arguments to the Establishment of his account 

of Identity 119 

34. Hume s Seven Definitions of a "Perception". Part J.I of Hume s 

System 121 

35. Vindication of the Vulgar Man from the opinion that our "per 
ceptions" are "interrupted" 124 

36. The Re-appearance of Hume s notion of the "Idea" 127 

37. Hume s "Philosopher" examined 131 

38. Hume s Example of the comparatively Genuine Identity . . . 133 

39. Hume s Example of the comparatively Spurious Identity . . . 136 
40. Hume s notions of the "disposition of the mind", and of the 

"idea", set free from the results of his Empirical Prejudice . . 141 
41. Hume deserts the Phenomenal sphere. Identity is converted into 

an Abstract Idea. Parts III and IV of Hume s "System" . . . 143 

42. A Concluding Estimate of Hume s position 148 



The Central Problem of David Hume s 
Philosophy. 

By 

C. V. Salmon (M. A. Oxon). 



Introduction. 

The Treatise of Human Nature sets out to be a study of the 
whole nature of man. But in effect Parts I. to IV., comprising Hume s 
First Book, and the entirety of the Treatise which is devoted to 
metaphysical speculation, resolve themselves into an analysis and 
description of the subjective act of External Perception. The 
problem which forms the core of Hume s enquiries, to which all that 
precedes it stands as a preparation, is stated succinctly in the 2nd 
Section of Part IV. First, To explain the principium indi- 
viduationis, or principle of identity. Secondly, Give 
areason, why the resemblance of our broken and inter 
rupted perceptions induces us to attribute an identity 
to them. Thirdly, Account for that propensity, which 
this illusion gives, to unite these broken appearances 
by a continu d existence. Fourthly and lastly, Explain 
that force and vivacity of conception, which arises 
from the propensity 1 ). 

In view of the obvious difficulties attending this interpretation 
of the work, I have looked in the early portions of the Treatise for 
a problem which might co-ordinate the whole. I have followed the 
orthodox steps of other critics, and sought to make Hume s treatment 
of Causality upon the one hand, and his treatment of Reason upon 
the other, the centre of his thought, only to find that neither of them 
can serve with justice to the tenour of the whole. For if it is 
difficult to correlate all the Parts of the Treatise to its last Part, it 
is not for lack of uniformity of theme. From the first paragraph to 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 489. 



300 



C. V. Salmon, [2 



the last, the Treatise is governed by Hume s conception of the nature 
of human consciousness Hume proclaims his interest with no lack 
of decision in the Introduction. 4 Tis evident, he says, that all 
the sciences have a relation, greater or less, to human 
nature; and that however wide any of them may seem 
to run from it, they still return back by one passage or 
another 1 ). And he speaks of his philosophy as the science of 
Man, and of H u m 9 11 Nature itself as the capital or center 
of the sciences, which he intends to seize. And he says .... In 
pretending .... to explain the principles of human 
nature, we in effect propose a compleat system of the 
sciences, built on a foundation almost entirely new, 
and the only one upon which they can stand with any 
security 2 ). The attempt to delve, thus, into the ultimate 
springs and principles of human nature is pursued throughout 
the Treatise; and in concluding the first Book, Hume writes For my 
part, my only hope is that I may contribute a little to 
the advancement of knowledge, by giving in some par 
ticulars a different turn to the speculations of philo 
sophers, and pointing out to them more distinctly 
those subjects where alone they can expect assurance 
and conviction. Human Nature is the only science of 
man; and yet has been hitherto the most neglected 3 ). 

If reason or causality had provided Hume with his central 
problem, he would have conceived the essence of Human Nature to 
be rational or causal. But Hume did not consider it as either the 
one or the other. He admitted no objective causality, and if he did 
not actually deny the human faculty of reason, he confined it to as 
narrow a sphere of activity as he could. Hume s science of Man was 
conceived as the investigation of the principles of human Conscious 
ness, and the principles which he examined most closely in Book I 
were those involved in the external perception. 

By reviewing the results of this examination I hope to shew up 
Hume s genius in a new light. The study of Hume as a forerunner 
of Kant, upon the one hand, and as one of the founders of modern 
empirical psychology, upon the other, has tended to obscure his 
own philosophy. His conception of consciousness, and the method 
which he used to examine its structure, have not received any direct 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 306. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 306-7. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 552. 



3] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 301 

development either from the Kantian philosophy, or from empirical 
psychology. The one has been too formal, and the other too objective, 
to be in sympathy with Hume s descriptive and subjective work. But 
the present century has seen the rise of a school of thought in Ger 
many whose attitude towards philosophy and philosophical problems 
is akin to Hume s. The Phenomenological *) conception of Conscious 
ness as the matter of philosophy, as the foundation of all intelligence 
whatever, and the a priori alike to Logic and Psychology, resembles 
Hume s conception of Human Nature. Historians will see Hume s 
lineal successors, not in Kant or Mill, but in Brentano and Husserl. 
For the essential of Hume s philosophy is its subjective attitude, the 
notion that the ultimate explanation of truth and all ontologies 
awaits the practise of an introspection. This introspection should not 
be psychological in the empirical sense, for it has to reveal the 
ultimate processes of consciousness itself. But, like the psychological 
investigation, it aims at description and not at definition. Hume did 
not always succeed in keeping his reflection pure of a reference to 
physical and psycho-physical reality. His connection with these in 
volved him in many difficulties, and brought him to some extravagant 
conclusions. He was tempted to abandon the principle which he had 
tried to establish: The origin of all the individual s knowledge is 
within himself. But he clung to it, and sacrificed the reality of all the 
natural world. I am first affrighted and confounded, Hume 
writes at the conclusion of his first Book, with that forelorn 
solitude, in which I am plac d in my philosophy, and 
fancy myself some strange uncouth monster, who not 
being able to mingle and unite in society, has been 
expell d all human commerce, and left utterly a b - 
andon d and disconsolate .... I have exposed myself 
to the enmity of all metaphysicians, logicians, mathe 
maticians, and even theologians; and can I wonder at 
the insults I must suffer? 2 ) 

It might seem as if a philosopher had justly earned the scorn of 
his associates, who, at the end of his enquiries, could leave the indi 
vidual as a battle-ground between his faculties, compelled now by 



1) Phenomenological. The Title adopted by the Phenomenological School 
of Philosophy, which is at present under the leadership of Edmund Husserl. The 
School includes, or has included, such members as M. Heidegger, A. Reinach (the 
late), M. Scheler (the late), R. Ingarden, O. Becher, D. von Hildebrand, H. Konrad- 
Martius, and others. 

2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 554. 



302 C - V - Salmon, [4 

reason, and now by common-sense, to opposite convictions. But 
Hume may be admired for preferring to leave his work full of ab 
surdities than to forsake the principles of his Subjectivism. For these 
are irrefutable, and his mistakes are not difficult to rectify. The 
Subject is the only object of philosophy. Within himself lies the 
philosopher s world, albeit large enough to hold the universe, and 
universum of knowledge. The history of philosophy has shown that 
the introspection of consciousness requires a strict discipline. Two 
prejudices hamper the philosopher, the metaphysical prejudice, and 
the empirical. Hume was free of the former. At the expense of 
the metaphysican he cracked many a joke. But the empirical fallacy 
returned to plague him whenever he seemed quit of it. Paradoxical 
as it reads, Hume was led into solipsism by his belief in reality. For, 
while he recognized that the subject was responsible for his con 
sciousness of every objective sphere, he considered himself obliged 
to qualify the subjective with some of the qualities of the one ob 
jective sphere of Reality. The reality of the Humeian consciousness 
quickly excluded the reality of the whole world else. 

This Essay occupies itself first with as much in Parts I III of 
the Treatise as is essential to the matter in Part IV. Before examining 
Hume s special problem of the external perception, it attempts to 
outline the general theory of philosophy in which Hume conceived 
his problem set. 



Part I. 

Concerning the Generalities of Hume s position. 

Chapter I. 

"The Way of Ideas." Hume s Heritage. 
1. The "Idea". Descartes and Locke. 

The title of Hume s first Section, Of the Origin of our 
Ideas, involves him in historical relation to his past. Hume was 
not the first to conceive of a science of man. The epistemological 
notion, that something, at least, of the nature of the objects of know 
ledge consists in our knowledge of them, is as old as philosophy 
itself. Modern philosophers had embodied the notion in the word 
"Idea". "Je prends le nom d Idee pour tout ce qui est congu im- 
mediatement par 1 esprit 1 )." Locke used the same word for the same 

1) Descartes, Letter to Hobbes. 



5] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 3Q3 

notion. All knowledge, he thought, depends upon the immediacy of 
our apprehension of it. That only can be known certainly which is 
immediately present to the mind. "It is evident, the mind knows not 
things immediately, but only by the intervention of the ideas it has 
of them." "Since the mind, in all its thoughts arid reasonings, hath 
no other immediate object but its own ideas, which it alone does, or 
can contemplate, it is evident that our knowledge is only conversant 
about them 1 )." 

This notion of the "idea" as the "immediate" object of con 
sciousness is, in itself, ambiguous. Locke, being chiefly interested in 
what he called "knowledge", makes the reason the chief object of 
his study; and in the Essay, the "idea" gradually assumes the meaning 
which is generally assigned to it do-day, of being object to the reason, 
of being thought . It is this notion of the idea as rational which 
lends the Lockeian terminology its significance. That only can be 
known which is an idea . The idea being immediate is present 
under "Intuition". The Lockeian "intuition" is always rational, and 
belongs together with "Demonstration" to the province of Logic. No 
knowledge , then, is absolutely known , except the ideas of the 
reason, for no other objects of consciousness, except the reason s 
ideas, are immediately present to the mind . 

Such an interpretation of Descartes notion of the immediacy of 
the idea is, however, unnecessarily confined. For why should the 
mind be the reason, and not rather the whole of apprehensive con 
sciousness? 

Being dissociated from the Lockeian terminology, the phrase 
"the mind knows not things immediately, but only by the intervention 
of the ideas it has of them", carries a universal significance. Locke 
does himself suggest a wider application of the principle than he 
actually makes: and if Descartes had not already suggested that ideas 
might be immediate in the sense of being the "means" of all con 
sciousness of objects, the notion was implicit at any rate in his Cogito, 
ergo Sum. The residuum of the Cartesian Dubito was in fact an 
"idee". Descartes had recognized that when a man "doubts" the 
whole world, he does not empty his consciousness of all its content. 
Were a man to wake at any moment and recognize that what he had 
taken for perceptions had been illusions merely, and the objects of 
those perceptions non-existent, his perceptions themselves would yet 
remain, incontrovertibly, perceptions of those objects believed real; 



1) Locke, Essay on Human Understanding, Bk. IV, Ch. IV, 3. 



304 C. V. Salmon, [6 

and those objects as they were perceived would have been a content of 
consciousness. The same applies to every field. If the truths which 
a man reasoned were apprehended to be figments and not true, the 
man s consciousness itself would not have been void, but still ob 
jective , an intuition of objects believed true. If these objects had 
no existence outside consciousness, they had one within it, But for 
the sake of philosophy the real world need not cease to exist, or 
become recognized for a nonentity. Truths need not become null or 
recognized for fiction. An exclusion from the attention merely of the 
real world, or of the world of truths, suffices to turn the attention 
of the individual on to his consciousness itself. The Cartesian dubito 
was certainly not sceptical. It implied no more than the possibility 
of a change of attitude, away from the objective, towards the sub 
jective. The possibility of disregarding the objects of consciousness in 
any perception, and of regarding the objects in consciousness in the 
same perception, does not impugn the objectivity of what was per 
ceived, for it involves an entire change of attitude. The two sets of 
objects, the objects of consciousness and the objects in consciousness, 
can never be apprehended at the same time, since the one requires 
the objective, and the other the subjective, regard. The objects in 
consciousness may be called "ideas", and because they are not alter 
native to, but complementary to, our consciousness of objects them 
selves, they may be called "immediate", and the means to our con 
sciousness of objects. As much as this was latent in Descartes, and 
neither Locke, nor Hume, saw the whole of it. Locke put both sets 
of objects on the same plane, and adopted a representative theory 
to relate them; and Hume, considering them as strictly alternative to 
one another, denied the existence of the objective for the sake of 
that of the subjective. Locke suggested, definitely enough, that the 
object in consciousness was the means by which we became conscious of 
objects outside consciousness, and in one passage he departs from his 
usual terminology to use the word "idea" in this sense. "There can be 
nothing more certain", he writes, "than that the idea we receive from 
an external object is in our minds: this is intuitive knowledge 1 )." And 
again, "It is evident the mind knows not things immediately, but only 
by the intervention of the ideas it has of them. Our knowledge, there 
fore, is real only so far as there is a conformity between our ideas and 
the reality of things 2 )." It is significant that the importance of these 



1) The Essay, Bk. IV, Ch. II, 14 

2) The Essay, Bk. IV, Ch. IV, 3. 



7] The Central Problem of BaviJ Hume s Philosophy. 3Q5 

two sentences should have rested chiefly on the misleading influence 
which they exercised on Locke s successors. Campbell Fraser has 
referred to the second of them as "the germ of modern philosophical 
scepticism," and has held it responsible for every variety of Re 
presentative Theory of Perception, on the one hand, and by way of 
reaction against it on the other, for such dogmatic realism as Reid s 
assumption "in the name of common sense, that we perceive things 
in the senses without ideas. 7 



2. Subjectivism and Psychology. Hume s attitude towards himself. 
The "philosophic" and the "natural" state of mind. 

When we first scrutinize the problem of the theory of knowledge 
we most of us become comparative subjectivists . We recognize that 
the world is dependent on our perception of it. But most philo 
sophers have been content to recognize the fact of this relation 
between the world and ourselves, and leaving the relation itself 
obscure, to pass as quickly as they may to the elaboration of a priori 
principles for some of the spheres contained in the objective world. 
The logician is as far as the psychologist, and both as the natural 
scientist, from solving the problem of the relation itself. The 
abstract ideas with which the logician deals are objects as much as 
things in the natural world, and as capable as these of being studied 
in and for themselves. But the study of them for themselves requires, 
in the one case as in the other, a careful exclusion of the subjective 
elements involved in our apprehension of them. The philosopher can 
make no more elementary mistake than to suppose that the reason 
is a faculty more peculiarly essential to consciousness, than, say, 
perception, or the faculty of dreaming, and to conclude that he has 
only to study the reason and the laws of thought, to find the clue 
and ultimate explanation of all consciousness. The reason may be 
considered peculiar to the human being; and, from the evolutionary 
point of view, reasoning is a late, if not the latest, development of 
consciousness. But this does not mean that reason may be taken by 
itself as the essence of human consciousness, or that it includes 
within itself the other faculties, because, historically speaking, it 
presupposes them. On the contrary! Logic is an abstract science, 
and the ideas of the reason must be purified of every non-rational 
element before our observation of them can yield valid results. 
Natural Science is equally abstract . The scientist must purge his 
objects of every non-real element before his observation of them can 
Husserl, Jabrbuob f. Philosophic. X. 2 



306 C - V - Salmon, [8 

yield valid results. Thought on the one hand, and reality on the 
other, are particular realms of which the human person is. or can be, 
conscious. But since neither reasoning, nor perception, is the sole 
faculty of human consciousness, not even a subjective study of these 
faculties can claim to be the supreme study of philosophy. It happens 
that psychology, for the most part, has not been a subjective study 
of the faculties of consciousness. Psychology has concerned itself with 
the observation of consciousness as it can be seen to function in the 
life of persons. As such it cannot claim to be a study of the relation 
between a person and the world of his consciousness. The person, 
whose functions psychology observes, is already an object in the world, 
a real object or a psychical object, according as the psychology is 
empirical or pure, but always an ^object . In studying the reaction of 
persons to happenings in the real world about them, or the sequence 
of their so-called states of mind which are discernible to him, the 
psychologist is always interested in something objective. The persons 
and their psycho-physical, or psychical, actions and reactions are the 
objects of his consciousness. The psychologist is himself making use 
of a relation of himself to an objective world. The relation is his 
consciousness of those persons and their activities. It follows that if 
the word 4 a priori be confined to its most absolute sense, to designate 
that ultimate relation of a person to any and every of his objective 
worlds, and eventually to every possible objective world, then the 
results of the conventional psychology cannot be called a priori. 
Psychology can only be made a priori in the absolute sense when 
it is conceived by a subject as the examination of his own states of 
consciousness, and as a further step from these, as the examination 
of all possible states of consciousness; and it is only in this highly 
specialized sense that Hume can be called a psychologist. For Hume s 
purpose was to examine his own consciousness, and, turning his 
attention from what was objective to him in everyday life, to con 
centrate upon what was actually passing in his own mind, and what 
was implicit in his consciousness itself. Hume describes this reflective 
state of mind in a comparison which he draws between the philosophic 
and the natural state of mind. He thought that the two states of 
mind were contradictory to one another. Having failed, himself, to 
comprehend the nature of the relation between consciousness and 
its objects, he felt himself bound to make a choice between the ob 
jects in consciousness and the objects outside it. Philosophically 
speaking, he considered himself compelled to admit that no one can 
ever perceive anything but his own "perceptions"; but in daily life 






9] The Central Problem of David Home s Philosophy. 307 

his unsophisticated nature obliged him to believe that he perceived 
realities independent of himself. Hume s misinterpretation of these 
two states of mind does not rob his discovery of the essential diffe 
rences between them of all its value. When Locke made his "ideas" 
representations of realities, he was nearer to scepticism than Hume, 
the avowed sceptic, who made the "ideas" and the "objects" alter 
native to one another. To every representative theory stands the 
unanswerable objection, that, in fact, we do not perceive two sets of 
objects but only one. If we grant, as we can be forced to, that it is 
only in virtue of our perception of the tree that we perceive the 
tree itself, yet we are also bound to admit, that we do not perceive 
both our perception of the tree and the tree itself. When Locke 
said that "the mind knows not things immediately but only by 
the intervention of the ideas it has of them - - Our knowledge, 
therefore, is real only so far as there is a conformity between 
our ideas and the reality of things", he was arguing, falsely, 
from his premise to an absurdity. As if what enabled a man 
to perceive, for example, a house, was that there was taking 
place in his "understanding" a certain coalescence or agreement of 
his "ideas" of the walls and roof! that, in fact, for each part of the 
real house there was a correspondent part of an ideal house which 
was fitted together in the understanding, as a child might cut out 
and piece together a cardboard reproduction of a house! so that a 
man became conscious of the real house when the last part of the 
ideal house, a window or a chimney-pot perhaps, had been stuck into 
its place in his understanding! 

Hume did better than this in making the perception of the ideas, 
and the perception of the realities, strictly alternative to one another. 
For while it is true that we can apprehend them both, we can never 
apprehend them both at the same time, or from the same point 
of view. 

Hume speaks of "metaphysical reflections", and describes the 
philosopher sitting in his chair, abstracted from the world of every 
day, and conscious not of the world itself, but only of his ideas of it. 
And presently, will he, or will he not, Hume s philosopher becomes 
again the man of every-day, and adopts the attitude of practical life. 
Hume sets reason upon the one hand, and nature upon the other. 
Most fortunately it happens, Hume says, that since 
reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature 
herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this 
philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by 

2* 



308 C - V Salmon, [10 

relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and 
lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all 
these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of back-gammon, 
I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when 
after three or four hours amusement, I wou d return 
to these speculations, they appear so cold, and 
strain d, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart 
to enter into them any farther. Here then I find myself 
absolutely and necessarily determin d to live, and 
talk, and act like other people in the common affairs 
of life 1 ). 

And on the other hand, At the time . . . . that I am tir d 
with amusement and company, and have indulged a 
reverie in my chamber, or in a solitary walk by a river 
side, I feel my mind all collected within itself, and am 
naturally inclined to carry my view into all those sub 
jects, about which I have met with so many disputes 
in the course of my reading and conversation . . . . I am 
uneasy to think I approve of one object, and disap 
prove of another; call one thing beautiful, and another 
deform d; decide concerning truth and falsehood, 
reason and folly, without knowing upon what prin 
ciples I proceed. I am concern d for the condition of 
the learned world, which lies under such a deplorable 
ignorance in all these particulars. I feel an ambition 
to arise in me of contributing to the instruction of 
mankind and this is the origin of my philo 
sophy 2 ). Hume did well to emphasize the essential difference 
between the points of view of ordinary conscious life and of re 
flective philosophy. That he thought that the beliefs in which a man 
lived in the one point of view were directly contrary to those in 
which he lived in the other, was due to a misconstruction of the 
data which he found in each. The misconstruction is not difficult to 
remedy; and since the fault was, partly at any rate, responsible for 
his having kept his philosophical data distinct from his natural data, 
we need not be too severe upon it. 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. S4&-9. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 550. 



11] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 309 

Chapter II. 
The Nature and Necessity of Introspection. 

3. Hume s notion of Introspection on the field of consciousness. 
J. S. Mill on the "psychological" and "introspective" modes. 

Hume conceived of philosophy in the terms of a man reflecting 
upon his own consciousness to the exclusion of the real world and 
the life which he is accustomed to lead there. Philosophical truth 
can only be revealed, he conceived, under a kind of philosophical 
introspection. Hume took up Locke s purpose of describing to others 
"what it is their minds do, when they perform the action they call 
knowing" 1 ), but carried it out by a different method. He extended 
the Lockeian notion of knowing to cover, in theory, every possible 
faculty of conscious apprehension, and in practice, the faculty of 
perception. He took very little account of the reason. Of the 36 Sec 
tions which compose the first Book of the Treatise, only 4 are con 
cerned at all directly with the reason. Of these 4, one, (Sect. 7, 
Part I) is occupied with denying, as against Locke, that there is any 
such thing as an "abstract" idea; one (Sect. 1, Part III) with showing 
that almost everything which Locke called "knowledge" he ought 
to have called "opinion"; another (Sect. I, Part IV) has for its title 
Scepticism with regard to Reason; and the fourth (Sect. 16, 
Part III) refers shortly to what Hume delights to call the Reason 
of Animals. The sphere of Humeian rational knowledge is con 
fined to arithmetic and a small part of algebra. Ideas related in 
these two disciplines alone are allowed to remain within the "demon 
strative inference". All other so called ideas can offer us probable 
knowledge only, and belong, therefore, to the Lockeian "judgment". 
"Judgment", Locke said, "is the thinking or taking two or more ideas 
to agree or disagree by the intervention of one or more ideas, whose 
certain agreement or disagreement with them it doth not perceive, 
but hath observed to be frequent and usual." 2 ) 

By carrying on what almost amounted to a crusade against the 
Continental Rationalists, Hume removed the "idea" from the faculty 
of reason, and used it in connection with conscious apprehension in 
general. And having thus extended the faculty of knowing, he went 
on to change the kind of "description" which Locke had given of 
what it is the mind does when it performs the action called knowing. 



1) Locke, 2nd Letter to Stillingfleet. 

2) The Essay. Bk. IV, Ch. 17, 7, 



310 C. V. Salmon, [12 

For Locke s attempt at description had degenerated into an attempt 
to discover the temporal origin of our ideas. The mind was a piece 
of white paper which, in its growth from infancy, received im 
pressions like marks in ink. Believing that there was a fixed order 
in the arrival or occurrence of these impressions, Locke conceived it 
to be the task of the philosopher to ascertain this order, and construct 
a system, or description, of human consciousness, based on this history 
of ideas. And, since Locke, such an account of the growth of the 
mind has been generally accepted as the proper task of psychology. 
In a passage in his Examination of Sir William Hamilton s philosophy, 
J. S. Mill, accepting Cousin s definition of the business of philosophy, 
to decide what it is that our mind really "testifies to", what it is 
that is really given us at first hand in our "intuitions", divides philo 
sophers into two schools. Both schools accept the task, but each 
pursues it with a different method of investigation. The one uses the 
"introspective method", which Mill condemns, and the other the 
"psychological method", which he applauds. 

"The elaborate and acute criticism", he writes, "which is perhaps 
the most striking portion of M. Cousin s Lectures on the History of 
Philosophy, sets out with a remark which sums up the characteristics 
of the two great schools of mental philosophy by a summary de 
scription of their methods. M. Cousin observes that Locke went wrong 
from the beginning, by placing before himself, as the question to 
be first resolved, the origin of our ideas. This was commencing at 
the wrong end. The proper course would have been to begin by 
determining what the ideas now are. To ascertain what it is that 
consciousness actually tells us, postponing till afterwards the attempt 
to frame a theory concerning the origin of any of the mental 
phenomena. I accept the question as M. Cousin states it, and I 
contend that no attempt to determine what are the direct revelations 
of consciousness, can be successful, or entitled to any regard, unless 
preceded by what M. Cousin says ought only to follow it, an enquiry 
into the origin of our acquired ideas. For we have it not in our 
power to ascertain, by any direct process, what Consciousness told 
us at the time when its revelations were at their pristine purity. It 
only offers itself now, when buried under a mountainous heap of 
acquired notions and perceptions. It seems to M. Cousin, that if we 
examine with care and minuteness our present states of consciousness, 
distinguishing and defining every ingredient which we find to enter 
into them every element that we seem to recognize as real, and 
cannot, by merely concentrating our attention upon it, analyse into 



13] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 

anything simpler we reach the ultimate and primary truths, which 
are the sources of all our knowledge, and which cannot be denied 
or doubted, without denying or doubting the evidence of conscious 
ness itself, that is, the only evidence which there is for anything. I 
maintain this to be a misapprehension of the conditions imposed on 
enquirers by the difficulties of psychological investigation. To begin 
the enquiry at the point where M. Cousin takes it up is in fact to 
beg the question. For he must be aware, if not of the fact, at least 
of the belief of his opponents, that the laws of the mind the laws 
of association according to one class of thinkers, the Categories of 
the Understanding according to another are capable of creating, 
out of those data which are uncontested, purely mental conceptions, 
which become so identified in thought with all our states of con 
sciousness, that we seem, and cannot but seem, to receive them by 
direct intuition; and. for example, the belief in Matter, in the opinion 
of some of these thinkers, is or at least may be, thus produced. 
Idealists and Sceptics, contend that the belief in Matter is not an 
original fact of consciousness, as our sensations are, and is therefore 

wanting in the requisite which gives to our subjective 

convictions objective authority. Now .... these persons .... cannot 
be refuted .... by appealing to Consciousness itself. For we have no 
means of interrogating Consciousness in the only circumstances in 
which it is possible for it to give a trustworthy answer . . . (namely, 
before the mind has been buried under the mountainous heap of 

acquired associations) We have no means of now ascertaining by 

direct evidence, whether we are conscious of outward and extended 
objects when we first opened our eyes to the light. That a belief or 
knowledge of such objects is in our consciousness now, whenever 
we use our eyes or our muscles, is no reason for concluding 
that it was there from the very beginning, until we have settled 
the question, whether it could have been brought in since .... 
The proof that any of the alleged Universal Beliefs, or Principles of 
Common Sense, are affirmations of consciousness, supposes two things, 
that the beliefs exist, and that there are no means by which they 
could have been acquired .... Locke was therefore right in believing 
that "the origin of our ideas" is the main stress of the problem of 
mental science, and the subject which must first be consit 
forming the theory of the Mind" 1 ). 



1) Examination of Sir W. Hamilton s Philosophy. J. S. Mill. Longmans G 
1878, pp. 176179. 



312 C. V. Salmon, [14 

4. Hume vindicated, and Mill criticized. 

It is noteworthy that Mill believed himself to be taking Hume s 
side, and arguing, as Hume might have argued against Cousin. His 
reference to the "laws of association" is intended for Hume, and in 
"Sceptics contend that the belief in Matter is not an original fact of 
consciousness", the allusion is to Hume. But Hume would not have 
commended Mill s arguments. Hume did not endorse Locke s attempt 
to find in the temporal origin of our ideas the a priori of philosophy. 
There are reasons for calling Hume a sceptic, but he never contended 
that the belief in matter was not an original fact of consciousness. 
On the contrary, over and over again, Hume bears witness to the 
force of the belief in matter. It was for Hume precisely our belief 
in matter which was an original fact of consciousness, something to 
which our mind will testify, in spite of all the arguments which we 
can bring against it. No one can hope to understand the Humeian 
Laws of Association, who imagines that they were framed to account 
for the temporal origin of our ideas. Hume was convinced, like Cousin, 
"that Locke went wrong from the beginning". Hume was convinced, 
like Cousin, that the proper course is "to begin by determining what 
the ideas now are". Hume s purpose was precisely Cousin s, namely, 
"to ascertain what it is that consciousness actually tells us, postponing 
till afterwards the attempt to frame a theory concerning the origin 
of any of the mental phenomena". For what interested Hume was 
not the origin but the genesis of our ideas, not the question, when 
did our mind make us conscious of such and such objects? but the 
question how does our mind make us conscious of such and such 
objects? Putting the question as Cousin put it, Hume was anxious 
to decide what it is that our mind "testifies to", when it is taken in 
and for itself, or, as Locke put it, "to describe to others what it is 
their minds do, when they perform the action they call knowing". 
It was with this task that Hume s armchair philosopher was occupied, 
as he sat, practising introspection, to the neglect of the whole world. 
What Hume really did in his work on the external perception, was 
i to shift his attention from the objects generally perceived, on to the 
conscious experience of perception itself. This is not to say that he 
always realized what was involved in this change of attitude. He was 
; often inclined to confuse the perception with the object perceived, 
I and to argue, and it is in this sense that Hume was a sceptic, that 
because space, time and matter, and all that they involved, were not 
themselves to be found in the perception , although they were un- 



15] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 313 

doubtedly perceived , that space, time, and matter, did not really ft 
exist. Hume was right to suppose that, by investigating the perception 
he could discover how the perception of space, time and matter is 
made, but quite wrong in supposing that he ought to find space, time 
and matter there themselves. 

Mill is perfectly entitled to consider the business of psychology 
as the "enquiry into the origin of our acquired ideas". One task of 
empirical psychology is to provide us with a "history" of our ideas, 
regarding both the growth of the individual baby to the man, and, 
anthropologically, the growth of the human race. But, when Mill 
goes on to consider this historical enquiry as a priori, and precedent 
to any valid philosophical enquiry, "I contend that no attempt to 
determine what are the direct revelations of consciousness can be 
succesful, or entitled to any regard, unless preceded by .... an 
enquiry into the origin of our acquired ideas," he not only mis 
understands the nature of philosophical enquiry, but by impugning 
the certainty of intuition, makes it impossible, after, as before, the 
practice of psychology. The philosopher will be willing enough to 
grant the psychologist that "we have it not in our power to ascertain, 
by any direct process, what Consciousness told us at the time when 
its revelations were at their pristine purity". For it must seem to 
the philosopher, as it seemed to M. Cousin, "that if we examine 
with care and minuteness our present states of consciousness, 
distinguishing and defining every ingredient which we find to enter 
into them .... we reach the ultimate and primary truths, and which 
cannot be denied or doubted, without denying or doubting the 
evidence of consciousness itself, that is, the only evidence which 
there is for anything". The conviction that present consciousness is 
self-sufficient, that it can be taken to contain within itself forms and 
faculties sufficient to, and responsible for, the objective truths with 
which it presents us, is the only possible foundation for philosophy. 
We can only be justified in considering mathematical propositions 
as true, if we believe that our own faculties of consciousness are 
responsible for the propositions appearing to us as they do. Our 
intuition must be believed to be beyond the reach of doubt. The 
evidence of each present state of mind to its present self must 
be taken to be ultimate and absolute. If, like Mill, we found the 
truth of, say, mathematical propositions on a historical past, we must 
also make them dependent on a historical future. Not only shall we 
need to trace the historical origin and growth of our ideas of number 
and relations of number, in order to support our mathematical 



3x4 C - V - Salmon, [16 

arguments with fundamental proof, but having thus established them, 
we shall still be obliged to qualify them by making them relative 
to the present state of our development. If we succeeded in proving 
the historical truth of 2 plus 2 = 4, we should be forced to admit 
that some future development of the human mind might bring the 
same premises to a different conclusion. In the passage quoted, Mill 
confines himself to the faculty of perception, but such a limitation 
is quite arbitrary. His "For we have no means of interrogating 
Consciousness in the only circumstances in which it is possible for 
it to give a trustworthy answer", if it be valid at all, must apply 
to all the faculties of consciousness. "The proof that any of the 
alleged Universal Beliefs .... are affirmations of consciousness, 
supposes two things, that the beliefs exist, and that there are no 
means by which they could have been acquired. " 1 Mill was con 
strained to enquire into the perception, rather than into any other 
faculty, by his interest in, and prejudice for, reality. Did he conceive 
of a sort of "golden age" in the history of mankind, when men 
perceived only what really existed? He draws a distinction between 
"data which are uncontested", by which he understands perceptions 
of objective and ultimate realities, and "purely mental conceptions", 
which the mind invents and superimposes upon these original per 
ceptions, so that the real and the fictitious can no longer be dis 
entangled, or recognized for what they are. Mill conceives that this 
invention and imposition of fictions on to "uncontested data", is 
due to a power of "association" native to the human mind. And 
when he talks of "association", he thinks of himself as a disciple of 
Hume. "The laws of association", he says, "are capable of creating, 
out of those data which are uncontested, purely mental conceptions, 
which become so identified in thought with all our states of con 
sciousness, that we seem, and cannot but seem, to receive them by 
direct intuition." 

In thus interpreting the Humeian laws of association, Mill totally 
misunderstands the best of Hume s work. For with whatever hope 
Hume may have started his research, of being able to distinguish 
between those data in consciousness, which are in Mill s sense 
"original" and "uncontested", and those which are posterior to these, 
he discovers quickly that consciousness is not capable of supporting 
any such distinction. He finds that if the notion of association is to 
be used at all, it must be used with reference to all the processes 
of consciousness. He finds that no means remain for distinguishing 
in consciousness between "data which are uncontested", and "purely 



17 1 The Cen ^al Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 315 

mental conceptions". On the contrary, he finds that all the data in 
consciousness must be called "fictions", i. e. the production of the 
creative mind. In so far as Hume remains true to this point of view, 
and places the origin of the whole content of all the worlds which 
we perceive, or could perceive, in a purely subjective genesis , he ! 
reaches the true starting point of all philosophy, vindicates his con- i 
ception of the dependency of the sciences on "human nature", and 
both proposes, and practises, the "introspective method" of philo 
sophy which Mill condemns. 

5. Concerning the nature of Introspection. Real Hypostases. 

The introspective method will examine consciousness itself. It 
excludes all the objects of consciousness. The real world and all its 
past and future is one class or sphere of objects. Mathematics and 
its entities, and logic and its conceptions, are other classes or spheres 
of objects. All are excluded. [/The introspective method supposes 
that the whole of our perception or consciousness of these and other 
objective spheres, is due to, and must be explained by, the processes 
of consciousness itself. To take particular examples, it is not the 
reality of the real world which makes us perceive it, or the truth 
of the logical world which makes us aware of its truth and its truths. 
The laws of the genesis of our consciousness of these worlds will be 
neither real nor logical. The introspective philosophy proposes to 
investigate not the laws or principles of these objective worlds, but 
the laws or principles of our consciousness of these worlds; and it 
must take the greatest care that no law or principle belonging to 
these worlds be taken over from these worlds, to explain, or to be 
used towards explaining, the principles of our consciousness of these 
worlds. The principles of the objective worlds presuppose the con 
sciousness in which we know these worlds. The laws of these worlds 
are a part of these worlds as we know them, and must not be 
employed in explaining the as , or manner, of our knowing them. 
Any employment of objective laws, be these real, or logical, or moral, 
or aesthetic, in explaining the principles of consciousness involves 
hypostasis, and will prevent a proper explanation. Hume was in no 
danger of using logical principles to explain the processes which he 
found in consciousness. He had very little use for rationalization . 
But he did not succeed in clearing his subjective regard of the taint 
of reality; so that he gave some excuse to his successors for regardir 
him, as Mill regarded him, as an empirical psychologist. But Hume 



316 C V - Salmon, [18 

was not guilty, like Mill, of the historical hypostasis . Hume saw 
no difficulty in the "mountainous heap", and did not impugn the 
evidence of the direct intuition. It is true that, in his very first 
section, Hume makes use of the historical argument. In considering 
the relation of his "Impressions" and "Ideas", he talks of the order 
of their first appearance 1 ), and thus allows himself to share, 
for a moment, Locke s conception of the historical task of philo 
sophy, which, for the most part, he spurns. But in view of the fact 
that Hume quickly made the "idea" swallow the "impression" by 
turning the "impression" into an "idea", he left no "first appear 
ance" to establish an "order of appearance", and may be absolved 
from any real devotion to an argument of which he makes no further 
use. But over and over again Hume asserts the autonomy of the 
direct intuition, and does not hesitate to oppose it even to those 
beliefs which are most generally accepted. 

But, besides the hypostasis involved in the historical argument, 
there is another which Hume shares with Mill, and to which he 
clings. Mill wished to set those "data which are uncontested" 
upon a basis of reality, and did so in two ways. He held that 
the "uncontested data" in the mind represented real existences, 
in contrast to the "purely mental conceptions", such as Matter, 
which represented only fictitious existences. Hume had done away with 
this distinction. Hume found no ground, at any rate in his better 
moments, for distinguishing between "uncontested data" and "purely 
mental conceptions". In fact he laid it down, eventually, that if our 
data are uncontested it is precisely because they are what Mill would 
have called "purely mental conceptions". But Mill was inclined to 
say not only that our "uncontested data" represented realities, but 
also that they owed the fact of their being "uncontested" to their 
being realities themselves. The suggestion is unmistakeable. "Idea 
lists and Sceptics", he says, "contend that the belief in Matter is not 
an original fact of consciousness, as our sensations are, and 
is therefore, wanting in the requisite which .... gives to our sub 
jective convictions objective authority." Mill wishes to rest a part, 
at any rate, of the incontrovertibility of our "uncontested perception 
data", on the fact of their being themselves sensations, and as such 
"real". Locke, whom Mill applauds, starting, like Mill, with the 
historical bias, had made use of the same argument. "Since there 
appear not to be any ideas in the mind," Locke wrote, "before the 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 314. 



19] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 

senses have conveyed any in, I conceive that ideas in the under- 
standing are coeval with sensation; which is such an impression, 
made in some part of the body, as produces some perception in the 
understanding. It is about these impressions made on our senses by 
outward objects that the mind seems first to employ itself in such 
operations as we call perception, remembering, consideration, reas 
oning, etc." 1 ). This fallacy, that the incontrovertibility of the data 
of consciousness rests, in the last resort, both actually and historic 
ally, upon reality , manifested through the real means of sensation, 
has been widespread. In our own day, owing largely to the extra 
vagant faith in reality, which the success of the natural and physical 
sciences has produced, we have seen the birth of a physiological 
psychology which claims to comprehend philosophy. One would 
not have expected Hume, who drew so great a gulf between 
the objective and the subjective worlds, to be liable to it. But Hume 
was often guilty of the real hypostasis, and even after his most 
brilliant analysis of a purely subjective experience, he was tempted 
to reduce the whole experience, absurdly, to the terms of real 
sensation. 

In the matter of causation, to take one example, Hume takes 
great pains to point out that our perception of cause is dependent 
upon certain purely subjective processes of consciousness, and in 
the very face of this proceeds, first, to deny that there is any such 
thing as real cause, an inverse use of the real hypostasis and 

then, a direct use of the real hypostasis --to assert that it is 

a cause which governs the processes of consciousness. In this we 
see a repeated contradiction. 

6. Hume confused between the "psychological" and "intro 
spective" modes. 

Hume s most illogical use of realistic arguments they always 
lead him to absurd conclusions - - is explained by the fact, that 
although he did achieve a very considerable practice of philosophi 
introspection, he did so rather in his own despite, and without qui 
recognizing the nature of his operations. Hume s own descripti 
of the experiments he is going to conduct conform to the psycho, 
logical" rather than to the "introspective" method, and offer 1 
some excuse for taking him for an ally. Having laid down i 

X) The Essay, Bk. II, Ch. I, Sec. 23. 



318 C - V - Salmon, [20 

Introduction the absolute importance and universal scope of "Human 
Nature", Hume says, And as the science of man is the only 
solid foundation for the other sciences, so the only 
solid foundation we can give to this science itself 
must be laid on experience and observation .... For 
to me it seems evident, that the essence of the mind 
being equally unknown to us with that of external 
bodies, it must be equally impossible to form any 
notion of its powers and qualities otherwise than from 
careful and exact experiments, and the observation 
of those particular effects, which result from its 
different circumstances and situations. And tho we 
must endeavour to render all our principles as uni 
versal as possible, by tracing up our experiments to 
the utmost, and explaining all effects from the simp 
lest and fewest causes, tis still certain we cannot go 
beyond experience; and any hypothesis that pretends 
to discover the ultimate original qualities of human 
nature, ought at first to be rejected as presumptuous 
and chimerical 1 ). So far there is nothing definitely amiss in 
Hume s programme, although the conception of "experience" as the 
only foundation for philosophy is obviously in need of closer de 
finition; and Hume s "tho we must endeavour to render all our 
principles as universal as possible" rather suggests that, for some 
reason or other, he supposes that this will be impossible. Now 
what prevents a science from reaching universal principles is the 
possibility of its being bound to particulars. If a science is obliged 
__ to proceed strictly inductively, it can never reach beyond a relative 
^ / generality compounded of the sum of observed cases. We can con 
ceive of empirical psychology as being limited in this way, but the 
idea seems foreign to philosophy. Is Hume going to consider the 
"experience", which he calls the foundation of all consciousness, as 
being nowise different from that objective psycho-physical experience 
and experiencing, which supplies empirical psychology with its sub 
ject-matter? . . . . to me it seems evident, he writes, that the 
essence of the mind being equally unknown to us with 
that of external bodies, it must be equally impossible 
to form any notion of its powers and qualities other 
wise than from careful and exact experiments, and 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 308. 



21] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 3^9 

the observation of those particular effects, which 
result from its different circumstances and situa 
tions 1 ). And finally, after a comparison of his task with that of 
the natural scientist, he writes, Moral philosophy has 
this peculiar disadvantage, which is not yet found in 
natural, that in collecting its experiments, it cannot 
make them purposely, with premeditation, and after 
such a manner as to satisfy itself concerning every 
particular difficulty which may arise. When I am at 
a loss to know the effects of one body upon another 
in any situation, I need only put them in that situa- 
tion, and observe what results from it. But should I 
endeavour to clear up after the same manner any 
doubt in moral philosophy, by placing myself in the 
same case with that which I consider, tis evident this 
reflection and premeditation would so disturb the 
operation of any natural principles, as must render 
it impossible to form any just conclusion from the 
phenomenon. We must therefore glean up our experi 
ments in this science from a cautious observation of 
human life, and take them as they appear in the 
common course of the world, by men s behaviour in 
company, in affairs and in their pleasures. Where 
experiments of this kind are judiciously collected 
and compared, we may hope to establish on them a 
science which will not be inferior in certainty, and 
will be muchsuperiour in utility to any other of human 
comprehension 2 ). Is this, then, to be the end of Hume s boasted 
"science of human nature", this philosophy which was to contain "a 
compleat system of the sciences", that it should "not be inferior in 
certainty", and should be "much superiour in utility to any other c 
human comprehension"? It would be disappointing, being nothing 
more nor less than a formulation of what Mill called "the psycho- 
logical, as distinguished from the simply introspective mode , b 
"the known and approved method of physical science, adapted 
the necessities of psychology". Fortunately Hume did not 
the methods which he here lays down. Once fairly started on 
investigations he disregarded the limitations which he had I 



l)G, & G,I,p-308. 2)G, & G,I, P .309_10. 



320 C - V - Salmon, [22 

A regard for what Hume called the "peculiar disadvantage of 
moral philosophy", and what Mill called "the necessities of psycho 
logy", has been so general among students of the "science of man", 
that it will be well to consider, somewhat closely, the nature of these 
limitations, which Hume seemed ready to allow to his investigations. 
The purport of the passage is the following. The philosopher is 
prevented from the examination of his own mind by certain diffi 
culties native to introspection. These difficulties make it, in effect, 
impossible that the natural or true principles of consciousness 
or experience should be revealed. "Premeditation," Hume says, 
"disturbs the operation of the natural principles", thus rendering the 
instance under examination artificial , that is, different in its nature 
from the ordinary unreflected experiences of conscious life. This 
disturbance of the operation of the natural principles obliges the 
philosopher to disregard himself and his own consciousness, and 
turn his attention on to other people, other subjects, whose ex 
periences he can study in their natural state. It is from this point 
of view that Hume is doubtful, and rightly doubtful, of rendering 
his principles universal. For in the early stages of such psychological 
investigation, the investigator is working empirically and a posteriori, 
collecting a large number of similar instances of particular ex 
periences. But even when this investigation has been advanced far 
enough to allow these particularities to be converted into abstract 
generalities, the discipline built upon these can claim no more than 
relative a-priority. The investigation has all along been in the strict 
sense objective . The material of this science may be called ex 
periences , but these are, after all, the experiences of other people, 
that is, experiences objectively observed, and not experiences in 
the strict sense, i. e. experiences experienced. The material of ob 
jective psychology is "persons" rather than "experiences". These 
"persons", psycho-physical or psychical as they may be regarded, are 
objects , part of the world of which the investigator is conscious, 
part of the world, then, his consciousness of which the investigator 
has created for himself. If he regards these persons physically, they 
belong, in his consciousness, to his creative experiences of per 
ception. If he regards these persons psychically, they belong, in his 
consciousness, to his creative experiences of sympathy (i. e. he 
projects on to some body which he perceives, a power of ex 
periencing experiences, similar to his own). If he regards them psycho- 
physically, they belong, in his consciousness, to a compound of his 
creative experiences. In each of these three cases, of which one 



23] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 321 

belongs rather to the science of biology or physiology than to psycho 
logy, the results of investigation are objective in the strict sense, 
being the products of a subjective consciousness and experiencing, 
which is itself not regarded. These results can be accurate and useful, 
and are capable of sustaining general rules and principles which are 
no less valid than those of any other natural or physical science. 
Its a priori discipline is on the same plane as that of any other 
physical or natural science. Hume himself was aware both of the 
comparative relativity of the psychological a priori, and of its con- 
gruity with the a priori s of the other sciences. But if this im 
possibility, he writes, of explaining ultimate principles 
should be consider d a defect in the science of man, 
I will venture to affirm that tis a defect common to 
it with all the sciences, and all the arts, in which we 
can employ ourselves, whether they be such as are 
cultivated in the schools of the philosophers, or 
practised in the shops of the artizans. None of them 
can go beyond experience, or establish any principles 
which are not founded on that authority 1 ). Indeed this 
relativity, which is the best which an empirical psychology can pro 
duce, so weighs upon Hume, that he writes: I do not think a 
philosopher who would apply himself earnestly to, the 
explaining the ultimate principles of the soul, would 
show himself a great master in that very science of 
human nature, which he pretends to explain, or very 
knowing in what is naturally satisfactory to the mind 
of man. For nothing is more certain, than that despair 
has almost the same effect upon us with enjoyment, 
and that we are no sooner acquainted with the im 
possibility of satisfying any desire, than the desire 
itself vanishes. When we see, that we have arrived at 
the utmost extent of human reason, we sit down con. 
tented 2 ). But, as he says, A true sceptic will 
dent of his philosophical doubts, as well as c 
philosophical conviction 3 ), and this sitting down contented 
in despair does not long detain him. In spite of a recurrence of 
such passages, in spite of the compromise which Hume is so of 
tempted to make between his doubts and his convicti 

l)Gr.AGr.I.p.309. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 308-9. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 552. 

Huaserl, Jahrbuch f. Philosophie. X. 



322 C. V. Salmon, [24 

dominate the work, and stand much as he set them out in his Intro 
duction. The mind is the citadel of human science which we may 
seize. We are to leave the tedious lingering method, 
which we have hitherto followed, and instead of 
taking now and then a castle or village on the fron 
tier, to march up directly to the capital or center of 
these sciences, to human nature itself; which being 
once masters of, we may everywhere else hope for an 
easy victory 1 ). It is this hope which inspires the Treatise, and 
this task to which Hume devotes himself. Hume s main theme is 
not to be questioned. In spite of all his doubts his conviction remains 
with him. Hume is convinced that while all the rest of the sciences, 
empirical psychology among them, "cannot go beyond experience or 
establish any principles which are not founded on that authority", 
.philosophy itself can go "beyond experience". Philosophy can 
go into experience, can concentrate upon experience itself, and 
that experiencing, which presents us with all the objects of our 
knowledge, and conditions them. When Hume despairs, it is be 
cause he cannot justify his practise of the introspective mode. But 
he recognizes, that if he may not practise it, he will be driven to 
accept the limitations of the empirical psychologist, who regards 
other persons and not himself. 



7. Final vindication of the Introspective Mode. 

What was the nature of the "peculiar disadvantage of moral 
philosophy", which seemed likely, at one time, to drive Hume into 
the ranks of the empirical psychologists? Philosophy, Hume said, 
"in collecting its experiments, cannot make them purposely, with 
premeditation, and after such a manner as to satisfy itself con 
cerning every particular difficulty which may arise". For, says Hume, 
"tis evident this reflection and premeditation would .... disturb 
the operation of any natural principles". As Hume does not state, 
explicitly, how this reflection would disturb the experience in question, 
in asserting for ourselves the contrary, we shall be content to state, 
and invalidate, the most general argument which is brought against 
the possibility of pure introspection, and from which, in our opinion, 
all minor objections derive their force. 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 307. 



25] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 333 

This argument runs as follows. Let it be granted, that no sub- 
jec can become conscious of any object whatever, without himself 
hvmg through a certain experience . It is obvious that this Tx 
penence is one which takes place below the threshold of con- 
sciousness and, that anyone living in the ordinary attitude is quite 
unaware of experiencing any such experience . Let it be supposed 
however, that by some such method as the Cartesian dubito the 
subject can succeed in revealing this internal experience to himself 
It is to be understood, now, that the subject succeeds in experiencing 
consciously what before he experienced unconsciously. He finds that 
these experiences consist of certain intentional 1 ) processes , through 
which his mind works to create for itself its accustomed , 
sciousness of objects. If, now, by the constant practice of such 
flection, our philosopher became able, in each and every of his 



con- 
re - 
con 



scious experiences, to remove his attention from the object of his 
consciousness, and turn it inwards on to that consciousness itself, and 
discover there the processes through which he had lived, and by 
whose means only he had arrived at his consciousness of the object, 
it would have to be allowed that he was in the possession of a method 
which could furnish him with the ultimate a-priori of all knowledge. 
For he could take every faculty of consciousness by turn, the per 
ception of reality, the apprehension of truth, recognition of the 
right, appreciation of the beautiful, etc. etc. and from a description 
of the processes involved in his consciousness of a plurality of parti 
cular objects in these several fields, pass, through a manipulation of 
their varieties, to the region of strict generality. There he could 
exhaust the types not only of all actual, but also of all possible, 
experiences of objects. But, says now the objector, all this claim is 
based upon a misunderstanding of the nature of introspection, and 
on an ignorance of the difficulties native to its practice. For if it 
is true, as was granted, that the subject cannot become conscious 
of any object without living through a certain experience, below 
the threshold of consciousness, then, the subject cannot say, in any 
particular instance of reflection, that the processes which he is now 
surveying, are those by means of which, a moment since, he was con 
scious of such and such an object. This for one of two reasons! Either 



1) The word "Intentional", was brought into modern use from the Scholastic 
by Brentano. For its present use in Phenomenological Philosophy, see Husserl, 
Ideen zu einer reinen Phiinomenologie , pp. 64, 168, et seq: Max Niemeyer, 
Halle a. S., 1922. 

3* 



324 C - V - Salmon, [26 

the processes which he is now surveying are not the whole, but only 
a part, of those through which he had to live, in order to be con 
scious of his object, or they are not those at all which helped him 
to a consciousness of that object, but are processes which are helping 
him now to his consciousness of themselves. This alternative depends 
upon the two kinds of interpretation, which can be put upon the 
original premise, that no subject can be conscious of any object 
without living through certain processes, which are the means of his 
consciousness of that object. The first interpretation is as follows: 
If every object of consciousness presupposes a means in conscious 
ness, then those processes, which become, under introspection, objects 
of consciousness, themselves presuppose a means in consciousness by 
which they have become objectified. And since it must be acknow 
ledged that the processes revealed are not identical with, but diffe 
rent from, the original object of consciousness, it must be acknow 
ledged also, that the processes underlying these processes, as the 
means of their being objectified, cannot be identical with, but must 
be different from, those processes , become objects, which have been 
shown to underly the consciousness of the original object. In other 
words, since it is impossible to reflect without changing the object 
of consciousness, each reflection presupposes a new means , and the 
reflecting subject must be involved in an infinite regress, before he can 
ever arrive at what he may say, absolutely, was the means by which 
he was conscious of any particular object, i. e. the processes which 
he is surveying at any particular moment are not the whole, but 
only a part, of those through which he had to live, in order to be 
conscious of his original object. 

The second interpretation of the original premise argues that 
because no subject can become conscious of any object whatever, 
without himself living through certain processes as a means to 
that consciousness, for that very reason, those processes, which 
it is admitted are lived through, can never be revealed, i. e. made 
the objects of consciousness. For, if no subject can be conscious of 
an object without a means thereto, it is presumed that the same 
means will always furnish the subject with a similar object, and that 
a different object will always imply a different means. If therefore, 
it is in the nature of all the means to any particular object to remain 
below the threshold of consciousness, we can never hope to bring 
them up into consciousness; for the only circumstance, in which we 
can live through the particular means, is in the consciousness of the 
particular object of which it is the means. There is, therefore, no 



27] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 335 

such thing as a strictly reflexive consciousness, but each state of 
consciousness implies its hidden means. We can never be aware of 
consciousness itself, but only of objects: and when we seem to be 
conscious of actual internal experiences, we are in reality either in 
venting, or remembering, states of consciousness which we have 
experienced, but never those which we are at the moment actually 
experiencing. 

Re-quoting Hume s objection, it will be seen to be capable of 
bearing both of the interpretations offered above. When I am 
at a loss, he said, to know the effects of one body upon 
another in any situation, I need only put them in that* 
situation, and observe what results from it. But should 
I endeavour to clear up after the same manner any 
doubt in moral philosophy, by placing myself in the 
same case with that which I consider, tis evident this 
reflection and premeditation would so disturb the 
operation of any natural principles, as must render 
it impossible to form any just conclusion from the 
phaenomenon 1 ). 

It remains to show that both interpretations are based upon a 
misconception of the nature of philosophic reflection or intro 
spection. In considering the significance of Descartes discovery of 
the possibility of doubting , we spoke of the ability of the subject to 
disregard the objects of his consciousness at any given moment, in 
order to regard the consciousness itself, or the objects in conscious 
ness at the same moment. Having interpreted the dubito as an 
essential change of attitude, from being interested in the various 
objective worlds of our consciousness, to being interested in what 
Descartes discovered to be the pregnant world of our consciousness 
itself, we need do no more than appeal to a personal experiment, 
which every reader can make for himself, to assert, that this possi 
bility of a radical change of attitude is an essential part of every 
moment of objectifying consciousness. We make no reference 1 
to a real possibility, for the practice of introspection takes pla, 
from the very start upon a purely subjective plane. By saying that 
every subject can , in every moment of his conscious life remove 
his attention from the object of his consciousness on to his cc 
sciousness itself, it is asserted that it is impossible for any .object 
to conceive of any state of consciousness, on which he could not, 



1) Gr- & Gr.I, p. 307, 



326 C - V - Salmon, [28 

under certain conditions, reflect . The certain conditions include 
both the real occasion, which may not, of course, be proper to the 
realization of this possibility , and the actual ability, which can be 
bred in the subject only by practise. But since, in the realm of a 
priori, it is impossible to conceive of any state of consciousness which 
could not bear, under the right occasion, and in the person of the 
able subject, the reflexive attitude, we assert that the possibility of 
becoming reflexive is an essential part of all consciousness. From 
this ground it is easy to discover a fundamental mistake, made by 
both the arguments given above, against, in the one case, the utility, 
and in the other case, the possibility, of reflection. In making use, 
as both arguments do, of the premise, that the same object of con 
sciousness implies the same means in consciousness, and the same 
means the same object, to conclude that an identical experience must 
always terminate in the apprehension of an identical object, they 
are guilty of the empirical fallacy of real hypostasis. They seek to 
cover an ideal identity with the quotation of a purely real numerical 
difference, and to obscure the identity of an ideal quantity by 
stressing a purely real difference in quality. "Since it must be 
acknowledged," the first argument ran, "that the processes revealed 
under reflection are not identical with, but different from, the original 
object of consciousness, it must be acknowledged also, that the pro 
cesses underlying these processes, as the means of their being ob 
jectified, cannot be identical with, but must be different from, those 
processes, become objects, which have been shown to underly the 
consciousness of the original object." "It is presumed," so ran the 
second argument, "that the same means will always furnish the subject 
with a similar object, and that a different object will always imply 
a different means". Now these antitheses between identical objects, 
and identical means, and different objects and different means, rely 
upon the particularity of what is real. For granting, as the objectors 
must, that a unity can be a compound, and one whole consist of 
many parts, and that, in any given state of consciousness, the atten 
tion of the subject can be shifted from the unity to the compound, 
from the whole to the parts, and, among these parts, from one part 
to another, there is no ground, except that of the distinctness, and 
numerical difference, in time, of the different moments of conscious 
ness, for maintaining that the experience in question is not identical. 
But the question of real time can only be raised when the subject 
is engaged in ordinary perception. In order to reflect upon the 
perception itself, and no longer on the object of the perception, the 



29] The Centr.1 Pro hle m of David Hu me s Philosophy. ^ 

duty of the subject is to exclude the whole world of reality of which 
the particu ar object is a part. Real time, therefore, as much a? he 
rest of reality, will have no place in what he finds in his consc OU8 
ness^ In other words, the identity which he finds there must held . 
pendent of real time Speaking then of conscious experience, it s 
clear that one and the same experience can be experienc d in 
numerable tunes, since it is the consciousness of the same, and not 
the real experience of the same, which is involved. There is nothing 
startling in this assertion. It applies to other non-real spheres besides 
the sphere of consciousness. No one is likely to argue that the iden 
tity of a Beethoven symphony consists in, or is dependent upon, any 
one of the particular performances which may have been given of it, 
or any one of the particular orchestras or audiences, or on any one of 
the particular scores on which it is written, or even on the original 
manuscript. The identity of a piece of music is independent of all 
these things. One and the same truth may be apprehended innume 
rable times by innumerable people in innumerable worlds; and it 
can be known by one person on innumerable occasions as the same 
truth. The identity of a conscious experience is not dependent upon 
any one particular experience of it, or upon my being concentrated 
upon any one of its compound parts or moments. And, in the case 
of perception, so little is the real object which I perceive involved 
in my perception of it, that if the object which I had perceived were 
removed, and an exactly similar object put in its place, my second 
perception itself, when I perceived the new object, would be iden 
tical with my first. 

Both the arguments brought against the practise of the intro 
spective mode suffer from being too ingenious. In the course of one 
identical experience I can not only exclude the object of my con 
sciousness from my attention, and regard my consciousness itself, but 
having done this, I can, for the sake of testing its identity, turn my 
attention away from my consciousness, and back upon the original 
object, and thence back again upon my consciousness, and after this 
manner as often as I please. With this ability at my command, I can 
disregard metaphysics, and by my practise itself, establish the vali 
dity of what I do. Granting that the same object of consciousness 
implies the same means in consciousness, and the same means the 
same object, I have only to recognize the complexity of elements 
involved in my consciousness of an object, to realize that I can 
regard now this element, and now that, within the unity of the one 
experience. And I have only to establish the total unity by an obser- 



328 C - V - Salmon, [30 

vation of what is involved in its means, and to test it by turning my 
attention freely backward and forward, from object of consciousness 
to consciousness of object, to recognize at once that I am involved 
in no infinite regress. For when I seek to find the means which 
underly the means I have observed, I find, reflexively, that they are 
identical with themselves. 

Introspection, then, is not only possible, but able to furnish me 
with the whole of the means whereby I arrive at the consciousness 
of any given object. 

After an extensive practise of the introspective mode, the philo 
sopher will be able to describe the processes by which he arrives 
at the consciousness of objects in the variety of all his faculties. 
From this personal, or egoistic, realm of a priori, it will be but 
a step for him to pass, by the means of abstraction and variation, 
from his own consciousness to the absolutely universal generalities 
of consciousness in general, and to declare, in the realm of pure 
Subjectivity itself, the ultimate truths of all philosophy. 

In spite of his profession to deny the possibility of the intro 
spective mode, and his intention to devote himself more to the 
examination of other people than of himself, when he came to the 
problem of external perception, Hume did forsake empirical psycho 
logy, and derive, from the employment of introspection, a notable 
success. 

Chapter III. 

The place of Logic in the Sciences. 

8. Locke s Division of the Sciences. The Rational Hypostasis, 
and the two operations of Abstraction. 

When Hume took up Locke s task of "describing to others what 
it is their minds do when they perform the action they call knowing", 
he made two signal modifications on Locke s attitude. With Locke s 
preliminary classification of the departments of knowledge he had 
no quarrel. "First", Locke had said, "the nature of things as they 
are in themselves, their relations, and their manner of operation". 1 ) 
Here we are to pursue "the knowledge of things, as they are in their 
own proper beings, their constitution, properties, and operations: 
whereby I mean not only matter and body, but spirits also, which 
have their proper natures, constitutions, and operations, as well as 



1) Locke, The Essay, Bk. IV, Ch. XXI. 



31] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy, 339 

bodies". This is **, or "natural philosophy", whose end is "bare 
speculative truth". Whatsoever can afford the mind of man any such, 
falls under this branch, whether it be God Himself, angels, spirits, 
bodies, or any of their affections, as number and figure, etc." Next 
comes UgaxTtx^ whose domain "is not bare speculation and the know- 
ledge of truth: but right and a conduct suitable to it", "that which 
man himself ought to do, as a rational and voluntary agent, for the 
attainment of any end, especially happiness". The third department 
is 2qi*ia>TUCtj, or Aoyixr], which is announced shortly, as "the ways 
and means whereby the knowledge of both the one and the other 
(i. e. of <Pvaixrj and nQaxTixr]) is attained and communicated". This is 
the province of philosophy. In setting Locke s observation free, 
1. wholly from its rationalistic, and 2. partially from its empirical, 
bias, Hume was only adopting the recommendations of Locke s own 
programme, to which Locke had proved unfaithful. The compre 
hensiveness of <Pv6ixtfi which is the characteristic of this division of 
the sciences, should have kept Locke s Ao-fixy clear both of rationa 
lism and empiricism. <PvOixij was to include both logic and psycho 
logy. The limits of these sciences expressed the distinction latent in 
Locke s "new way of ideas", between ideas in the conventional sense 
of objects to the reason, or imagination, or memory, and ideas in 
Locke s original sense of means of consciousness. The Lockeian 
"ideas" were conceived as being the means by which each faculty 
of consciousness arrived at the consciousness of its objects. The 
reason, like every other faculty, owed its apprehension of ideas in 
the conventional sense, to ideas in the Lockeian sense. Locke s 
philosophy was to concern itself exclusively with the means of con 
sciousness, and not with the principles of any objective sphere of 
consciousness, such as the principles of logic. When Leibniz 1 ) took 
objection to Locke s inclusion of the formal, as well as the material 
disciplines, in &v<jixij, he was representing the rational prejudice 
against the new conception of philosophy. Leibniz wished to remove 
the formal disciplines from the sphere of "natural philosophy", in 
order to make them the foundation of philosophy proper. Parallel 
to the Real Hypostasis operates the Rational Hypostasis. It is sur 
prising that the writings of Locke, Berkeley and Hume should have 
done so little to dispel a prejudice, still general, that there is one 
objective sphere of human consciousness which contains the answer, 
in the shape of truths, to all the problems which can confr 



1) See Leibniz, Nouveaux Essais, Livre IV, Ch. 2: "De la Division de 8 Sciences", 



330 C - V - Salmon, [32 

human intelligence; and one faculty, namely, the reason, which, being 
properly and purely used, can supply a Universum of knowledge, in 
the shape of an explanation of all Being, and all modes of Being. 

No body of knowledge which is to be ultimate, entire, and a 
priori in the absolute sense, can be concerned with objects, not even 
when those objects are the ideas of reason. Leaving on one side the 
conception of reason itself, which involves many difficulties, it may 
truly be said, that all the a priori knowledge which we possess is the 
result of abstraction, and that philosophy, like every other science, 
can only arrive at its final principles within the body of an abstract 
and formal discipline. But abstraction is not to be identified with 
reason. Abstraction is not an intuitive faculty, but a certain method 
which can be practised in any field of observation. The quality of 
the a priori which it procures is not the product of the abstraction 
itself, but depends upon the nature of the field in which the ab 
straction is used. Radical abstraction involves two separate oper 
ations. Under the first operation the field of observation is purified 
from the concomitant foreign elements which accompany the ge 
neral observation. The natural scientist abstracts his material by 
excluding the subjective and inter-subjective elements of perception, 
to concentrate upon what is real in the perceived object. The 
moralist, on the other hand, abtsracts his material by purifying his 
observations of human behaviour from all their real conditions. 
The aesthete must purify his data from what is not aesthetic, the 
logician his from whatever is not logical. But the philosopher must 
purify his data from everything objective, whether this be real, or 
moral, or aesthetic, or logical. He must concentrate upon what is 
subjective, upon the means of, instead of upon any termination of, 
consciousness. Upon this operation of abstraction depends the vali 
dity of the observations to be made. The second operation of ab 
straction is a process of Variation, by which the observer passes from 
the realm of that which he does actually observe to the realm of 
that which he might observe, to the realm of the possible and the 
a priori. It is with the second of the operations of abstraction that 
the reason is often falsely indentified. Theorists have been ready 
to describe their activities as reasoning , without considering what 
it is that they have actually done, when they have generalized , and 
passed from a statement of what objects have been, to a statement 
of what objects might be, from a statement of what they have per 
ceived, reasoned, appreciated, to what they might perceive, reason, 
appreciate. It is slighting reason to regard it as an illuminating 



33] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 

process which can be turned on to any field of investigation to order 
it. dta and elucidate Us principles. For reason is itself a special 
acuity by which we apprehend truths, just as we apprehend reali- 
tie. by the special faculty of perception, beauties by the special 
faculty of aesthetic appreciation etc. The confusion of reason with 
a purely formal and perfectly general process, which we can practice 
upon every one of the special objects of consciousness, has led to 
a false notion of the superiority of the logical principles and laws 
proper to the objective realm of truths, over the laws and principles 
of other objective realms. Under this fallacy many forms of Idealism 
have taken the field. The Rational Fallacy is balanced by the Em- 
pirical Fallacy which has attempted to dominate the principles of 
all the objective spheres by the principles of the one objective sphere 
of reality, and to subordinate the use of each of our faculties, to the 
one faculty of perception. As the Rational Hypostasis is evolved 
from a sense of the general quality of reasoning, so the Empirical 
Hypostasis is evolved from a sense of the original character of per 
ception. But, in their final stages, each of the two fallacies is guilty 
of a double hypostasis. Not only do they seek to impose the abstract 
principles of one objective realm on to the abstract principles of 
another objective realm, but they even seek to convert the principles 
of their own objective realm into principles governing the operations 
of the subjective faculties themselves. This is to confuse one objective 
realm with another in the terms of their a priori, on the one hand, 
and, on the other, to confuse the principles regulating the objects of 
a faculty with the principles regulating the faculty itself. 

In addition to rational and empirical hypostases, attempts have 
been made by would-be universalists to extend moral, aesthetic and 
religious principles over the whole of objectivity, and to offer an 
explanation of all Being in laws taken from a Being of one kind. 

9. Hume s excess of zeal against the Continental Rationalists. 

First distinction of the elements of the Impression. Hume s view 

of Abstract Ideas. 

Hume freed Locke s later attitude from the rationalistic bias, 
from which it ought, upon Locke s own programme and division of 
the sciences, to have remained free. "Bare, speculative truth, - 
Locke s definition of g>vCixtj and whatsoever can afford the mind 
of man any such, falls under this branch, whether it be God Himself 
angels, spirits, bodies, or any of their affections, as number and 



332 C, V. Salmon, [34 

figure etc." There is no room for doubt. Locke placed logic within 
the compass of natural philosophy. At this point in the development 
of his thought. Locke was drawing a distinction between the defi 
nitive formal disciplines which had their place in tyvGixtf, and the 
ultimate descriptive task which he alloted to philosophy proper or 
2t]flUQTlX7]i between the function of definition , so often mistaken 
for a subjective region of philosophy, and that true subjective de 
scription of the processes of consciousness, which can reveal the 
ultimate a priori. In this distinction Hume saw the embryo of a 
philosophical system. His first anxiety was to dispel the influence 
of the Continental Rationalists. Tis usual with mathe 
maticians, he writes, scornfully, to pretend, that those 
ideas, which are their objects, are of so refi n d and 
spiritual a nature, that they fall not under the con 
ception of the fancy, but must be comprehended by a 
pure and intellectual view, of which the superiour 
faculties of the soul are alone capable 1 ). And he ends 
by concluding grudgingly that certain ideas of quantity are the only 
ideas which permit of furnishing any such exact relations to one 
another, as reason claims to discover. One of the doctrines in the 
Treatise, which has been accustomed to receive most notice, is Hume s 
denial of the abstractness of the so-called abstract ideas; as Hume 
put it, that all general ideas are nothing but particular 
ones, annexed to a certain term, which gives them a 
more extensive signification, and makes them recal 
upon occasion other individuals which are similar to 
them 2 ). It must needs be granted that there is much here which 
is highly unsatisfactory. His assertion that with the exception of 
arithmetic, and a small part of algebra, there is no science which 
can supply us with "certain knowledge", is most unhappy, and 
by denying the abstractness of ideas, Hume had left himself no 
logical right to concede certainty even to these two disciplines. 
Moreover it was the empirical fallacy which supplied him with 
his dearest argument. He borrows his first statement of it from 

"Mons: Malezieu", " Tis evident, that existence in itself 

belongs only to unity" 3 ). He adds his own: - - An idea is a 
weaker impression; and as a strong impression must 
necessarily have a determinate quantity and quality, 
the case must be the same with its copy or represen- 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 375. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 325, 3) See Gr. & Gr. I, p. 393. 



35] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



333 



tative . . . . tis a principle generally receiv d in phi- 
losophy, that everything in nature is individual, and 
that tis utterly absurd to suppose a triangle really 
existent, which has no precise proportion of sides and 
angles. (Hume has Locke s abstract triangle in mind.) If this, there 
fore, be absurd in fact and reality, it must also be ab 
surd in idea , since nothing of which we can form a clear 
and distinct idea is absurd and impossible Ab 
stract ideas are ... in themselves individual, however 
they may become general in their representation 1 ). 
This argument depends upon the real hypostasis. If it were a fact that 
"everything in nature is individual", and the saying is obscure - 
an idea is not a part of "nature", and cannot be made to bear the 
characteristics of reality. All that need be said concerning the deri 
vation of the "idea" from the "impression", in its connection with 
the present argument, is that the latter term lacks definition. The 
"impression" needs to be distinguished from the objects of which 
it is the impression. It does not follow, that, because the object of 
an impression is "particular", the impression of the object is also 
"particular". Moreover, if we talk of "real" impressions, which have 
"a determinate quantity and quality", and mean by those, no objects of 
perception, but the perception itself, we are referring either to a physical 
or psycho-physical experience , which must be carefully distinguished 
from a subjective experience of consciousness. A. observes B. per 
ceiving a table. A. may refer to B s perception of the table, when 
he observes it, as a reality with a determinate quantity and quality, 
for what A. means by B s perception is an objective fact. But no 
one can suppose for a moment that it is from an "impression 
this sense, i.e. B s perception as it is observed by A., that 
table in general , can be abstracted. B s perception , 
served by A, is nothing like a table, and cannot be descnbed by A. 
in terms of table . The perception from which the abstract 
table in general can be abstracted, is not a real -penence 
A s own perception-of, or consciousness-of the table^ 
sciousness may be a perception of ^f^^^ 
itself particular in the same ; sense .For > > ^ , ^ 



himself. If it exists , 



Uo" l^He ^W^ch W e recede ^ . * -* 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 32728. 



334 C - V - Salmon, [36 

perceptible by more than one person in its own particularity. 
But B s perception can only be experienced by more than one person 
by being deprived of all its particularity, i. e. by being gene 
ralized, by being taken as the perception of a table in general . 
This general consciousness , or experience , can be described by 
any subject in reflexion, but it is plain that it is not to this subjective 
experience that we refer, when we talk of an abstract idea of a table, 
of a triangle etc. Hume was right to insist that no real object can 
explain the idea which is abstracted from it. For if the real object 
is particular, it cannot explain something which is general. Hume 
has in mind Locke, whose abstract triangle, neither scalene nor iso 
sceles, nor with any "precise proportion of sides and angles", is 
supposed to be both particular and general. 

Purging it of its empirical allusion, we can find in Hume s 
Abstract ideas are in themselves individual, however 
they may become general in their representation, the 
valid suggestion, that we should look for the origin of abstract ideas 
in our actual abstraction of them. If we can never perceive anything 
abstract, and so cannot assert that anything abstract really exists , 
we can, perhaps, create abstract ideas for ourselves by a certain 
process of the imagination . Hume s "however they may become 
general in their representation" makes the reader curious to know 
how that could happen, and suggests to him that Hume may have 
had some notion as to how it actually does happen. And indeed 
Hume had. Having denied the existence of abstract ideas, he offers 
a very tolerable description of how they are abstracted. When we 
have found a resemblance, Hume writes, among several 
objects, that often occur to us, we apply the same 
name to all of them, whatever differences we may ob 
serve in the degrees of their quantity and quality, 
and whatever other differences may appear among 
them. After we have acquired a custom of this kind, 
the hearing of that name revives the idea of one of 
these objects, and makes the imagination conceive 
it with all its particular circumstances and propor 
tions. But as the same word is suppos d to have been 
frequently applied to other individuals, that are 
different in many respects from the idea, which is 
immediately present to the mind; the word not being 
able to revive the idea of all these individuals, but 
only touches the soul, if I may be allow d so to speak, 



37] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 335 

and revives that custom, which we have acquir d by 
surveying them. They are not really and in fact pre 
sent to the mind, but only in power; nor do we draw 
them all out distinctly in the imagination, but keep 
ourselves in a readiness to survey any of them, as we 
may be prompted by a present design or necessity. The 
word raises up an individual idea, along with a cer 
tain custom; and that custom produces any other in 
dividual one, for which we may have occasion. ... For 
this is one of the most extraordinary circumstances 
in the present affair, that after the mind has produc d 
an individual idea, upon which we reason, the atten 
dant custom, reviv d by the general or abstract term, 
readily suggests any other individual, if by chance 
we form any reasoning, that agrees not with it. Thus 
shou d we mention the word triangle, and form the 
idea of a particular equilateral one to correspond to 
it, and shou d we afterwards assert, that the three 
angles of a triangle are equal to each other, the other 
individuals of a scalenum and isosceles, which we 
overlooked at first, immediately crowd in upon us, 
and make us perceive the falsehood of this proposi 
tion, tho it be true with relation to that idea, which 
we had form d . . . . Before those habits have become 
entirely perfect, perhaps the mind may not be content 
with forming the idea of only one individual, but may 
run over several, in order to make itself comprehend 
its own meaning, and the compass of that collection, 
which it intends to express by the general term. That 
we may fix the meaning of the word, figure, we may 
revolve in our mind the ideas of circles, squares, 
parellellograms, triangles of different sizes and 
proportions, and may not rest on one image or idea. 
However this may be, tis certain that we form the idea 
of individuals, whenever we use any general term; that 
we seldom or never can exhaust these individuals; an 
that those which remain, are only represented 
means of that habit, by which we recal them, whenev 
any present occasion requires it. This then i 
nature of our abstract ideas and general terms; an 
tis after this manner we account for the foregoing 






336 C. V. Salmon, [38 

paradox, that some ideas are particular in their 
nature, but general in their representation. A parti 
cular idea becomes general by being anne x d to a 
general term; that is, to a term, which from a custo 
mary conjunction has a relation to many other parti 
cular ideas, and readily recals them in the imagi 
nation 1 ). This is a not uninteresting description of abstraction. 
We are said to be able to vary our individual ideas, to repeat their 
identity through all manner of subsidiary differences, to recognize the 
same kind in a plurality, and to construct collections of kind. Hume 
neglects to give the grounds on which we recognize the characteristics 
of kind, and to explain why, although we are "seldom or never able 
to "exhaust" the "individuals", we are yet able to know the general 
necessities and conditions binding them. 

The quotation supplies the first practical instance in the Treatise, 
of Hume s theory that the ultimate explanation of our consciousness 
of objects lies, not in the objects, but in the processes of consciousness 
itself. We can only be conscious of objects the consciousness of 
which we have constructed for ourselves. Abstract ideas give Hume 
an opportunity of practising that subjective description , which he is 
going to use to such good effect in the matter of external perception, 
and may serve to show something of the light, which can be thrown 
by description on to a department of knowledge where definition 
has been accustomed to reign. 



Chapter IV. 
The Ascent of the "Irnaginatio n". 

10. First appearance of Hume s notion of the "Imagination". 
A parallel between Causality and the Abstract Ideas. 

The ingenious critic will recognize, when Hume wrote of its being 
"usual with mathematicians to pretend that those ideas which are 
their objects, are of so refin d and spiritual a nature, that they fall 
not under the conception of the fancy", that it was in Hume s mind 
to say, and in his work to prove, that there were no objects in any 
sphere of which a man could be conscious, which did not "fall under 
the conception of the fancy". Hume s account of abstraction is 
interesting, not only as an instance of the means by which he sought 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 32830. 



39] The Central Problem of David Hume , Philosophy. 337 

to escape from the rational ontology, but also because it leads him to 
his first substantial formulation of that supreme Humeian faculty 
the Imagination". 

The "imagination" is to grow into an active, genetic faculty, 
responsible for our consciousness of objects in general, and of each 
set of objects in the domain to which they belong. We have to 
note the functions which Hume assigns to it in the sphere of ideas, 
and his rather ambiguous conclusion from these that almost the 
whole of consciousness originates , in a certain sense, from our 
faculty of external perception. "Almost the whole"! because Hume 
is content with an inconsequence. In one department of know 
ledge he becomes an ontologist. He allows the ideas of "quantitive 
relation" to be responsible for their own objectivity. He does this in 
the face of such a general description of the abstraction process as 
would seem to have made the exception impossible. The inconsequence 
is not the somewhat superficial contradiction of which Hume is guilty, 
of denying on the one hand that ideas were abstract, and asserting on 
the other that arithmetic and algebra could provide the enquiring 
mind with certain knowledge. For this inconsequence is so apparent, 
and concerns an opposition between fine terms, the absolute, namely, 
and the relative, whose antithesis becomes so quickly dialectical, that, 
if it cannot be set right, it can, without much harm, be disregarded. 
With a more radical inconsequence Hume conceives the possibility of 
our invention of all the objects of our consciousness, of accounting 
in terms of consciousness for our consciousness of every variety of 
object, and every variety of objective sphere, except the ideas of 
quantitive relation. These are allowed to include their own explana 
tion within their objectivity. The first inconsequence, which consists 
in an unjustified, or, at any rate, unexplained, differentiation between 
quantitative and qualitative abstractions, may be considered as formal 
rather than material. But the second inconsequence involves nothing 
less than a limitation of the subjective realm. By his exception in 
favour of the quantitative "ideas of relation", Hume seems to wish to 
imply that these will not submit to any explanation in terms of the 
subjective processes, and that these alone of all objects, and all ideas, 
are not originated into consciousness by consciousness itself. The 
inconsequence is radical within Hume s philosophical system. But it 
is not without a parallel. There is one other fundamental inconse 
quence, which is exactly parallel to this one, and holds a similar 
position in the second of the two chief spheres of objectivity, 
concerns causality. In the sphere of perception Hume again mak< 

Husserl, Jahrbuch f. Philosophic. X. 



338 C - V - Salmon, [40 

one exception among the objects of our consciousness. While 
recognizing that our perception of each several object in the world, 
and of each element of that world, requires an explanation in the 
subjective terms of consciousness, Hume makes an exception in favour 
of causality. Causality, he tries to say, exists really, in and for itself, 
and, itself, composes the real principle of conscious experience. But 
in this matter Hume cannot be taken to have succeeded. He is 
inconsequent here even within his inconsequence. Escaping from the 
real ontology, he offers a tolerable subjective account of causality, and 
explains how this causality is no less a "fiction" than the objective 
entities it is supposed to rule. There can be no doubt which side of 
this latter contradiction is nearest to Hume s heart. The grounds for 
taking Hume as an empiricist are as negligible as those for taking him 
as a rationalist. Both rest upon one contradiction, which, somehow, 
in each case, Hume, the courageous, lacked courage to resolve. 
Seriously to regard Hume as an ontologist in either sphere, to stress 
the admission to which he can be forced, to exclude the quantitative 
ideas, or real causality, from a subjective origin in our consciousness, 
from an origin in the "fancy", in the "association", testifies to a 
misunderstanding of Hume s work. Hume is to be blamed for not 
having extended his subjective account of "philosophical relation" to 
cover the quantitative, as well as the qualitative, ideas. He is to 
be blamed for having attempted to make causality the working prin 
ciple of association, when he had already sought to account for our 
perception of causality by its means. The reader must recognize the 
exceptional nature of these hypostases, and return to his interpretation 
of Hume as the subjectivist. 

11. Hume s subordination of the Quantitative to the 

Qualitative Ideas implies that he does not consider them to be 

examples of analytical relation. 

Although Hume allows that the quantitative ideas may be 
productive of "certain" knowledge, he subordinates them to the 
qualitative ideas, which produce "probable" knowledge only. Know 
ledge, for Hume, is chiefly a question of complexity . He comes to 
regard all conscious apprehension beyond mere "sensation" as the 
recognition of a complex objectivity. This complexity is a compound 
of "ideas". The mind constructs complex ideas from simple ideas, 
by relating simple ideas to one another. "Knowledge", accordingly, 
consists in learning the "relations" of ideas. The prelude to knowledge 



41] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 339 

is a division of the kinds of relation which ideas can bear to one 
another. This division is made by classifying the "qualities native 
to ideas, which render them susceptible to "association". As all 
simple ideas -- Hume writes may be separated by the 
imagination, and may be united again in what form it 
pleases, nothing would be more unaccountable than 
the operations of that faculty, were it not guided by 
some universal principles, which render it in some 
measure uniform with itself in all times and places. 
Were ideas entirely loose and unconnected, chance 
alone wou d join them; and tis impossible the same 
simple ideas should fall regularly into complex ones 
(as they commonly do), without some bond of union 
among them, some associating quality, by which one 
idea naturally introduces another 1 ). This use of the word 
"quality" suggests that Hume considers that the justification of all 
possible complexity, or relation, of ideas, is to be found in the sphere 
of perception. The qualities, Hume writes, from which this 
association arises, and by which the mind is after this 
manner convey d from one idea to another, are three, 
viz Resemblance, Contiguity in time and place, and 
Cause and Effect 2 ). These three "qualities of association" are 
meant to include all possible relation of ideas, and to contain t 
explanation of all complexity. Hume is faithful to this classification. 
Writing very much later (in Part III), he says, The principles 
of union among ideas, I have reduced to three genera 
ones, and have asserted that the idea or impression, 
any object naturally introduces the idea of any other 
object that is resembling, contiguous to o r connected 



pare them 4 ). 

2) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 319. 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 319. Gr & Qr j p 322> 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, P- 393. 



340 C - V - Salmon, [42 

The quantitative ideas, those complex ideas which owe their 
relation to their common "quality 7 of quantity, appear as one of 
the seven kinds of qualities, which Hume enumerates: actually, 
(refer Part I. Sect. 5), as No. 4. All those objects, which 
admit of quantity , or number , may be compar d in that 
particular; which is another very fertile source of 
relation 1 ). 

This inclusion of the rational principle within the three general 
associative principles of the imagination, the description of the 
essence of the rational idea as a quality, and its derivation from 
a source apparently common to every branch of knowledge , whether 
"certain" or "probable" only, testifies not only to Hume s general 
disinclination to regard Logic as the foundation of Philosophy, but 
also to a special view concerning the nature of logical truth. It is 
Hume s conviction that even those ideas whose relations provide us 
with certain knowledge are not examples of analytic relation. This 
fact has often been disregarded by historians who have wished to 
endorse Kant s criticism of Hume. Ideas may be said to be related 
analytically to one another, when the related ideas stand to one 
another as predicate to subject, the predicate being contained in 
the subject, and bound to the subject in such a way, that the con 
ception of its not being contained in the subject, involves a violation 
of the principle of contradiction. But to this class of "relations of 
ideas", it is obvious that the Humeian relations do not belong. Re 
semblance, Contrareity, Degree and Quantity (see Part I. Sect. 5), 
may be considered as predicates of a subject, but they could by no 
means be said to inhere in their subjects in such a way, that their 
non-inherence would involve an contradiction. A relation of ideas 
can be a priori without being analytical , when their relation is such 
that it is given in the presentation of the two related ideas: such 
that when A. and B. are given, their relation, r, is necessarily given. 
It is to this class of a priori relation that the four Humeian relations 
belong 2 ). 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 323. 

2) This question of analytic relation has been concisely treated by 
A. Reinach, Kants Auf fassung des Humeischen Problems , Gesammelte Schriften, 
Halle a. S., 1921. 



43] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 341 



12. Brief statement of Hume s contradictory attitudes towards 

Causality. 

It is obvious that no statement of Hume s attitude towards cau 
sality can be complete, unless it follow, instead of preceding, Hume s 
final analysis of perception. No attempt can be made here to offer 
anything like an adequate account of Hume s treatment of causality, 
and this essay will not make it its business, even at its conclusion, 
to supply any such account. Hume s interpretation of causality has 
so often been considered as the pivot of his work, that no author 
need offer an apology for turning his attention to other matters in 
the Treatise. In so doing he is likely to escape many dangers of 
misinterpretation. For Hume himself did badly by causality, denying 
it, and making use of it, alternately. Whoever wishes, can find 
authority for regarding Hume as an empirical psychologist, or even 
as a species of physiologist. There is scarcely a moment, even in his 
purest introspective descriptions of the subjective phases of per 
ception, when Hume does not lay himself open to empirical mis 
interpretation by some unwarrantable allusion to an efficient cause. 
Hume was inconsequent enough to expound a most uncompromising 
solipsism on the one hand, and to declare, on the other, that the 
individual is an objective "bundle" of causally related "experiences". 
Nothing could be more surprising than such a change as this implies 
from the extreme of absolute subjectivism to absolute objectivism. The 
- -Tame antipathy separates Hume s description of "association" in terms 
of principles depending upon consciousness for their operation, from 
his frequent references to association as a "gentle force", a "kind 
/ of attraction", etc. This use of the causal principle to designate the 
nature of association is a misnomer, as Hume s own descriptions of 
it show. The field of this description is consciousness. The operation 
of the imagination is governed by laws of consciousness. Into con 
sciousness the "gentle force" enters without right. It is introduce 
through hypostasis to save the reality of the Person, which I 
throught he had impugned. The attempt weakens the . 
both of the objective and subjective world. 

But Hume is not to be restrained. In addition to many attempts 
to impose the law of real causality on to the activities of consciousn 
he made one notable attempt to impose the causal law on t 
relations of objects in an objective but non-real sphere I 
remarkable theory of contradiction Hume proposes to rest the pn 



342 C. V. Salmon, [44 

ciple of contradiction on a sensible uneasiness 1 ). This theory 
has received from T. H. Green as much notices as it deserves. 

Besides particular arguments, general passages are not wanting 
in the Treatise, where Hume s attitude towards philosophy has been 

vitiated by his notion of cause as no real objects are 

contrary, he writes in a discursion upon the "production of 
thought" - - I have inferred . . . . that to consider the 
matter a priori, anything may produce anything, and 
that we shall never discover a reason, why any object 
may or may not be the cause of any other, however 
great, or however little the resemblance may be 
betwixt them. This evidently destroys the precedent 
reasoning concerning the cause of thought or per 
ception (a reasoning that "motion" could not be the "cause" of 
"thought"). For though there appear no manner of con 
nexion betwixt motion or thought, the case is the 
jsame with all other causes and effects. Place one body 
of a pound weight upon one end of a lever, and another 
body of the same weight on another end; you will never 
find in these bodies any principle of motion depen 
dent on their distances from the center, more than of 
thought and perception. If you pretend therefore, to 
prove, a priori that such a position of bodies can never 
cause thought, because turn it which way you will, 
tis nothing but a position of bodies, you must by the 
same course of reasoning conclude, that it can never 
produce motion, since there is no more apparent con 
nexion in the one case than in the other .?.. you reason 
too hastily, when from the mere consideration of the 
ideas, you conclude that tis impossible motion can 
ever produce thought, or a different position of parts 
give riee to a different passion or reflexion. Nay, 
tis not only possible we may have such an experience, 
but tis certain we have it; since every one may per 
ceive, that the different dispositions of his body, 
change his thoughts and sentiments 2 ), finding up the 
matter, he writes . . . . it follows, that for ought we can 
.determine by the mere ideas, anything may be the 
cause of anything .... and as the constant conjunction 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 494. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 52930. 



45] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 343 

of objects constitutes the very essence of cause and 
effect, matter and motion may often be regarded as 
the causes of thought, as far as we have any notion of 
that, relation 1 ). But even this passage is not unqualified. Be 
ginning and ending on the theme, Anything may be the cause of 
anything, Hume plays ingeniously enough with the subjective and 
objective antithesis, and in the confusion is guilty of the suggestion 
of invalidating cause where it is valid, namely in the real world, and 
validating it, where it is invalid, namely in the psychical world. If 
any one tries to pin him to either of these assertions, he can wriggle 
out of it by quoting from the other. He has left himself room to 
claim that lie is referring only to a psycHo^physical parallellism, a 
cb*ntmgent relation, a "constant conjunction" between the disposition 
of our body and the disposition of our thoughts and sentiments. If, 
in the face of Hume s assertion that we have no further notion of 
the causal "relation" than permits us to see in the "constant con 
junction of objects" "the very essence of cause and effect", the 
empiricist finds in the statement that "matter and motion may be 
regarded as the causes of thought, as far as we have any notion of that 
relation", enough to support his empirical interpretation of Hume s 
treatment of consciousness, he is beyond the reach of argument. 

Hume s employment of the causal principle is too frequent and 
too varied to permit of more than partial vindication. Those who 
will view the Treatise as a handbook to empirical psychology can 
find what they want in Hume s hypostases. For the rest, if Hume be 
claimed to have accounted for association in causal terms, we are 
also justified in claiming that Hume wished to explain our conscious 
ness of causality in the terms of associative consciousness. Nor need 
we to lack for quotations: - Tis easy to observe, that in 
tracing this relation, the inference we draw from 
cause to effect, is not deriv d merely from a survey 
of these particular objects, and from such a penetra 
tion into their essences as may discover the depen 
dence of the one upon the other . . . . such an inference 
would amount to knowledge . . . . the necessary con 
nexion d e p e n d_s^jo n^t h e inference instead of the i n - 
fe r e n"c eTTe^elTd ing a "t h e It e c e s s a r y connexion 2 ). 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 532. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, PP . 388-89. 



344 C. V. Salmon, [46 

13. Hume s ultimate division of the powers of Consciousness 
into Reason, Sensation and Imagination, is latent in his treatment 

of Causality. 

One general faculty of consciousness emerges from Hume s treat 
ment of causality to include all the varieties of experience, excepting 
only that limited faculty of reasoning , or relation of ideas in the 
specific sense, which Hume allowed to be independent. Causality made 
its appearance as the third of the "philosophical", or "uncertain", 
"relations". In a moment of supreme significance it was given out as 
the ability of the mind to go beyond what is immediately present to 
the senses. The only connexion or relation of objects, 
Hume wrote, which can lead us beyond immediate im 
pressions of our memory and senses, is that of cause 
and effect 1 ). This "relation of objects" has just been described as 
an "inference". Tis .... by Experience only, that we can 
infer the existence of one object from that of another. 
The nature of experience is this. We remember to have 
had frequent instances of the existence of one species 
of objects; and also remember, that the individuals of 
another species of objects have always attended them, 
and have existed in a regular order of contiguity and 

succession with regard to them Without any 

farther ceremony we call the one cause and the other 
effect 2 ). The several faculties of consciousness are taken by Hume 
to originate in the different kinds of "relation of ideas" which create 
the only possible complexities in apprehended objects. (Refer sect 13.) 
All kinds of reasoning, he says, and means by "reasoning" 
no more here than the apprehension of objects in relation, consist 
in nothing but a comparison, and a discovery of those 
relations, either constant or inconstant, which two 
or more objects bear to each other. This comparison 
we may make, either when both the objects are pre 
sent to the senses, or when neither of them is present, 
or when only one 3 ). The last sentence needs only to be modified 
in one particular to provide a key to the whole Treatise, in the shape 
of a division of faculties which Hume carries into all his investiga 
tions. This modification is that Hume establishes it eventually, that 






1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 390. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 388. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 376. 



47] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 345 

a plurality of objects cannot be present to the senses at the same 
time. This modification made, the first state of consciousness ceases 
to be a "comparison", and becomes, to give it its final name, a Sen 
sation. The other two states of apprehension remain as processes. 
The "comparison" when "neither" of the objects is present to the 
senses, i. e. when no object is present to the senses, is Reasoning. 
The "comparison" when "one" object is present to the senses is 
Imagination, or, as Hume calls it here, the causal "inference", 
or, in another place, the "natural relation" 1 ). In this we presuppose 
Hume s analysis of the external perception. It will be established 
there, that whenever a plurality of objects seem to be present 
to the senses, i. e. in every case of external perception, the "natural 
relation" has already been at work, and imposed a complexity of 
imaginative ficta upon a simple sensation. In every perception both 
the sensation and the imagination have been at work. In the 
Humeian perception there is both an object "present to the sen 
ses", and a conclusion beyond the impressions of our 
senses . . . . founded only on the connexion of cause 
and effect 2 ), which is the work of the imagination. Re-inter 
preting Hume s "when both the objects are present to the senses", 
to include the causal "comparison", we get the name of that general 
faculty, which covers all the kinds of consciousness which the reason 
does not touch. When bjgJLk tlh A ob Jects are present to the 
8 *n se a along with the relation. Hume writes, we calLt h i s 
perception rather than reasoning 3 ) . ... But it happens 
that the actual word "perception" is required, and afterwards used, by 
Hume in a different, and important, sense. It is to be recommended, 
accordingly, that Hume s present use of it, to denote all that sphere 
of consciousness which falls not under the reason , be forgotten. It 
is undesirable in any case, that the various faculties on this side 
of abstraction, perception, memory, and the sensuous imagination, 
which share the common ground of direct foundation in sense- 
experience, should be so little distinguished from one another as to 
be grouped, without further differentiation, under one title. Hume 
would have avoided many difficulties concerning perception proper, 
had he been more particular about the varieties of sense-experience . 

1) Gr & Gr I, p. 394 . . . tho causation be a philosophical re 
lation, as implying contiguity, succession, & constant con- 
junction, yet tis only so far as it is a natural Delation .... e 

2)Gr.&Gr.I, P .376. 3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 376. 



346 G - V - Salmon. [48 

Apart from its present name, this homogeneity of the whole body 
of experience, (excepting only the limited reason , and its division 
into that part of it, which is presented to consciousness ready-made 
by sensation, and that part of it which is constructed by the imagi 
nation, and only afterwards presented ,) lasts through the Treatise, 
and is of paramount importance. It is to be regretted that in the 
/use of the term sensation, Hume makes no distinction between the 
faculty and its object, between the act of sensation and that which 
is felt in the sensation. When he comes to that element which is not 
presented ready-made to consciousness, but which the individual 
makes for himself, he does make use of the distinction. For in con 
trast to the creative process of imagination he sets the "fiction", 
which is that which the imagination creates. The meaning assigned 
to these words in conventional language must be forgotten. Humeian 
Sensation stands both for "what is immediately present to the 
senses", and for the apprehension of what is immediately present to 
the senses. Humeian Imagination stands for the power of con 
sciousness, to work upon "what is immediately present to the senses" , 
to create Fictions. Humeian fictions are the objects which the 
subject has constructed in consciousness for himself. When Hume 
calls the objects which we ordinarily perceive, "fictions", he is con 
fusing the reflective with the ordinary objective attitude of mind. 
Fictions are objects in perception, and are not identical with the 
objects o f perception, which are the realities in the real world. The 
introduction of this distinction can put Hume s scepticism to rights. 
Fictions are objects in consciousness. In the sphere of perception 
they are objects as they are perceived . They are objects , then, only 
in a specific sense. We do not perceive them at all, but become 
conscious of them for the first time, when we withdraw our attention 
from the objects of our ordinary consciousness, and use it in the 
introspective mode. The Humeian "imagination" is the means of 
consciousness. To the activity of this faculty in consciousness, and 
to the "fictions" which it constructs, the subject owes his conscious 
ness of the objects which he perceives. In a corrected version of the 
Humeian doctrine, fictions are the equivalent of Phenomena . 
Phenomena are objects as we perceive, remember, invent, abstract, 
intuite, prove, them etc. etc. and phenomena are the means of our 
consciousness of all objects. Phenomena are the residua of the Car 
tesian dubito, through which the intention of consciousness passes 
to objects themselves. 



49] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 347 

Chapter V. 
The History of the "Impression" and the "Idea". 

14. A caution concerning Hume s use of the Impression-Idea 

antithesis. 

In the light of the outline of Hume s general theory of the 
apprehensive consciousness, given in the preceding section, Hume s 
preliminary treatment of "impressions" and "ideas" requires some 
explanation. 

Hume starts his reader on an apparently fundamental antithesis 
between "impressions" and "ideas", where, claiming to emancipate 
himself from Locke s unitary conception of consciousness, (I make 
use of these terms, impression and idea, in a sense 
different from what is usual . . . . Perhaps I rather 
restore the word, idea, to its original sense, from 
which Mr. Locke had perverted it, in making it stand 
for all our perceptions 1 ), he seems to be returning to the 
ordinary, and presumably sound, distinction between perception on 
the one hand, and all the idealizing faculties on the other. Hume s 
opening sentences may seem radical, yet they do not seem to desert 
the common distinctions of thought. They seem meant rather to 
establish these common distinctions upon root principles. 

The reader has to open the book near its end to find the material 
from which the foregoing section has been taken. There he finds no 
comfortable, conventional division of faculties and objects, no 
impressions and ideas, but a conception of consciousness as a whole, 
where every variety of faculty seems merged under one supreme 
faculty, and every variety of objective is apparently obedient to one 
set of laws. He reads, in Part IV. Sect. VI, for example, about the 
uniting principles in the ideal world 2 ), and discovers, 
presently, that this "ideal world" and its principles, actually includes 
what is usually called the real world . In Part IV. Sect. IV, he reads 
about the Imagination, being the ultimate judge of all 
systems of philosophy 3 ). In Part IV. Sect. VII, he finds it 
asserted that the memory, senses, and understanding, 
are .... all of them founded on the Imagination 4 ). 
Returning thence, again, the reader must feel inclined to mistrust the 
conventional beginning of the opening sections, and suppose that 



1) Footnote to Gr. & Gr. I, p. 312. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 541. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 510. 4) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 545. 



348 C - V - Salmon, [50 

Hume s claim to forsake Locke s attitude is verbal rather than actual. 
Hume, indeed, is not less, but more, aware than Locke of the 
singleness of the genus which comprehends all conscious experiences. 
And if, with the impression-idea antithesis, he seems to divide the 
ground of human knowledge, it is in order that, by separating the kinds 
of our experiences, he may bring them together again, presently, the 
more effectually. In tracing the steps by which Hume converts his 
separation to consolidation, the express purpose for which it seemed 
that the impression-idea antithesis was set up, the derivation, namely, 
of our ideas from our impressions, altogether fails. As soon as the 
question of a possible derivation of ideas from impressions is raised, 
it is subordinated to another problem, that of the origin of the com 
plexity of our objective consciousness. And in the course of solving 
this second problem, Hume decides that the derivation of ideas 
from impressions is impossible. Having asserted, as the first step 
towards this, that our ideas and impressions are all resembling, he 

sees that he has already gone too far Ifindlhavebeen 

carried away too far by the first appearance, and that 
I must make use of the distinction of perceptions into 
simple and complex, to limit this general decision, 
that all our ideas and impressions are resembling 1 ). It 
is in this problem of the complexity of our experiences, qualified by 
Hume s failure to distinguish between impressions and ideas in 
anything more essential than the quality of their subjective vivacity, 
that the faculty of the imagination comes to play its first part in the 
Humeian doctrine of consciousness. A genuine understanding of the 
Treatise depends upon a critical reading of the early sections. For the 
true factors involved in Hume s interpretation of consciousness do not 
appear, except in disguise, until the later portions of the work. The 
three-fold division of consciousness is stated for the first time in 
Part. IV. Sect. II. Occupied, there, with the enquiry concerning 
the causes which induce us to believe in the existence 
of body 2 ), Hume proposes to consider, whether it be the 
senses, reason, or the imagination, that produces the 
opinion of a continu d or of a distinct existence 3 ). The 
senses, reason, and imagination, are Hume s ultimate and 
inclusive division of the powers of consciousness. They must be 
learned as an introduction to the Treatise, and kept in mind 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 312313. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 478. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 479. 



51] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 349 

throughout its length. For only under these three headings do 
Hume s various contributions to epistemology marshall themselves 
into conformity. It is to be regretted that Hume never offers anything 
like a definition or summary of the scope of these faculties. The fault 
is due largely to the fact that Hume started with no clear notion of 
their scope. He only came to determine it gradually as he set their 
several claims in opposition to one another. But his separation of 
the simple and complex objectivities provides a useful means of diffe 
rentiation. Simplicity becomes the only existential reality. Simplicity 
is sensation itself, the actuality of sensation, and of that which is felt 
in sensation. Complexity is split up into two. One of its departments, 
that namely of quantity, is handed over to the reason. Objects which 
are complex by being the product of quantitative relation are ideas 
intuited by the reason. The rest of complexity is assigned to the 
imagination. All objects which are complex through any non-quanti 
tative relation owe their complexity to the imagination. The 
"demonstrative" inference is accountable for all rational complexity, 
and the "natural" inference for all non-rational complexity. 

The confines of the reason are quickly drawn. The limits of the 
imagination and the senses are drawn much more slowly. They are 
elaborated bit by bit, with frequent modifications, in the course of 
Hume s analysis of external perception. But the faculty of imagination 
appears already as a vague power, and not easily discernible, in 
Hume s first antithesis of impressions and ideas. The faculty of the 
senses is introduced when this antithesis has been finally dissolved. 
Only one fragment of what was the impression, sensation namely, 
then remains unabsorbed by the idea. 

15. Hume s Impression-Idea antithesis. 

All the perceptions of the human mind resolve 
themselves into two distinct kinds, which I shall call 
Impressions and Ideas 1 ). Hume proceeds quickly to a most 
confusing and varying use of each of these. He gives no definition of 
either of them, but only such a general description of each, as leaves 
their differences comparative, and permits of their being inter 
changed and reconciled in case of need. Thedifferencebetwixt 
these, he writes, consists in the degrees of force and 
liveliness, with which they strike upon the mind, and 
make their way into our thoughts and consciousness ). 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 311. 2) Gr. & Gr I, p. 311. 



350 C. V. Salmon, [52 

Already there is much ambiguity. It is not clear whether Hume is talking 
of objects or of experiences. His use of the word "perception", and 
his phrase "striking upon the mind", would seem to refer to objects; 
but the difference "in the degrees of force and liveliness" which is 
given as their distinguishing mark, seems only capable of qualifying 
experiences. This latter opinion seems to be confirmed by other 
passages. I believe it will not be very necessary, Hume says, 
tc employ many words in explaining this distinction. 
Every one of himself will readily perceive the diffe 
rence betwixt feeling and thinking 1 ). "Feeling" and 
"thinking" are certainly experiences, not objects. As far as the im 
pressions are concerned, there would seem to be no further possibility 
of doubt, for we read this: - Those perceptions, which 
enter with most force and violence we may name im 
pressions^ and under this name comprehend all our 
sensations, passions and emotions, as they make their 
first appearance in the soul 2 ). We must be meant to under 
stand that those particular "perceptions" called "impressions" are 
the "sensations, passions and emotions" themselves. These "sen 
sations, passions and emotions" need not necessarily be regarded as 
real , they may be regarded as psychical , but it would seem quite 
certain that they cannot be anything except experiences. Moreover 
when Hume repeats this division of perceptions in Part III. Sect. VII, 
he seems to have experiences in mind. All the perceptions of 
the mind, he writes, are of two kinds, viz. impressions 
and ideas, which differ from each other only in their 
different degrees of force and vivacity 3 ). This passage 
is afterward modified, in an Appendix to Volume III of the original 
edition of 1740. But the modification seems to confirm this opinion, 
and to extend it beyond impressions to ideas. When I say, Hume 
writes, that two ideas of the same object can only be 
different in their different degrees of force and 
vivacity, I believe there are other differences among 
ideas, which cannot properly be apprehended under 
these terms. Had I said that two ideas of the same ob 
ject can only be different by their different feeling, 
I should have been nearer the truth 4 ). 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 311. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 311. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 396. 4) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 560. 



53] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



351 



As against this view, however, we find an explicit denial of the 
interpretation of the impression as experience. Hume writes, By 
the term of impression I would not be understood to 
express the manner in which our lively perceptions 
are produced in the soul, but before the reader has time to 
conclude that, after all, Hume must be speaking of the objects of ex 
perience, and not of the experiences themselves, Hume adds this diffi 
cult sentence, but merely the perceptions themselves, 
for which there is no particular name either in the 
English or any other language that I know of 1 ). But had 
not Locke provided a precedent for the use of the word "idea"? 
Hume would seem to establish it, that impressions are neither ex 
periences of objects, nor objects of experiences, for there is 
certainly no shortage of names for these in any language. What can 
he signify by the "perceptions themselves"? The question cannot be 
answered yet. Suffice it that the reader carry it in his mind, to ask 
again, and answer presently. This much can be deduced from Hume s 
vacillation. He was fully aware of the dual element in the concrete 
experience, of the object of the experience, and of the experience 
of the object, and willingly or unwillingly he embodied something of 
this differentiation in each of his two terms. He never used them, 
even on their first appearance, on a common level. Taking them 
together it is vain trying to decide what part of conscious experience 
Hume meant by them, for he meant a different part by each. But 
ostensibly they are to signify the same. They are introduced as of 
one kind, differing from one another only in degree. The diffe 
rence .... consists in the degrees of force and live 
liness with which they strike upon the mind 2 ). But in 
effect Hume distinguishes in kind between them from the first. He uses 
the term impression to refer to an experience-element, and the idea 
to refer to an object-element. He helps himself with the conventional 
meaning of the words. When these words are used in the common 
sense, it is obvious that "impression" carries with it a reference to 
an object - - I am impressed by an object; while "idea" is itself 
meant for an object, for Svhat I think, or dream, or fancy etc. 
The reader is as apt as Hume himself to be influenced by this ordi 
nary meaning of the words, and to attribute to them each a different 
sense. He is puzzled by Hume s introducing them as if they were two 
varieties of objectifying experience. The fact is that, knowing 



1) Gr. & Gr. I. Footnote to p. 312. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 311. 



352 C. V. Salmon, [54 

that two elements are necessary to conscious experience, and that 
each of them is strictly complementary to the other, Hume makes 
them falsely independent and introduces them artificially, as if they 
were two discrete varieties of conscious experience, in order that he 
may show that each one taken separately must include the other. The 
impression and the idea are introduced, both of them, as "percep 
tions". But before long the impression and the idea have been shown 
to be the two elements in one perception. As the Treatise proceeds, 
the impression assumes to itself more and more of the meaning and 
function of experience of object, and the idea more and more of 
the meaning and property of object of experience. It is thus Hume 
finds the means to ascend into the subjective realm, and also to 
descend, by a variety of false deductions, into scepticism. And in this 
progress also the conventional meaning of the words helps Hume to his 
conclusions. "Impression" carries something of the significance of 
the word "sensation", and "idea" something of the significance of the 
word "fiction". 



16. The variety of functions actually attributed to the 
Impression and the Idea. 

The stages are curious by which impressions and ideas pass, 
from being offered as two varieties of objectifying conscious ex 
perience, to being offered as complementary elements in one ex 
perience. Although, when they are once fairly included within the 
unity of perception, the impression absorbs almost all the functions 
of experience of object, and the idea almost all those of object of 
experience (the almost represents Hume s failure to separate them 
clearly, and not any lack of wanting to do so), the allotment of 
function to each seems, in the early stages of their differentiation, 
to be driving in an opposite direction. The impression seems to be 
going to stand for object of experience, and the idea for the ex 
perience of object. This, again, is, no doubt, partly due to an every 
day use of the word "idea". The word "idea" bears a certain signi- 
fiance of emptiness . Compared to a real object, a chair itself, for 
instance, an idea of a chair seems rather empty , as if the idea could 
be assumed to be identical with my perceptive experience if the real 
object were removed. Hume is satisfied to let this natural, though 
fallacious, notion of the idea, play its part. It is the first sign he 
gives of the sceptical road he is going to take. By ideas, he 
says, I mean the faint images of these (i. e. impressions), 



55) The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 353 

in thinking and reasoning 1 ). Again, We find by ex 
perience, he writes, that when any impression has been 
present with the mind, it again makes its appearance 
there as an idea, and this it may do after two different 
ways: either when in its new appearance it retains a 
considerable degree of its first vivacity, and is some 
what intermediate betwixt an impression and an idea; 
or when it entirely loses that vivacity, and is a perfect 
idea. The faculty, by which we repeat our impressions 
in the first manner, is called the Memory, and the 
other the Imagination 2 ). And again, talking of impressions 
and ideas, he says, The one seem to be in a manner the re- 
flexionoftheother....When!shutmyeyesandthink 
of my chamber, the ideas I form are exact represen 
tations of the impressions I felt; nor is there any cir 
cumstance of the one, which is not to be found in the 
other 3 ). No circumstance, the reader is inclined to conclude, except 
that in the one case there is assumed to be an object beyond the 
experience, and in the other no object. The conclusion is false. The 
j remembered object is just as much an object beyond the imagination, 
I as the real object is beyond the experience of perception. The latter is 
a physical object, the former are ideal objects, but no more capable than 
the physical object of being absorbed into the experience itself. If Hume 
had recognized the objectivity of ideal objects, he could hardly have 
become a sceptic. For by changing one kind of existence for another, 
by calling the real world an hallucination, he did not escape the 
difficulty of accounting for our belief in the world s independent 
existence, but only added to his task the extra difficulty of explaining 
the nature of our consciousness of reality in terms of our con 
sciousness of the phantastical. Meanwhile, by playing with the divi 
sion of elements in conscious experience, and assigning the object- 
element for a moment to the impression, and the experience-element 
to the idea, he serves to make the transition to the exact opposite a 
little easier, as a pendulum swings back more easily in reaction. But, 
even at the beginning, indications are not wanting of the way affairs 
will march. Much can be anticipated in the following! Everyone 
of himself will readily perceive the difference betwixt 
feeling and thinking. The common degrees of these 
are easily distinguished; tho it is not impossible but 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 311. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 317. 3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 312. 

Husserl, Jahrbuch f. Philosophic. X. 5 



354 C - V Salmon, [56 

in particular instances they may very nearly approach 
to each other. Thus in sleep, in a fever, in madness, 
or in any very violent emotions of soul, our ideas may 
approach to our impressions: as on the other hand, it 
sometimes happens, that our impressions are so faint 
and low, that we cannot distinguish them from our 
ideas 1 ). As soon as Hume turns his attention to the impression, 
the balance of meaning swings the opposite way. The impression 
becomes the experience itself, the idea the object of the experience. 
This does not happen all at once, but demands most of the space of 
the Treatise for its completion. Analysing the impression, Hume finds 
that the object of the experience does not coincide with the 
object as it is experienced. Seeking to interpret this on 
what he conceives to be the ultimate and irrefutable basis of tem 
poral reality, he concludes that the object as it is experienced 
is identical with the temporal experience, i. e. sensation. This he 
calls the impression. He concludes that the object of the ex 
perience is not a temporal reality at all, but a "fiction", which he 
calls the idea. In the process of this argument, the Humeian idea 
has become what Locke liked to call an "object", and the Humeian 
impression, although it ends as an actual sensation, has passed 
through a stage of being very like what Locke called an "idea". This 
it did while it was an act of the imagination. Passages can be found 
where the development of impressions and ideas are at midway. Both 
the object-element and the experience-element of the conscious ex 
perience are there combined, and possessed in half measure both by 
the impression and the idea. In Part III. Sect. VI, where Hume is 
expounding the causal principle as an "inference", the concrete ob 
ject of the experience seems to be compounded of impression and 
idea, to be made of a mixture of both, half-real and half-fictitious. 
Witness such a sentence as the following: Had ideas no more 
union in the fancy than objects seem to have to the 
understanding, we cou d never ... repose belief in any 
matter of fact 2 ). Part. III. Sects. VII and VIII present a similar 
view of the process in transit. In these Hume actually describes 
belief as an idea conjoined to an impression. The idea of an 
object, he says is an essential part of the belief 
of it . . . . 8 ). But the stages are seldom clearly marked. 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 31112. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 393. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 394. 



57 1 The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



355 



17. Serving to connect Part I. Sect. Ill in the Treatise, with 
Part I. Sect. IV. What resulted from Hume s proposal to derive 

the Idea from the Impression. 

Locke s tabula rasa theory, and Hume s attempt to derive our 
"ideas" from our "impressions", are both versions of the old Aristo 
telian contention, Principium nostrae cogitationis est a sensu. Although 
Hume did not share Locke s interest in the problem of innate ideas, 
he sympathised with Locke s conception of the priority of the sense 
perception above the other faculties of consciousness. Having divided 
the "perceptions" of the human mind into impressions and ideas, 
Hume notices a resemblance between them. The first circum 
stance that strikes my eye, he writes, is the great resem 
blance betwixt our impressions and ideas in every 
other particular, except their degree of force and 
vivacity. The one seem to be in a manner the reflexion 
of the other; so that all the perceptions of the mind 
are double, and appear both as impressions and ideas. 
. . . . Ideas and impressions appear always to cor 
respond to each other 1 ). But this universal resemblance is 
quickly modified. Upon a more accurate survey I find, 
Hume writes, I have been carried away too far by the first 
appearance, and that I must make use of the distinc 
tion of perceptions into simple and complex, to limit 
this general decision, that all our impressions and 
ideas are resembling 2 ). The resemblance between complex 
impressions and ideas is partial. But in the case of the "simple" 
perceptions, he finds that the resemblance is both exact and universal. 
After the most accurate examination, he writes, of which 
I am capable, I venture to affirm, that the rule here 
holds without any exception, and that every simple 
idea has a simple impression, which resembles it, and 
every simple impression a correspondent idea 3 ). That 
I may know on which side this dependence lies, Hume 
continues, I consider the order of their fir st ap pear ance ; 
and find by constant experience, that the simple 
impressions always take the precedence of their corre 
spondent ideas, but never appear in the contrary 
order 4 ) . . . . all our simple ideas in their first appe- 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 312. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 313. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 313. 4) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 314. 

5* 



356 C. V. Salmon [58 

a ranee, he concludes, are deriv d from simple impres 
sions, which are correspondent to them, and which 
they exactly represent 1 ). It remains for Hume to account for 
those of the complex ideas which have no correspondence with 
impressions. We find by experience, he writes, that when 
any impression has been present with the mind, it 
again makes its appearance there as an idea; and this 
it may do after two different ways: either when in its 
new appearance it retains a considerable degree of its 
first vivacity, and is somewhat intermediate betwixt 
an impression and an idea; or when it entirely loses 
that vivacity, and is a perfect idea. The faculty by 
which we repeat our impressions in the first manner, 
is called the Memory, and the other the Imagination*). 
In addition to the difference in degree of vivacity, Hume finds another 

difference between the memory and the imagination the 

memory preserves the original form, in which its 
objects were presented 3 ), but the imagination is at liberty to 

transpose and change its ideas 4 ) the imagination, 

he writes, is not restrained to the same order and form 
with the original impressions, while the memory is in 
a manner ty d down in that respect, without any power 
of variation 6 ). Tis evident, he writes, that the memory 
preserves the original form, in which its objects were 
presented, and that where-ever we depart from it in 
recollecting anything, it proceeds from some defect 
or imperfection in that faculty 6 ). But, concerning the 
imagination, the fables we meet with in poems and 
romances puts this entirely out of the question. Nature 
there is totally confounded, and nothing mentioned 
but wing d horses, fiery dragons, and monstrous giants. 
Nor will this liberty of the fancy appear strange, when 
we consider, that all our ideas are copy d from our 
impressions, and that there are not any two impres- 
sionswhichareperfectlyinseparable. Nottomention, 
that this is an evident consequence of the division of 
ideas into simple and complex. Where-ever the ima 
gination perceives a difference among ideas, it can 



1 ) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 314. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 317. 3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 318. 

4) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 318. 5) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 318. 6) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 318. 



59] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 357 

easily produce a separation 1 ). But this is the last that is heard 
of the special problem of the complex ideas, for, in the next moment, 
it is merged in a larger problem, which lasts to the end of the first 
Book of the Treatise. Hume says no word concerning his transition. 
Between the sentence last quoted and the one that follows it there is 
apparently no break. As all simple ideas may be separated 
by the imagination, Hume writes at the beginning of Sect. IV., 
and may be united in what form it pleases, nothing 
wou d be more unaccountable than the operations of 
that faculty, were it not guided by some universal 
principles, which render it in some measure, uniform 
with itself in all times and places 2 ). In reality, in the empty 
space between the two sections, the problem has been changed. Hume 
is still concerned with complexity, but no longer with the com 
plexity of ideas. Hume is concerned now with the complexity of 
"impressions". His lack of definition is deliberate. Now, for the first 
time, his confusion of the impression with the idea is explicable. 
In Section III impressions and ideas carry the sense which they were 
given at their introduction. ("Those perceptions, which enter with 
most force and violence, we may name impressions." "By ideas I 
mean the faint images of these in thinking and reasoning.") Each of 
them is supposed to stand for a concrete, objectifying experience of a 
different kind. But in Section IV, impressions and ideas have already 
been bound into homogeneity. They are complementary elements 
within the unity of one experience. When Hume says "as all simple 
ideas may be separated by the imagination, and may be united in what 
form it pleases", he means by ideas no independent entities, but "per 
ceptions", i. e. that part of the perceived object which the imagination 
contributes in a perception experience, which is the whole of it that 
is not "sensation". 

If Hume had wished his present terminology to be identical 
with his former, he would have given the title of Section IV, as "Of 
connexion or association in impressions". But being arrived at the 
conviction that an impression in the original sense contains an 
idea, or in later language, that a perception is composed of an 
impression and ideas, he calls his section, Of the Connexion or 
Association of Ideas 3 ), and means "Of the connexion or asso 
ciation of ideas on to an impression in concrete perception". His 
problem is still a problem of accounting for complexity, but the com- 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 318-19. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 319. 3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 319. 



358 C - V - Salmon, [60 

plexity not of ideas in the old sense, but of impressions. Impressions, 
in the old sense, stood for perceptions. Hume s present problem is 
to account for the complexity of our perceptions. It occupies him 
to the end of the Book. The problem arose for him because of his 
notion that sensation was essentially simple . The imagination with 
its power of "association of ideas", is introduced to add complexity 
to the original simplicity of sensation, and convert our experience 
into perception proper. 

Hume s transition from the problem of accounting for the com 
plexity of ideas, to that of accounting for the complexity of 
impressions, was facilitated by the interdependency he had already 
tried to establish between impressions and ideas. But it was 
necessitated by the partial answer which he had given to the former 
problem. "Where-ever the mind perceives a difference among ideas, 
he had said, in order to account for those complex ideas which 
were not copied from impressions, --it can easily produce a sepa 
ration." It is to be presumed that the mind can only perceive a 
difference in ideas which are complex. It follows that those complex 
ideas, which are not copied from impressions, are created out of the 
complexity of ideas which are copied from impressions. But those 
complex ideas which are copies of impressions have been denned as 
differing properly in no respect but degree of vivacity from the 
impressions from which they have been copied. Complex ideas which 
are copies of impressions are the ideas of memory. " Tis evident", 
Hume said, "that the memory preserves the original form, in which 
its objects were presented, and that where-ever we depart from it in 
recollecting any thing, it preceeds from some defect or imperfection 
in that faculty." Since, then, the faculty of memory is liable 
to "imperfection", and since, even at its best, its presentations are 
less "vivacious" than the impressions which it copies, it were best 
that the complex impressions themselves, and not the complex ideas, 
were studied, as providing the compound material from which, 
by analysis and re-construction, the imagination creates its 
unprecedented, new, complex ideas. This is what Hume conceives. 
Instead of watching how the imagination dissects memories, to create 
from the components of these, new additions, "wing-d horses, fiery 
dragons, and monstrous giants", he will watch how the imagination 
dissects impressions. But as soon as he begins to consider complex 
impressions, he finds that the imagination can only dissect their com 
plexity because it has already constructed it. Before Hume can 
explain the operations of the imagination in creating "fables", he 



61] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



359 



must explain its operations in creating "realities". The latter task 
absorbs him. Without any mention of the fact, Hume passes from a 
proposal to watch the imagination at work in the construction of 
ideas, to an actual contemplation of it at work in the construction 
of impressions. Or, using his newer terminology, having divided the 
concrete perception, into a. impressions of the senses, and b. ideas 
of the imagination, he will watch the "connexion", or "association" 
of the ideas in their relation to the impressions . Gradually the 
ideas of the imagination will acquire, and the impressions of the 
senses will relinquish, the greater part of the concrete perception. 
As it assumes its new role, the imagination changes its cha 
racter. It is no longer the poetic fancy. It becomes the genetic 
faculty in all consciousness. . . . I must distinguish in the 
imagination, Hume writes near the conclusion of his first Book, 
betwixt the principles which are permanent, irre 
sistible and universal .... and the principles, which 
are changeable, weak and irregular .... The former 
are the foundation of all our thoughts and actions, 
so that upon their removal human nature must im 
mediately perish and go to ruin 1 ). 

Chapter VI. 

An Estimate of the Scepticism to which Hume is led 
by his misconception of the Subject-Object relation. 

18. General estimate of Hume s conception of the Subject- 
Object relation. 

Hume s discovery, that the perceived object does not coincide 
with the object-as-it-is-perceived, was a version of the Cartesian 
dubito, and provided him with his chief means of ascent into the 
subjective sphere. But unfortunately he tried to carry the perceived 
object with him into this sphere, and when it would not come with 
him, he conceived himself obliged to disown it. For the sake of the 
object-as-it-is-perceived he denied the perceived object altogether. 
For all we know, he argued, there is no object beyond the object-as- 
it-is-perceived. 

Hume passed from the true premise, that the object of our per 
ception is not the object as we perceive it, to the false conclusion, 
that the object-as-it-is-perceived is the object of our perception. He 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 51011. 



360 C. V. Salmon, [62 

passed from the true premise, that the object of our perception is 
not our perception of the object, to the false conclusion, that our 
perception of the object is the object of our perception. 

Hume did not drive his distinction far enough. He tried to 
make two distinctions do the work of four. He wanted to make the 
distinction between object-element and experience-element synony 
mous with the wider distinction between objective and subjective. 
Here he fell, as many have fallen since, into hypostasis. The distinc 
tion between object and subject originates on the subjective side, for 
it is made in consciousness. But it is an ultimate distinction. It 
brings about a division of highest genus 1 ), so that, once created, the 
terms of the division must be taken to stand in an absolute antipathy. 
Each term, therefore, is capable of supporting within itself a subject- 
object distinction of a subsidiary kind. Just as the subjective must 
include an objective - - for there can be no such thing as a sub 
jective which does not imply some reference to an object - so 
the objective must be capable of including or expressing a sub 
jective -- for every objective inplies a subject which made it. 

To illustrate this in the matter of the perception. The per 
ception can be regarded 1. objectively. But within that highest 
genus, the perception can be divided again, into (a), an experience, 
and (b), an object. A. observing B. perceive X. must distinguish 
between (a) B s perception of X., which is B s real psychological 
experience, and (b) the X. perceived by B., which is some reality in 
the world. But both the perception and the object are objective . 

The perception can also be regarded 2. subjectively. But 
within this highest genus, the perception can be divided again into 
(a), an experience, and (b), an object. A. observing his own per 
ception under an introspection, must distinguish between (a) his 
perception of the object, Noesis (v6?]6ic). and (b), the object as he 
perceives it, Noema (vor] t ua) 2 ). 

But Hume did not pursue his distinctions far enough. Crossing 
over from one genus to another, from objective to subjective, and 
from subjective to objective, without due precaution, he was at equal 
loss in both. Considering that the objective could properly contain 
no subjective species within its own genus, and the subjective genus 
no objective species, he sought, desperately, to solve the matter with 

1) The expression is used in the Phenomenological Sense. See Husserl, Ideen. 
Bk. I, Part I, Ch. I, 12: Gattung und Art. 

2) Noesis & Noema. The terms are in common use by Phenomenologists. See 
Husserl, Jdeen. Bk. I, Part III, Ch. 3, 87 et scrj. 



63] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



361 



a paradox, and asserted it was his final position that there was 
no object in the objective sphere, but only a subject, and in the 
subjective sphere, no subject, but only an object. The first half of 
the assertion amounted to the total denial of the existence of the 
real world, the second half to the "bundle of experiences" account of 
the individual. 

In the end, in spite of all his efforts, Hume fails to account for 
the relation of the subject to his objective worlds. By proposing to 
derive the objectivity of the various spheres of the individual s con 
sciousness from the one sphere of perception, he places all his for 
tunes on his analysis of perception. Here he comes near to his goal. 
He finds a Phenomenon , but because he does not know its intentional 
character, he disowns it, and converts it into an "image" in a re 
presentative theory. Then do what he will he cannot bridge the gap 
between consciousness and its objective. If the subject can be shown 
to create its own consciousness of reality, why should it be supposed 
that that reality exists? But if reality does not exist, how can a sub 
ject be conscious of it? Hume cannot frame an answer. Yet he had 
almost put the means of answering it in his own mouth. When he 
incorporated the impression and the idea within the unity of one 
perception experience, he was on the way to succeed. For there 
within the subjective sphere, he seemed to have enclosed the sub 
ject-object relation. He could have made the impression, Noesis, and 
the idea, Noema. Instead of this, he made the idea, an "image", and 
the impression, a real sensation, and his last chance was gone. 

Towards the end of Part IV of Book I, it is noticeable that 
Hume ceases to talk exclusively of "perceptions". He reverts, par 
ticularly in his Appendices, to his original terminology. He goes back 
to his old impression-idea antithesis. He employs the word "per 
ception", but he uses it now to mean "impression". He takes refuge 
once more in the fable of the temporal origin of our "ideas". All 
ideas he says -- are borrow d from preceding per 
ceptions. It is his confession that he has failed. 

19. Hume s Scepticism , harmless when it is absolute, false 
when it is partial. Hume s Comparative Subjectivism, cocerning 

A. the Objective World of Reality. 

N. Kemp Smith has devoted two articles in "Mind" 1 ) to vin 
dicating Hume from any superficial charge of scepticism. His defence 

1) Refer N. K. Smith: The Naturalism of Hume. Mind. 1905. 



362 C - V - Salmon, [64 

is based upon the deference Hume shows to his "natural beliefs". 
There is a great difference Hume says betwixt such 
opinions as we form after a calm and profound re 
flection, and such as we embrace by a kind of instinct 
or natural impulse, on account of their suitableness 
and conformity to the mind. If these opinions become 
contrary, tis not difficult to foresee which of them 
will have the advantage. As long as our attention is 
bent upon the subject, the philosophical and studied 
principle may prevail; but the moment we relax our 
thoughts, Nature will display herself, and draw us 
back to our former opinion. Nay she has sometimes 
such an influence, that she can stop our progress, even 
in the midst of our most pro found reflections, and keep 
us from running on with all the consequences of any 

philosophical opinion I take it for granted, 

whatever may be the reader s opinion at this present 
moment, that an hour hence he will be persuaded there 
is both an external and internal world *). Whether, or not, 
this division of the human powers against themselves is to be called 
sceptical , it is certainly characteristic of Hume. When we trace 
up the human understanding to its first principles, he 
writes, we find it to lead us into such sentiments, as seem 
to turn into ridicule all our past pains and industry and 
to discourage us from future enquiries 2 ). I have 
already shewn, he says elsewhere, that the understanding 
when it acts alone, and according to its most general 
principles, generally subverts itself, and leaves not 
the lowest degree of evidence in any proposition, 
either in philosophy or common life 3 ). He speaks with 
assurance of a sceptical doubt, which, both with respect to 
reason and the senses, is a malady, which can never 
be radically cured, but must return upon us every mo 
ment, however we may chace it away and sometimes 
may seem entirely free of it. Tis impossible, he adds, 
upon any system to defend either our understanding 
or our senses; and we but expose them farther when 
we endeavour to justify them in that manner . . . . 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 505. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 546. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 547. 



65) The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



363 



Carelesness and inattention alone can afford us any 
remedy 1 ). How then shall we adjust these principles 
together? he writes, Which of them shall we prefer? Or 
in case we prefer neither of them, but successively 
assent to both, as is usual among philosophers, with 
what confidence can we afterwards usurp that 
glorious title, when we thus knowingly embrace a 
manifest contradiction 2 )? And later, The intense view 
of these manifold contradictions and imperfections 
in human reason, has so wrought upon me, and heated 
my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and 
reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more 
probableormorelikelythananother 3 ). 

This opposing of the general faculties of man is a strange 
practice for a philosopher. But it can be converted into a position 
which aids, rather than hinders, Hume in his Subjectivism. It can be 
taken, (or could be taken, for Hume hardly takes it so,) as an expres 
sion of the differences which separate the Introspective from the 
Natural attitude. Hume s compromise, Where reason is 

lively, and mixes itself with some propensity, it ought 
to be assented to 4 ), until, nature herself . . . . cures me 
of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either 
by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation and 
lively impressions of my senses., which obliterate all 
thesechimeras 6 ) needs but to be purged of the real hypostasis, 
to be turned, from representing two antagonistic, to representing 
two complementary, states of mind. The conception of causality will 
then no longer relate the two, and the worlds, proper to the different 
phases no longer vie with one another, but be reconciled within one 
complete unity. 

Unfortunately, this nai f and original notion of the professions 
of the philosopher in meditation, and the philosopher turned prac 
tical in daily life, does not exhaust Hume s sceptical theories. There 
is a set of arguments scattered about the Treatise, where Hume falls 
into comparative subjectivism , and expounds, a vulgar and unworthy 
scepticism. These arguments originate in a misinterpretation of the 
distinction between the Primary and Secondary qualities in the 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 505. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 546. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 548. 4) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 550. 

5) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 548. 



364 C. V. Salmon, [66 

objective world of reality, and consist A. in a sceptical theory concer 
ning the external world, and B. the worst portion of the Treatise 
in a sceptical theory concerning consciousness. 

A. Hume s Scepticism concerning reality. We may observe, 
Hume writes, that there are three different kinds of 
impressions convey d by the senses. The first are those 
of the figure, bulk, motion and solidity of bodies. The 
second, those of colours, tastes, smells, sounds, heat 
and cold. The third are the pains and pleasures, that 
arise from the application of objects to our bodies, as 
by the cutting of our flesh with steel and such like . . . - 1 ). 
Of these he says, Sounds, and tastes and smells, tho com 
monly regarded by the mind as contin u d independent 
qualities, appear not to have any existence in exten 
sion, and cannot consequently appear to the senses as 
situated externally to the body 2 ). It is of this illusion that 
the fig is offered, afterwards, as an example. . . . whatever confus d 
notions we may form of an union in place betwixt an 
extended body, as a fig, and its particular taste, tis 
certain that upon reflection we must observe in this 
union something altogether unintelligible and con 
tradictory. For shou d we ask ourselves one question, 
viz. if the taste which we conceive to be contain d in 
the circumference of the body, is in every part of it or 
in one only, we must quickly find ourselves at a loss, 
and perceive the impossibility of ever giving a satis 
factory answer. We cannot reply, that tis only in one 
part: for experience convinces us that every part has 
the same relish. We can as little reply that it exists in 
every part: for then we must suppose it figur d and 
extended; which is absurd and incomprehensible. . . . 
we use in our most familiar way of thinking, that scho 
lastic principle .... of totum in toto et totum in 
qualibet parte: Which is much the same, as if we 
shou d say, that a. thing is in a certain place, and yet 
is not there 8 ). 

Hume had no right to use the distinction between the primary 
and secondary qualities to deny an existence to the latter, which he 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 482. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 481. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 5212. 



67] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 355 

was prepared to allow to the former; for Berkeley had established 
their equality in the matter of existence. If an opinion was scep 
tical concerning the existence of the secondary, it must be sceptical 
also concerning the existence of the primary. There was nothing 
new in the form of Hume s argument. It is unsatisfactory. His use 
of the word "appearance" is ambiguous. "Sounds, and tastes, and 
smells, he says, appear not to have any existence in extension, and 
cannot consequently appear to the senses as situated externally to 
the body". The argument is circular. These qualities appear not, they 
cannot consequently appear; for appearance can only be appearance 
to the senses. What Hume applies to "sounds, tastes and smells" he 
applies also to "colours, sounds, heat and cold". Speaking of the 
"three different kinds of impressions" above given, Hume writes, 
Both philosophers and the vulgar suppose the first of 
those to have a distinct, continu d existence. The 
vulgar only regard the second as on the same footing. 
Both philosophers and the vulgar, again, esteem the 

third to bemerelyperceptions *). The fact is, that Hume 

is aware of the invalidity of his arguments. Before he has done, he 
extends his judgment to include the primary with the secondary 
qualities in his denial . . . . Tis evident, he says, that.... 
colours, sounds, heat and cold, as far as appears to the 
senses, exist after the same manner with motion and 
solidity .... Tis also evident, that colours, sounds 
etc. are originally on the same footing with the pain 
that arises from steel, and pleasure that proceeds from 
a fire; and that the difference betwixt them is founded 
neither on perception, nor reason, but on the imagi 
nation 2 ). (The word "imagination" is used here in a conventional 
sense). If colours, sounds, tastes and smells, be merely 
perceptions, is Hume s conclusion, nothing we can conceive 
is possest of a real, continu d, and independent exis 
tence, no t even motion, extension and solidity, which 
are the primary qualities chiefly insisted on 8 ). If Hume 
realized that the primary and secondary qualities must be treated 
upon the same level of existence, he must have had some reason 
for allowing himself to treat them differently, before he 
them alike. 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 482. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 482. 

3) Gr. & Gr I, p. 513. 



366 C. V. Salmon, [68 

For the present contradiction Hume had two reasons. 1. Under 
the influence of the real hypostasis, he wished to use the primary 
qualities for a base on which the association could operate. This 
theory, which appears here and there in the earlier parts of the 
Treatise, reaches its final form in a version of the modern doctrine 
that the sense-data provide the imagination with a "real" foundation 
on which to construct its fictitious objects. 2. Hume wished to use 
the reality of the primary qualities to provide an explanation of 
space, of which he never managed to give any satisfactory account 
in the terms of the subjective imagination. Hume s treatment of space 
is in general very weak. Space appears in one part of the Treatise as 
a reality, in another as an abstract idea. But as neither the one nor 
the other is it compatible with Hume s final position. Space itself 
cannot be an abstract idea. Space is a reality. But as a reality it 
cannot explain our perception of it. Our perception of space, like 
every other element in the objective world of reality, requires 
explanation in the terms of subjective genesis. The Humeian imagi 
nation was quite capable in itself, of creating a perception of space, 
but Hume did not give it the opportunity. 

When once Hume had extended his denial of reality to the pri 
mary as well as the secondary qualities, he could have converted his 
sceptical attitude into an attitude merely of Cartesian doubt. The 
real world would be perceived, even by the philosopher, in ordinary, 
practical life. It would only be excluded, for the sake of the sub 
jective world , by the philosopher, at introspection, in his armchair. 

20. Hume s Comparative Subjectivism, concerning B. the Sub 
jective world of Consciousness. The strange conclusion brought 
about by the relation of these two Scepticisms . 

When Hume s scepticism had grown to include the whole of 
the objective world of reality, it might have been translated into a 
pheiiomenological idealism. This was prevented by Hume s sceptical 
attitude towards the subjective sphere. From holding such notions as, 
at one time, that the primary qualities, at another, that space, ex 
plained our perception of them through the means of their own 
reality, Hume passed to give a similar account of some of the faculties 
of consciousness itself. This was the worst of Hume s inconsistencies. 
His method of approach to scepticism in the subjective sphere was 
similar to that which he had used in the objective sphere. 

He begins by arguing from the comparative subjectivity of per- 



69] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



367 



ception itself. When we press one eye with a finger, he 
writes, we immediately perceive all the objects to be- 
come double, and one half of them to be remov d from 
their common and natural position .... we clearly 
perceive, that all our perceptions are dependent on 
our organs, and the disposition of our nerves and 
animal spirits. This opinion is confirm d by the 
seeming encrease and diminuition of objects, accor 
ding to their distance; by the apparent alterations in 
their figure; by the changes in their colour and other 
qualities from our sickness and distempers; and by an 
infinite number of other experiments of the same 
kind; from all which we learn, that our sensible per 
ceptions are not possest of any distinct or indepen 
dent existence 1 ). The argument derives its force from the real 
hypostasis. If our "perceptions" have not any distinct or independent 
existence, the real existence with which we qualify what we call their 
objects must belong to the "perceptions" themselves. The notion 
delights Hume. In conformity with it he propounds his singular 
doctrine of meaning , that all our perceptions must appear what they 
are, and be what they appear. There is no impression nor idea 
ofanykind,he writes, of which we have any consciousness 
or memory, that is not conceiv d as existent 2 ). This being 
granted, Hume asks us to grant, that, . . . since all actions and 
sensations of the mind are known to us by conscious 
ness, they must necessarily appear in every particular 
what they are, and be what they appear. Everything, 
Hume concludes, that enters the mind, being in reality a 
perception, tis impossible anything shou d to feeling 
appear different. This were to suppose, that even 
where we are most intimately conscious, we might be 
mistaken 3 ). And Hume says the same thing explicitly about the 
senses. Thus to resume, he writes, what I have said con 
cerning the senses .... they cannot operate beyond 
the extent in which they really operate 4 ). 

This theory of consciousness is so out of line with Hume s signifi 
cant work, illuminated by his conception of the imagination with 
its genetic function, of "ideas" which are objects in consciousness, 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 498. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 370. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 480. 4) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 482, 



368 C - V - Salmon, [70 

that we may dismiss it without ceremony. Suffice it, that if Hume 
had believed sustainedly what he wrote in this matter, concerning 
the identification of real, that it to say, spatio-temporal, being, 
with the ideal being of meaning and consciousness, it would 
have been unnecessary for him to compose the major portion of his 
Treatise. 

When Hume s comparative subjectivity is regarded as a whole, 
when his sceptical opinions concerning the objective world of reality, 
on the one hand, and the subjective world of consciousness, on the 
other, are brought into relation, they introduce a not uninteresting 
example of a sort of Berkeleyan Idealism, to which they compelled 
Hume. They come to be related in this way. The differentiation 
between the primary and secondary qualities suggests a parallel 
distinction between reality and appearance. Hume is content to 
suggest that there are varying degrees of objectivity in the world 
which we perceive. The explanation of the qualities of bodies, for 
instance, should not be looked for upon quite the same plane as 
their configuration, or their motion upon the same plane as their 
quantity. Hume implies that certain laws, which are generally con 
sidered as physical, derive their necessity from nothing physical, 
but from the perceiving mind. Hume may have found this suggestion 
in Locke s doctrine of "the conformity of ideas to the reality of 
things". Its first definite appearance in the Treatise, is in connection 
with "Substances". From the beginning, Hume treats substances, as 
if they were ideal in nature. He conceives of them as relations of 
ideas to which no corresponding relations of real objects, or parts of 
objects, can be found. Hume thinks of substances as "complexities". 
He talks scornfully of the "idea" of substance. I wou d fain 
ask those philosophers, who found so much of their 
reasonings on the distinction of substance and acci 
dent, and imagine we have clear ideas of each, whether 
the idea of substance be deriv d from the impressions 
of sensation, or of reflection? If it be conve y d t o u s 
by our senses, I ask, which of them, and after what 
manner? If it be perceiv d by the eyes, it must be a 
colour; ifby the ears, a sound; ifby the palate, a taste; 
and so of the other senses. But I believe none will 
assert, that substance is either a colour, or a sound, 
or a taste. The idea of substance must therefore be 
deriv d from an impression of reflection, if it really 
exist. But the impressions of reflection resolve them- 



71 1 The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 359 

selves into our passions and emotions; none of which 

can possibly represent a substance. We have therefore 
no idea of substance, distinct from that of a collec 
tion of particular qualities, nor have we any other 
meaning, when we either talk or reason concerning it. 
The idea of a substance as well as that of a mode, is 
nothing but a collection of simple ideas, that are 
united by the imagination 1 ). The suggestion is unmistake- 
able. Not only cannot such objective characteristics as configuration, 
or quality, be supposed to exist on the same level as the object 
figured and qualified, but the whole which expresses any object 
cannot be supposed to exist on the same level as the simplicity, or 
simplicities, to which it refers. Hume argues that the relation of the 
parts to the wholes is no more than a relation of ideas. Analyse any 
complex objective entity, separate, that is, your complex idea of 
that entity into the simple ideas which are its components, and if 
the realities represented by these simple ideas are really parts , 
we shall have an impression of their relation, i. e. of substance, and 
not only an idea of it. 

There are no physical laws but only laws of "ideas". Instead 
of a physical world of objects related to one another by their 
characteristics, Hume offers us a psychical world of ideas connected 
with one another by their qualities. The laws of this world of ideas 
are all expressed under the supreme law of a new causality . To 
understand the nature of this causality , we must examine, not the 
characteristics of objects, but the qualities of ideas. Here, . . . . 
says Hume, we have three things to explain, viz. First, 
the original impression. Secondly, the transition to 
the idea of the connected cause or effect. Thirdly, 
the nature and qualities of that idea 2 ). 



21. Hume s Scepticism concluded in a kind of Berkeleyan 

Idealism. 

Our "perceptions" exist; they are the only existences. When 
we qualify what we take to be external and independent objects 
with the characteristics and qualities we suppose are usual to them, 
either we are inventing qualities and characteristics, which cannot be 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 324. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 385. 

Huaserl, Jahrbuch f. Philosophic. X. 6 



370 C. V. Salmon, [72 

shown to have any real existence in objects, or we are attributing 
them to our "perceptions", to which they properly belong. The 
characteristics and qualities at our disposal are contained within the 
one characteristic of existence. Our "perceptions" exist. This theory 
of the existence of our "perceptions" brings with it many difficulties, 
from which Hume extricates himself with considerable agility. 

Whatever the nature of our "perceptions" may be, how they 
may really be the stuffing, or filling, of Hume s indivisible moments 
of time, how the one of them may be able to cease before the next 
one come into existence , all this can hardly be supposed to affect 
our attribution of existence to them. For, after all, the matter in 
volves consciousness. To us these "perceptions" are moments of 
consciousness. Our "perceptions" possess content. Our "perceptions" 
are houses, and trees, and objects . Outside consciousness this 
world, we will grant Hume to have shown it, does not exist. But 
inside consciousness the world is presented to us as, There! We 
may name these objects of the world perception-objects , and, 
thinking of perception-houses , perception-trees etc., effect a com 
promise between the real and the subjective which Hume needs. 
Hume provides us with authority for the notion. Writing, not in the 
Treatise, but some years later in the "Enquiry", he says, .... philo 
sophy .... teaches us, that nothing can ever be present 
to the mind but an image or perception .... no man, 
who reflects, ever doubted that the existences which 
we consider, when we say, this house, and that tree, 
are nothing but perceptions in the mind 1 ). We must be 
nice in our notion of "perceptions". As far as their real existence is 
concerned these perception-houses and perception-trees are the 
nature of certain indivisible moments of time. They are finite and 
discrete. We may call them perception- houses, and p e r c e p 
t ion- trees, But it is not to these that we, the conscious subjects 
of perception, attribute existence. We attribute existence to per 
ception-houses and perception - 1 r e e s , i.e. moments of our con 
sciousness. And the existence which we attribute to them is not a 
complete and discrete existence, such as belongs to them as per 
ception- houses and perception- trees, but a continous and 
continuing existence. We have to remember that, even here, there 
is no question of an independent existence. I have already ob 
served, Hume says, that there is an intimate connexion 



1) Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sect. XII. 



73] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 

betwixt those two principles of a continued and of a 
distinct or independent existence, and that we no 
sooner establish the one, than the other follows, as 
a necessary (and, as Hume implies, absolutely fictitious) con 
sequence 1 ). 

As matters stand, there are the makings of a contradiction 
between the real and the conscious moments of our "perceptions". 
This is the crux of Hume s sceptical situation. He supposes that he 
has accounted for all the characteristics of the objects of the real 
world except that of existence. If he cannot now account for their 
characteristic of existence, his work will have been vain. While 
granting that discrete existence belongs properly to perception- 
houses and perception- trees, we must yet be able to believe 
that our perception - h o u s e s and perception- trees are capable of 
sustaining the continuous existence which we attribute to them. 

In order to reconcile this threatening discrepancy, Hume pro 
pounds an ingenious kind of Berkeleyian Idealism. Stating the problem, 
Nothing is more certain . . . . he writes, than that any 
contradiction either to the sentiments or to the 
passions gives a sensible uneasiness, whether it pro 
ceeds from without or within; from the opposition of 
external objects, or from the combat of internal prin 
ciples. On the contrary, whatever strikes in with the 
natural propensities .... is sure to give a sensible 
pleasure. Now there being here an opposition betwixt 
the notion of the identity of resembling perceptions, 
and the interruption of their appearance, the mind 
must be uneasy in that situation, and will naturally 
seek relief from that uneasiness . . . We must, there 
fore, .... suppose that our perceptions are no longer 
interrupted, but preserve a continu d as well as an 
invariable existence, and are by that means entirely 
the same. But here the interruptions in the appearance 
(these "interruptions in the appearance" are the signs of the real 
numerical difference of the "perceptions", and of their indivisible 
simplicity and isolation from one another, as they exist, really, in the 
uni-dimensional world of the separate moments of time), of these 
perceptions are so long and frequent, that tis im 
possible to overlook them, and as the appearance of 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 498. 



372 C. V. Salmon, [74 

a perception in the mind and its existence seem at 
first sight entirely the same, it may be doubted, 
whether we can ever assent to so palpable a contra 
diction, and suppose a perception to exist without 
being present to the mind. (He proceeds, now, to the solution 
of the problem.) In order to clear up this matter, and 
learn how the interruption in the appearance of a 
perception implies not necessarily an interruption 
in its existence, twill be proper to touch upon some 
principles .... We may begin with observing, that 
the difficulty in the present case is not concerning 
the matter of fact, or whether the mind forms such a 
conclusion concerning the contin u d existence of its 
perceptions, but only concerning the manner in which 
the conclusion is formed, and principles from which 
it is deriv d. (Note the essential intimacy between the real and the 
conscious moment of the "perception".) Tis certain, that almost 
all mankind, and even philosophers themselves, for 
the greatest part of their lives, take their perceptions 
to be their only objects, and suppose, that the very 
being, which is intimately present to the mind, is the 
real body or material existence. Tis also certain that 
this very perception or object is suppos d to have 
a continu d uninterrupted being, and neither to be 
annihilated by our absence, nor to be brought into 
existence by our presence. When we are absent from 
it, we say it still exists, but that we do not feel, we do 
not see it 1 ). Close upon this follows Hume s famous antithesis 
of the "philosopher" and the "vulgar man". It is essential that the 
grounds of this antithesis be recognized. The whole argument is 
sceptical , i. e. it takes place inside a comparative subjectivism. It 
takes for granted that the reader has allowed that there is no such 
thing as an absolutely independent object , an object absolutely 
independent of the perception . The object , which is supposed "to 
have a continu d, uninterrupted being, and neither to be annihilated 
by our absence nor to be brought into existence by our presence", is 
a perception-object, a perception-house, perception-tree. It will have 
to be allowed, that Hume does some injustice to the character of the 
vulgar man by crediting him with so much subtlety. But the alter- 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 4945. 



75] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 373 

native of supposing the vulgar man to refer to absolutely independent 
objects renders the whole argument void. The vulgar man supposes 
that "Those very sensations which enter by the eye or 
ear 1 )" are the perception-objects. The philosopher supposes that 
"those very sensations" are not the perception-objects themselves, but 
only images or representations of these. As this has not been 
generally recognized by Hume s critics, it may be well, before passing 
to his attempted solution, to interpolate a passage where Hume has 
given another description of the same problem. When we have 
been accustom d to observe a constancy in certain 
impressions, he writes, and have found that the per 
ception of the sun or ocean, for instance, returns upon 
us after an absence .... with like parts, and in a like 
order .... we are not apt to regard these interrupted 
perceptions as different (which they really are), but, 
on the contrary, consider them as individually the 
same, upon account of their resemblance. But as this 
interruption of their existence is contrary to their 
perfect identity, and makes us regard the first impres 
sion as annihilated, and the second as newly created, 
we find ourselves somewhat at a loss, and are involv d 
in a kind of contradiction. In order to free ourselves 
from this difficulty, we disguise, as much as possible, 
the interruption, or rather remove it entirely, by 
supposing that these interrupted perceptions are 
connected by a real existence, of which we are 
insensible 2 ). This passage leaves no doubt that the reference of 
continu d existence is confined to perception-objects, and does not 
reach beyond these to any objects supposed existing by themselves. 
Speaking, then, of a "perception", Hume wrote, "When we are absent 
from it, we say it still exists, but that we do not feel, we do not see 
it." Speaking still of a "perception", he resumes: -- When we are 
present, we say we feel, or see it. Here then may arise 
two questions; First, How can we satisfy ourselves in 
supposing a perception to be absent from the mind 
without being annihilated. Secondly, After what 
manner we conceive an object to become presentto 
the mind, without some new creation of a perception 
or image; and what we mean by this seeing and feeling, 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 491. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 



374 C - V - Salmon, [76 

and perceiving. As to the first question, we may 
observe, that what we call a mind, is nothing but a 
heap or collection of different perceptions, united 
together by certain relations, and suppos d, t h o 
falsely, to be endow d with a perfect simplicity and 
identity. Now as every perception is distinguishable 
from another, and may be consider d as separately 
existent, it evidently follows, that there is no ab 
surdity in separating any particular perception from 
the mind; that is, in breaking off all its relations, 
with that connected mass of perceptions, which con 
stitute a thinking being. The same reasoning affords 
us an answer to the second question. If the name of 
perception renders not this separation from a mind 
absurd and contradictory, the name of object, 
standing for the very same thing, can never render 
their conjunction imposible. External objects are 
seen and felt, and become present to the mind; that 
is, they acquire such a relation to a connected heap of 
perceptions, as to influence them very considerably 
in augmenting their number by present reflections 
arid passions, and in storing the memory with ideas. 
The same continu d and uninterrupted Being may, 
therefore, be sometimes present to the mind, and 
sometimes absent from it, without any real or essen 
tial change in the Being itself. An interrupted appe 
arance to the senses implies not necessarily an inter 
ruption in the existence. The supposition of the 
continu d existence of sensible objects or perceptions 
involves no contradiction. We may easily indulge our 
inclination to that supposition. When the exact 
resemblance of our perceptions makes us ascribe to 
them an identity, we may remove the seeming inter 
ruption by feigning a continu d being, which may fill 
those intervals, and preserve a perfect and entire 
identity to our perceptions 1 ). 

The above theory of "idealism" expresses the extreme of Hume s 
scepticism. 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 4956. 



77] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



375 



Chapter VII. 
Hume s Theory of Belief. 

22. Hume s general conception of Belief. Rational and 
Perceptual Belief. 

What can it be, Hume was obliged to ask himself, which makes 
us believe that which we do believe, in the face of the fact, that it 
cannot be that which we do believe, which makes us believe it? That 
which we do believe, is, mainly, truths and realities of the physical 
world. But truths deceive us, for there are no abstract ideas and 
realities deceive us, for there are no physical realities. It may be 
said in favour of Hume s sceptical opinions that they drove him into 
giving a subjective account of belief. His attitude was original. 
This operation of the mind, he writes, which forms the 
belief of any matter of fact, seems hitherto to have 
been one of the greatest mysteries of philosophy; tho 
no one has so much as suspected, that there was any 
difficulty in explaining it 1 ). Hume sets himself to explain it. 
The account falls into two compartments: belief touching reasoning, 
and belief touching perception. If Hume were taken at his word, he 
would be supposed to have very little to offer concerning the 
rational belief, for he says, The answer is easy with regard 
to propositions, that are pro v d by intuition or de 
monstration. In that case, the person, who assents, not 
only conceives the ideas according to the proposition, 
but is necessarily determi n d to conceive them in that 
particular manner, either immediately or by the inter 
position of other ideas. Whatever is absurd is un 
intelligible . . . . 2 ). But Hume strikes the truth concerning all belief 
of whatever kind, when he says, we "are necessarily determin d" to 
conceive our ideas in a particular manner. The word "assent", also, 
is exactly right. The explanation of all belief is that we first con 
struct our consciousness of objects in a definite mode, and then 
"assent" to the objects as they appear in that mode. This is the sense 
of a "necessary determination" to belief. The word "assent" should 
signify assent to expectation ; for belief is not so much a moment of 
consciousness, as a constant attitude of mind. In the course of any 
reasoning, any perception, any dreaming, any imagination, we con 
stantly expect and are satisfied . We expect the objects, which we 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 397. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 395. 



376 C - V - Salmon, [78 

apprehend, to continue in the same mode of their being, and either 
to develop themselves in accordance with themselves, or to give place 
to other objects in the same mode of being. Except in the cases of 
hallucination or illusion we are satisfied . These exceptions 
illustrate the rule. For when, in the course of some conscious 
experience of perception, or reasoning, or appreciation etc., we find 
ourselves mistaken, our expectation which was disappointed does not 
cease, but continues on new lines. Expectation awaits the new con 
viction, and proceeds. Every moment of consciousness is accompanied 
with a protention and satisfaction. The satisfaction produces a 
retention *) of the memory, which induces a further protention . 
Belief is an attitude engendered by and sustained with a continuous 
satisfaction of expectation. It can be explained only in the terms of 
the genesis of the objects in consciousness. The belief corresponds 
to the mode of consciousness in which the object is constructed, and 
is the completion of the processes of its construction. 

Ignoring Hume s "The answer is easy", concerning the reasonable 
belief, he is found to have given a very fair account of it in his 
description of Abstraction. (Refer back to Section 10 of this Essay.) 
There he said: When .... ev ry individual of any 

species of objects is found by experience to be con 
stantly united with an individual of another species, 
the appearance of any new individual of either 
species naturally conveys the thought to its usual 
attendant. Thus because such a particular idea is 
commonly annex d to such a particular word, nothing 
is requir d but the hearing of that word to produce the 
correspondent idea .... In this case it is not abso 
lutely necessary, that upon hearing such a particular 
sound, we sho u d reflect upon any past experience, 
and consider what idea has been usually connected 
with the sound. The imagination of itself supplies 
the place of this reflection, and is so accustomed to 
pass from the word to the idea, that it interposes not 
a moment s delay betwixt the hearing of the one, and 
the conception of the other 2 ). Again he wrote, After we 
have acquired a custom of this kind, the hearing of 



1) Protention and Retention : the words are used in the Phenomcnological 
significance. See Husserl, Ideen, Bk. I, Part III, Ch. 2, 77. 

2) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 3934. 



79] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 377 

that name revives the idea of one of these objects, and 
makes the imagination conceive itwithallitspeculiar 
circumstances and proportions. But as the same word 
is suppos d to have been frequently applied to other 
individuals, that are different in many respects from 
that idea, which is immediately present to the mind; 
theword,notbeingable to revivethe idea ofall these 
individuals, but only touches the soul if I may be 
allow d so to speak, and revives that custom, which we 
have acquir d by surveying them. They are not really 
and in fact present to the mind, but only in power; nor 
do we draw them all out distinctly in the imagination, 
but keep ourselves in a readiness to survey any of 
them, as we may be prompted by a present design or 
necessity. The word raises up an individual idea, 
along with a certain custom, and that custom pro 
duces any other individual one, for which we may have 
had occasion . . . . For this is one of the most extra 
ordinary circumstances in the present affair, that 
after the mind has produc d an individual idea, upon 
which we reason, the attendant custom, revived by 
the general or abstract term, readily suggests any 
other individual, if by chance we form any reasoning 
that agrees not with it 1 ). 

This passage furnishes a tolerable account of our belief in the 
sphere of rational ideas. Its significance lies in the attempt, which 
Hume makes there, to explain the manner of our belief according 
to our construction in consciousness of the ideas and relations of 
ideas which we believe. Our belief depends upon our reasoning, 
our reasoning depends upon the relations of ideas; the relations of 
ideas depend upon the ideas themselves, but the ideas themselves 
depend, for us, upon our own construction of them in consciousness. 
The ideas are objective, but we have objectified them, i. e. abstracted 
them, and intuited them as abstracted. Locke vaguely pointed the 
way which Hume vigorously followed. If Locke asserted that re 
asoning was the bringing together and comparing of ideas, "Rational 
knowledge is the perception of the certain agreement or disagreement 
of any two ideas, by the intervention of one or more other ideas" 2 ), 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 3289. 

2) Locke, The Essay, Bk. IV, Ch. XVII, 17. 



378 C - V - Salmon, [80 

Hume pointed out that this "agreement or disagreement" of ideas 
depended ultimately upon the minds own construction of those ideas 
in consciousness. 

After a relatively short examination of belief in reason, Hume 
passes to a detailed examination of belief in perception. The 
question, there, assumes a characteristic shape: The subject 
of our present enquiry Hume writes -- is concerning 
the causes, which induce us to believe in the existence 
of body 1 ) . . . and it is presupposed that the "existence of body" 
cannot be the cause of our belief in it. The word "cause" does not 
imply a reference to physical causality. We shall be occupied with this 
"enquiry" during Part 11 of this Essay. It is Hume s special problem. 

It is to be regretted that Hume did not compare the reasonable 
with the perceptual belief. When he wrote, "The answer is easy . . . ." 
with regard to the former, he did himself injustice, for he did take 
some trouble to explain the easy answer. But he did not recognize 
the extent of the problem. Hume was dealing with a world of "ideas". 
He wished to regard this world of ideas as divided into two com 
partments, on the one hand, the ideas of reason, on the other, the 
ideas of imagination. The former he regarded as out of relation to 
existence. In the rational sphere a man must believe anything that 
he can conceive. But the ideas of imagination were only related to 
a belief, which they did not themselves necessitate. A man need 
not believe, Hume thought, what he imagined . What we imagine , 
Hume argued, we imagine to be existent, and usually believe to be 
existent . But this belief in existence is not inseparable from our 
imagination , as the belief in truth is inseparable from our conception. 
On the contrary, not only can we doubt our imaginative or existen 
tial beliefs, but we are o b 1 i g e d to doubt them if we meditate on them. 
Hume s faculty of imagination included perception, and was, in 
Hume s more sceptical moments, identified with perception. To per 
ceive was to imagine . Hume had to grant that, when we perceived , 
we believed what we perceived; but a little meditation, he argued, 
would convince us that we were not perceiving at all, but only 
imagining ; and, while we recognized that we had only been imagi 
ning , we should no longer be constrained to believe. The Humeian 
perceptual beliefs are like agents , who presume on the carelessness 
of their masters, the rational minds, and induce them to believe in 
what they themselves know to be false. When their masters cease 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 478. 



81] Tne Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 379 

from their careless ways, and inspect these facts, they discover that 
their confidence has been abused. But when they accuse their agents 
of malpractice, these excuse themselves by urging that they could 
hardly be expected to have supposed that their masters were believing 
such and such facts to be so, when they had always known them to 
be otherwise. 

If Hume had accepted the fact of the perceptual belief, as he 
had accepted the fact of the rational belief, and proceeded to com 
pare the two. he would have found between the necessary belief in 
reality, (perception), and the necessary belief in truth, (reasoning), 
a series of compound faculties and beliefs involving something of 
existence and something of truth. Such are the faculties of aesthetic 
appreciation, moral sensibility, the free fancy, the memory etc. Hume 
saw that there was some relation between the perceptual and the con 
ceptual belief. T i s an established maxim in metaphysics, 
he wrote, that what the mind clearly conceives, includes 
the idea of possible existence, or in other words, that 
nothing we imagine is absolutely impossible. We can 
form the idea of a golden mountain, and from thence 
conclude that such a mountain may actually exist. We 
can form no idea of a mountain without a valley, and 
therefore regard it as impossible 1 ). But the matter is not 
exhausted. The different faculties need careful differentiation. For 
all belief is not a belief in existence --witness the rational beliefs. 
And all existential belief is not a belief in present existence - wit 
ness, memory or belief in past existence; witness, imagination or 
belief in possible existence; witness, free fancy or belief in imaginable 
existence, etc. But Hume went wrong, chiefly, in supposing that 
belief could ever be unnecessary , or controvertible by the evidence 
taken from some different faculty. The value of evidence depends 
upon its being absolute in its own particular sphere. The perceptual 
belief cannot be invalidated by the reason, any more than the rational 
belief can be invalidated by the perception. Each is autonomous in 
its own realm. It is certain that I am no more free not to believe, 
when I perceive such and such objects in the external world, ^than 
I am not to believe, when I apprehend the truth of 2 plus 2 = 4. 
Only in the Cartesian and non-sceptical sense, I am free to do 
them both. 

]) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 339. 



380 C. V. Salmon, [82 

23. Hume s particular account of the Belief which is general 
to Consciousness. 

Hume, the sceptic, became metaphysical. Reason interfered with 
perception; but no faculty could be found to interfere with reason. 
In the face of the evidence of perception, reason denied that there 
were objects in any real world which possessed an independent and 
distinct existence. But yet the reason did not kill perception s belief. 
Still perception and reason remained in contrary activity, each faith 
ful to his own conviction. 

If Hume had done no more than provide an explanation of the 
rational belief, in terms of the construction of the objects of the 
reason, and an explanation of the perceptual belief, in terms of the 
construction of the objects of the perception, he would not have 
been able to explain how these two sets of beliefs, having no common 
ground, should conflict with one another; or how, if in some way 
they did come into conflict, either should ever have obtained even 
a temporary mastery. For not only can the mind not believe two 
opposite things at once, but having once seen the opposition, it 
cannot, unless it has some faculty of belief which has its roots 
outside both bodies of opinion, believe first the one and then the 
other, as Hume wishes it to do. The man must be able to say, defi 
nitely, "I believe . . . .". So Hume offers a general theory of belief 
which is independent of the two particular kinds of belief, the 
reasonable and the perceptual. 

Every kind of belief must subject its objects to one mode. Hume s 
supreme belief must apprehend its material as of one kind of being. 
The mode which Hume considers can relate all the faculties of con 
sciousness to one another, and compose both the subjective and the 
objective to a nondescript, is the mode of existence. 

In his exposition of the supreme belief, Hume lays it down, 
A. that belief is not a belief in content, and B. that belief is a 
certain manner of experiencing objects. 

A. Belief is not a belief in content. Hume s negative assertion is 
the condition of his asserting anything positive about belief. For, since 
belief is in every case a belief in existence, nothing but an existence 
can be the foundation of belief. But we cannot know the independent 
existence of anything objective, so there can be no foundation for 
a belief in content. Neither content, nor belief in content, can exist. 
Belief is not a belief in content. To establish this, Hume offers three 
propositions: 1. The idea of an object is an essential 



83] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. $Q\ 

part of the belief of it but not the whole 1 ), in which is 
implied, that we can have an idea without believing it, but that we 
cannot believe anything without having an idea of it. Turning this 
maxim through the medium of causality on to matter of fact, it is 
re-stated, where belief has become belief in existence. 2. The idea 
of existence is nothing different from the idea of any 
object 2 ), in which is implied that there is no idea of existence 
(i. e. of pure or abstract existence, which would have required ab 
straction from a particular content), and also, that the idea of any 
object is not changed, as far as its content is concerned, by the belief 
that the object exists. But now in order to be able to pass to B., or 
the positive description of belief, Hume lays down his third pro 
position. 3. When I think of God, when I think of him as 
existent, and when I believe him to be existent, my 
idea of him neither encreases nor diminishes 3 ), from 
which not only may be implied, as Hume desires, that belief can only 
be a subjective manner of experience, but also must be implied, (1), 
which Hume explicitly denies, that we can conceive of an object 
without conceiving it, explicitly at any rate, as existent, and (2), the 
first half of which he allows, that we can conceive of an object as 
existent without believing that it exists, and accordingly, that con 
ception is separable from conception-as-existent, and conception-as- 
existent is separable from belief-as-existent. 

Hume chooses to ignore these implications, and proceeds to his 
positive assertion. 

B. Belief is a subjective manner of experience. All the 
perceptions of the mind, he writes, are of two kinds, 
viz. impressions and ideas, which differ from each 
other only in their different degrees of force and 
vivacity . . . . When you wou d any way vary the idea 
of a particular object, you can only encrease or 
diminish its force and vivacity. If you make any other 
change in it, it represents a different object or im 
pression .... So that as belief does nothing but vary 
the manner, in which we conceive any object, it can 
only bestow on our ideas an additional force and 
vivacity. An opinion, therefore, or belief, may be 
most accurately defin d, A lively idea related to or 
associated with a present impression 4 ). 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 394. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 394. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 395. 4) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 396. 



382 C V - Salmon, [84 

Of this theory, that belief is an idea, Hume makes an entirely 
sceptical use. He employs it to destroy the specific differences 
between perception and phantasy. The object of the impression is 
identified with the impression itself. "Object or impression" Hume 
says, and the impression is prepared for identification with the idea. 
He gets rid of the awkward externality of perceived existence. If all 
belief is an idea, then belief in external existence is an idea; but if 
the belief in external existence is an idea, then external existence 
itself is an idea also. The Humeian belief in external existence is 
an idea (the belief) of an idea (the external existence). The belief 
may be said to exist, but the external existence can only be said to 
exist in the belief. Perception can only be distinguished from 
phantasy, by a comparative "vivacity". It follows that there can be 
no difference between the objects of perception and the objects of 
phantasy. All the differences between these two are exhausted in a 
purely subjective difference of degree in vivacity. There being no 
such thing as external existence, the objects of perception exist in 
the same way as the objects of phantasy. Both exist in the existence 
of their experiences. The "present impression" is the only real 
existence. The object of the impression is a "lively idea which is 
related to the present impression", or, more strictly, the idea, of 
which that lively idea, the belief, is an idea. When Hume passes from 
asserting "that the idea of an object is an essential part of the belief 
of it", to assert, Tis certain we must have an idea of every 
matter of fact which we believe 1 ), he means, that every 
matter of fact is an idea which we believe. 

All belief whether it be rational or perceptual, is supposed by 
Hume to be a certain subjective manner of experience, which is, itself, 
a certain kind of "existence". 

When, in Part III. Sect. VIII, "Of the Causes of Belief", Hume 
describes this manner of experience as a disposition to pass along a 
chain of ideas -- When any impression becomes present 
to us, it not only transports the mind to such ideas as 
are related to it, but likewise communicates to them a 
share of its force and vivacity 2 ) -- as a dynamic belief, 
capable, like Locke s "Demonstration", of covering the intermediary 
ideas, what he says is applicable more widely than might be supposed. 
The disposition of belief, enlivening "related ideas" under the 
influence of a perceived Resemblance, a perceived Contiguity, and of 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 402. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 399. 



85] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



383 



an actual Causality, must be supposed to be operative not only in the 
examples of "probable reasoning", which Hume gives, the super- 
stitions of the Catholic Church, the fervour of a Holy Man, etc., but 
also in the perceptive experiences of every day. Hume s I suppose 
there is an object presented, from which I draw a 
certain conclusion, and form to myself ideas, which I 
am said to believe or assent to 1 ), is pertinent to perception. 
Not only when we are engaged in historical argument, or being put in 
mind of a friend by the sight of his portrait, but also when we are 
perceiving the house, which is before our eyes, must we be supposed 
to be acting a transition of belief. We pass in perception from "that 
which is actually present to the senses" to the concrete object. The 
change of the objects is so easy, that the mind is scarce 
sensible of it, but applies itself to the conception of 
the related idea with all the force and vivacity it 
acquir d from the present impressions 2 ). The house which 
we perceive existing, distinctly and independently of us, is an inven 
tion of our own, which we both perceive and believe in virtue of our 
disposition. We have passed from an original sensation along a chain 
of related ideas. The belief qualified the impression, and now qualifies 
the idea. Tis certain we must have an idea of every 
matter of fact which we believe. (This must be made relevant 
to perception) . Tiscertainthatthisidea(ofthe concrete object 
of our perception), arises only from a relation to a present 
impression (the original sensation, or real impression). Tis 
certain that the belief superadds nothing to the idea, 
but only changes our manner of conceiving it, and 
renders it more strong and lively 3 ). Tis the present 
impression which is to be consider d as the true and 
real cause of the idea and of the belief which 
attends it 4 ). 

Hume s account of the genesis of perceived objects in conscious 
ness is falsified by his sceptical denial of the existence of objects 
outside consciousness. His theory of belief is an attempt to reconcile 
his scepticism with his subjectivism, and as such, it forms the crown 
of his Berkeleyian Idealism. It is also an attempt to account for exis 
tence itself. Apart from his theory of belief Hume has nothing posi 
tive to say about existence. Existence cannot be anything objective , 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 402. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 399. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I. P. 402. 4) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 402. 



384 C - V - Salmon, [86 

because there are no objects which it can qualify. But Hume has 
nothing to say about existence in the abstract, about existence as an 
abstract idea. The idea of existence. . . .he says once, is the 
very same with the idea of what we conceive to be 
existent 1 ). This is even less satisfactory than Hume s account of 
Space, as an idea, or Time. For he had something to say concerning 
the abstraction of these. He derived our idea of space from an 
impression of colour d points disposed in a certain 
manner 2 ), and of time from the succession of our percep 
tions of every kind, ideas as well as impressions, and 
impressions of reflection as well as of sensation 3 ), of 
which succession it was implied that we could have an impression. 
Perhaps at the root of all Hume s misconceptions concerning exis 
tence was his separation of external existence from real existence. 
Discounting his sceptical conclusions, Hume may be said to have con 
ceived, that external existence could be given an origin in the sub 
jective genesis of objects in consciousness, but that existence itself 
was inexplicable in the terms of consciousness, as consciousness 
resolved itself ultimately into existence. 

But in spite of his misuse of it, Hume was right in his notion that 
"belief was a manner of experience" common to all the fields of 
consciousness. Belief is the satisfaction , or, as Hume said, the 
"easiness" accompanying the fulfillment of the expectation, which 
precedes every moment of consciousness. It is a synthesis of the 
processes operative in consciousness. The processes vary with the 
fields in which the objects are constructed, but a synthesis accompanies 
them all, and constitutes our belief in them. Belief is the conse 
quence of our consciousness, in conformity with itself, as it presents 
us with all the variety of objects, both real and ideal. 



Part II. 

Concerning Hume s Particular Problem. 

24. The Programme of Part II. 

Having made a survey of Hume s general philosophy, and com 
passed its salient points about, we pass now to a consideration of his 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 370. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 341. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 341. 



87] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 335 

particular problem - the External Perception -, which as the van- 
tage ground or key, we shall survey on a more detailed plan. 

The subject .... of our present enquiry Hume 
writes in Part IV. Sect. 2, of the Treatise is concerning the 
causes, which induce us to believe in the existence of 
body 1 ). And close upon this, follows his working statement of the 
matter in hand. We ought to examine apart these two 
questions .... Why we attribute a continued existence 
to objects, even when they are not present to the 
senses; and why we suppose them to have an existence 
distinct from the mind and perception. Under this 
last head I comprehend their situation as well as 
relations, their external position as well as the inde 
pendence of their existence, and operation 2 ). 

Hume s treatment of external perception falls into two com 
partments. Hume offers 1. a statement and elaboration of Method; 
and 2. the construction of the Four Part System, quoted in our Intro 
duction. 



A. Hume 9 s Methodic. Emergence of the Phenomenon. 

Hume s Methodic serves to prepare the stage by bringing first 
into question, and then into prominence, the Phenomenon, or object- 
in-consciousness, the debate and settlement of whose Identity in the 
first two Parts of the "System" marks the climax of Hume s sub 
jective work we shall consider -- Hume writes in the 

language which we have learned to expect whether it be the 
senses, reason, or the imagination, that produces the 
opinion of a continu d or of a distinct existence. These 
are the only questions that are intelligible on the pre 
sent subject. For as to the notion of external exis 
tence, when taken for something specifically 
different from our perceptions, we have already 
(Part II. Sect. VI) shewn its absurdity 3 ). In examining Hume s 
position that neither the senses nor the reason present us with the 
objects of our perception, but that these are the product of the 
imagination, our chief interest must lie in the gradual development 
of Hume s conception of the object-in-consciousness. 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 478. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 477. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 479. 

Husserl, Jahrbuch f. Philosophic. X. 7 



386 C - V - Salmon, [88 

25. Neither the Senses nor the Reason present us with the 
objects of our Perception. Hume s estimate of Sense-data. 

It is not to the senses that we owe our attribution of a continued 
and distinct existence to objects. Hume s examination of the senses 
is based on the supposition that they are a passive faculty. Kant, 
accepting the same premise, afterwards used the word "receptive", 
and contrasted the sensuous "Rezeptivitat", wherein he supposed 
that the sense-data were passively received, with the "Spontaneitat" 
of the apprehending consciousness. It is probable that Hume 
adopted the opinion from Locke since whose day it had been 
very commonly received. It has misled many enquirers into 
supposing that sense-data supply a real basis to perception. The 
actual stimulus which the physical body receives is mistaken for a 
"feeling , or sensation ; and this sensation is supposed to submit to 
categories from the apprehending mind. But the truth is, that while 
there are sense-data which can properly be regarded as the founda 
tion of perception, and as the original material upon which the con 
crete perception is built up, these fall within, and not without, the 
conscious act of perception. Sense-data are in no sense real. They 
are neither a part of the object of perception, nor of the objective 
perception. Sense-data are a part of consciousness itself. They are to 
be found only within the subjective sphere. Their presence in con 
sciousness presupposes an act of perception, and can, therefore, only 
be revealed to an introspection. Sense-data can be described as what 
is felt , on the condition that feeling be allowed to consist of 
consciousness. 

Hume starts his examination of the senses with a tautology. 
To begin with the Senses, he writes, tis evident these 
faculties are incapable of giving rise to the notion of 
the continu d existence of their objects, after they no 
longer appear to the senses. For that is a contradiction 
in terms, and supposes that the senses continue to 
operate, even after they have ceas d all manner of 
operation 1 ). It is, of course, self-evident, that the senses do not 
present us with objects when these objects are not present to the 
senses. But the only question relevant to the enquiry, as to how much 
our senses contribute to our perception of "continu d existence", is 
one which Hume does not consider. Do the senses present us with 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 479. 



89] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 337 

continuing objects, while these objects are present to the senses? 
This question could not be answered except through the means of an 
actual and exact examination of what in the subjective consciousness 
is sensuous . This exact regard we do not find in Hume. The denial of 
their presentation of "continuous existence" is followed by a denial 
of their presentation of "distinct or independent or external exis 
tence". These faculties .... Hume writes if they have 
any influence in the present case, must produce the 

opinion of a distinct, not of a continu d existence 1 ) ; 

But this also they cannot do. For . . . .all sensations are felt 
by the mind, such as they really are, and . . . . when we 
doubt, whether they present themselves as distinct 
objects, or as mere impressions, the difficulty is not 
concerning their nature, but concerning their rela 
tions and situation. Now if the senses presented our 
impressions as external to, and independent of, our 
selves, Hume argues, both the objects and ourselves must 
be obvious to our senses, otherwise they cou d not be 
compared by these faculties. The difficulty then, is 
how far we are ourselves the objects of our senses 2 ). 
That our senses offer not their impressions as the 
images of something distinct or independent, and 
external is evident, Hume continues, because they convey 
to us nothing but a single perception, and never give 
us the least intimation of anything beyond. A single 
perception can never produce the idea of a double 
existence, but by some inference either of the reason 
or imagination. When the mind looks farther than 
what immediately appears to it, its conclusions can 
never be put to the account of the senses; and it cer 
tainly looks farther, when, from a single perception, 
it infers a double existence, and supposes the rela 
tions of resemblance and causation betwixt them 3 ). It 
is, of course, true that external situation in space cannot be found 
among sense-data. We can enlarge Hume s view of the limitations of 
the sense-data by collecting a few quotations from different sources. 
. . . . my senses -- Hume writes -- convey to me only the 
impressions of colour d points, dispos d in a certain 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 479. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 479-80. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 47980. 

7* 



388 C v - Salmon, [90 

manner. If the eye is sensible of anything farther, I 
desire it may be pointed out to me 1 ). And he writes again, 
with Berkeley in his mind, Tis commonly allow d by philo 
sophers, that all bodies, which discover themselves 
to the eye, appear as if painted on a plain surface, and 
that their different degrees of remoteness from our 
selves are discovered more by reason than by the 
senses 2 ). And again an argument which we noticed in connec 
tion with Hume s comparative subjectivism Sounds and tastes 
and smells, though commonly regarded by the mind 
as contin u d , independent qualities, appear not to 
have any existence in extension, and consequently do 
not appear to the senses as situated externally to the 
body 3 ). All this could be corrected in expression, and interpreted 
to signify the facts of the case. When the various sense-data are 
separated into the fields which correspond to the originating senses, 
the bare sight-field is seen to present a two-dimensional field, the 
"pre-spatial" field, a certain configuration of points , in which there 
is no room for any real object, or for any object in motion, or any 
real identity of object. The field of touch is found to present a 
typically modified localisation , while the field of hearing, and the 
field of smell, present nothing even pre-spatial . 

But Hume is not sincerely devoted to an examination of the 
actualities of sense-data. In bringing forward somewhat random 
statements concerning the limitations of sense-data, he is concerned 
with his old difficulty of accounting for the transcendence of the 
spatial world. If there is any such thing as space, Hume argues, 
then the perceiving subject must be admitted to share it with the 
objects which he perceives. The perceiving subject has a body in 
space. Desiring to become intimate with any object, the subject can 
only utilize the means of space. He can approach the object, he can 
touch it with his hands, he can examine it beneath a microscope. 
But however near he come, he can never wholly comprehend it. He 
will always perceive it as There! in space, as having a back side and 
a front. He must always look at it from this face or from that, from 
above or from below, from near or far, in light or shade, in this 
perspective or in that, by itself or in relation to other objects. This 
omni-presence of space can be translated, Hume thinks, into a perfect 
non-existence. For, on the one hand, we are bound to admit that 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 341. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 361. 3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 381. 



91] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



339 



this same space affects everything which we can know, both subject 
and object, and, on the other, we confess that we do not find it in 
our sense-data. Space then may be called a total "fiction". This 
doctrine unites with Hume s notion of Appearance. The effect of 
space is to prevent our ever coming into touch with any object. 
We are limited entirely to appearances. Hume drives his scepticism 
home. Everything, subjective and objective, is spatial . But space 
is not found among sense-data. Space, then, is a "fiction". It follows 
that the subject-object relation is not transcendent 1 ). There is no 
absolute difference between them. 

We find ourselves, suddenly, face to face with "perceptions". 
. . . . since all actions and sensations of the mind are 
knownlo usbyconsciousness Hume writes theymust 
necessarily appear in every particular what they are, 
and be what they appear. Everything that enters the 
mind, being in reality a perception, tis impossible 
anything should to feeling appear different 2 ). Our 
"sensations" are the only "realities". We remember Hume s former 
theory. Here, through the expedient of merely identifying sense-data 
with real sensations, Hume has no objectivity left beyond our per 
ception. What we perceive we perceive as spatial and external to 
ourselves. But Hume has shown that nothing external to ourselves 
is among sense-data. It follows that we do not perceive objects 
through our senses. Objects are merely perceptions. Perceptions are 
fictions. Fictions are the work of the constructive imagination. How 
does the imagination construct the objects of our perception? We 
have already detracted as much from the value of Hume s subjective 
work as it must lose, when the sceptical steps are considered, by 
which he climbed into the subjective sphere. We are not bound here 
to straighten the tangle of hypostases which Hume employs to liberate 
the senses from responsibility in the matter of perception. Our 
interest lies not in the false alternative by which Hume made "per 
ceptions" exclude realities in the external world, but in the fact 
that, by false means or fair, Hume arrived at a conception of "per 
ceptions". We wish to regard the Humeian "perceptions" as objects- 
in-consciousness, to whose genesis we are indebted for our perception 
of realities. We wish to regard the Humeian "perceptions" as pheno- 



1) Transcendent , the word is used throughout in the phenomenological 
significance. 

2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 480. 



390 C. V. Salmon, [92 

mena which are revealed to introspection. And we wish to regard 
the Humeian "imagination" as a name for the whole activity of the 
pure consciousness, whose processes within the Ego construct the 
ego s perception or apprehension of all kinds of objectivity. 

To a consideration of the "imagination" we can quickly pass. 
For in the text, the reason, whose turn follows that of the senses, 
is dismissed at once from all efficiency or co-operation in perception. 
Hume pretends to no more definite conception of reason in this 
connection than the weighing of our opinions by any 
philosophical principles 1 ). And respecting its uselessness in 
perception, he submits (1) that the vulgar believe in the distinct and 
continued existence of objects without making use of any reasoning , 
and (2) that if reasoning is used at all, by "philosophers" for in 
stance, it quickly produces a contrary and sceptical belief .... upon 
the whole, Hume says, our reason neither does, nor is 
it possible it ever sho u d , upon any supposition, give 
us an assurance of the contin u d and distinct existence 
of body. That opinion, he concludes, must be entirely 
owing to the Imagination, which must now be the sub 
ject of our enquiry 2 ). 

But with the examination of the senses, the externality of the 
perceived world is left behind . . . . we may observe, he writes, 
that when we talk of real existences, we have com 
monly more in our eye their independency than ex 
ternal situation in place, and think an object has a 
sufficient reality when its Being is uninterrupted, 
and independent of the incessant revolutions, which 
we are conscious of in ourselves 3 ). This is the last which 
is ever heard of that part of the transcendence of the real world 
which is spatial. To this even the acutest portion of Hume s analysis 
of the imagination will contribute nothing. 

26. The "Imagination" in Perception. Hume fails to distinguish 
between Sensation and Sense-Data. 

The problem, which has now become a question of accounting for 
the "distinct and continu d existence" of our "perceptions", is re- 
introduced in connection with the imagination in rather curious terms. 
- Since all impressions are internal and perishing 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 483. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 483. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 4812. 



93] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 391 

existences, and appear as such, the notion of their 
distinct and continued existence must arise from a 
concurrence of some of their qualities with the quali 
ties of the imagination, and since this does not extend 
to all of them, it must arise from certain qualities 
peculiar to some impressions 1 ). We are going to see the 
imagination rise into activity in the Humeian consciousness, and 
produce an object of its own. To its own object the imagination 
will attribute the difficult qualities of existence. As Hume proceeds 
it becomes evident that the imagination s object is intended for, 
and must be converted into, the phenomenon. But we need to limit 
Hume s conceptions. 

The first requisite of our perception of continuously existent ob 
jects is the perception of them as distinct. But how can any perceived 
object be distinct from our perception of it? Hume s suggestion, that 
the solution of the problem lies in a "concurrence" of some of the 
"qualities" of "impressions" with the "qualities" of the "imagination", 
depends upon an invalid distinction between reality and fiction. 
The "impressions" are to be taken as realities, that is, as sensations, 
which Hume thought could be considered in and for themselves, as 
having no reference to an objective world. Hume supposes that our 
sense-impressions are always sensations, which appear as what they are, 
and are what they appear, moments of feeling, pleasurable or painful, 
severe or slight, "internal and perishing existences". Whenever we 
perceive anything, he considers, either in the external or internal 
perceptions, we suffer these moments of sensation. But between these 
two kinds of perceptions there is none the less a difference. Hume 
takes it, that while the internal perceptions appear in consciousness 
entirely as feelings, and so as internal and perishing, the external 
perceptions appear in consciousness with the addition of a fiction, 
which makes them external objects with a continuing, distinct and 
identical existence. The organ of this fiction is the imagination. The 
objects, therefore, of the so-called external perception, are not 
feelings, not even objects of feeling, but imaginative ficta, which we 
only perceive because we have invented. But at this point, difficult; 
arise. It being pre-supposed that there can be no perception at all 
without a modicum or core of reality which is the sensation, how 
does it come about that sensations can differentiate themselves mtc 
two distinct classes of experience, the one class remaining, a 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 3834. 



392 . C. V. Salmon, [94 

supposes, unadorned sensation, and the other so stimulating the cre 
ative imagination as to obscure itself under a fictitious objective? 
Hume puts the matter down to a "concurrence of certain of the 
qualities of the impressions with certain of the qualities of the imagi 
nation", and twill . . . . be easy, he says, for us to discover 
the qualities by a comparison of the impressions, to 
which we attribute a distinct and continued existence, 
with those which we regard as internal and perishing 1 ). 
It must be suspected, that the task is not so easy as Hume supposes. 
Actually he begs the question even as he formulates it. He offers to 
discover the "qualities" which induce us to attribute a distinct and 
continued existence to certain impressions, by comparing them with 
those other impressions to which we do not attribute a distinct and 
continued existence. 

But this is not the problem; for on Hume s own grounds we know 
that it is never to the impressions, i. e. the sensations, that we attri 
bute the distinct and continued existence, but to the fictitious objects 
which we have been induced to imagine. These fictitious objects are 
not given us in the "impression", and if they were, we should not 
be able to imagine them. Hume s problem should have been to 
discover what "qualities" of certain "impressions" sets the imagination 
operating to create objects for itself, which it believes to be distinct 
and continously existent. This he never considers. Hume never 
distinguishes effectually enough between the impression-element and 
the imaginative element which are compounded in the concrete ex 
perience of perception. Either he forgets that the objects of the 
external perception are fictitious, and speaks of them as if they were 
"impressions", or he forgets, that there is any impression-element 
concerned, and speaks as if the external perception were altogether 
fiction or imagination. 

It is possible, in an analysis of the external perception, to sepa 
rate the sense-data from the additions of the constructive imagi 
nation; but it is quite impossible to carry out this separation under 
the headings of real and ideal; for the object whose distinct and 
continuous existence is in question involves no empirical sensation, 
but is purely the work of the "imagination", and as such, is itself a 
pure object-in-consciousness. Its sense-data are already within the 
consciousness. The opposite nature of the real and ideal prevents 



1) Or. & Gr. I, p. 484. 



95] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



393 



the terms or elements subsumed under them from being brought 
together into the unity of one experience. Sense-data do not cor- 
respond a wit more closely, under the title of reality, either to the 
perceived object in the real world, or to the real psycho-physical 
perceptive experience, than the additions do. So long as reality and 
ideality are the forms to be enforced upon the external perception, 
the analysis can go no further than to distinguish naively between 
the experience as a reality, and the experience as that which is ex 
perienced. This leaves the compound nature of the latter still com 
pounded. Nothing can be more certain than that the subjective 
experience with its object-in-consciousness, or imaginative ficta, 
does not fall within reality. Hume did recognize at times that 
the division between real experience and subjective experience 
could not help him to understand the nature of perception. He 
saw that his whole business lay with the latter, and that the 
"qualities" of the one were irrelevant to those of the other. W e m a y 
observe, he said, that tis neither upon account of the 
in voluntariness of certain impressions, as is com 
monly suppos d, nor of their superior force and vio 
lence, that we attribute to them a reality, and con- 
tinu d existence, which we refuse to others, that are 
voluntary or feeble. For tis evident our pains and 
pleasures, our passions and affections, which we 
never suppose to have any existence beyond our per 
ception, operate with greater violence, and are 
equally involuntary, as the impressions of figure and 
extension, colour and sound, which we suppose to be 
permanent beings. The heat of a fire, when moderate, 
is supposed to exist in the fire, but the pain, which 
it causes upon a near approach, is not taken to have 
any being except in the perception 1 ). 

The expression is imperfect, though the meaning is clear. The 
"impressions" are to be taken as the real experiences, but it is not 
to them that Hume refers, when he says, "we attribute to them a 
reality and continu d existence", but to the objects in, or as Hume 
would say, out of, the impressions. The qualities of our experiences, 
taken as real, can have nothing to do with the reality or ideality 
of the objects in those experiences. The experience, as a fact, must 
be real in every case, whether the object in the experience be an 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 484. 



394 C - V - Salmon, [96 

existent reality, or an idea; and, as Hume says, there is no quality 
of the factual experience which cannot qualify both a factual 
experience where the object of the experience is ideal, and a factual 
experience where the object of the experience is real. But, beyond 
this distinction again, the object of the experience, whether real or 
ideal, must be distinguished from the object in the experience, the 
object-in-consciousness, the phenomenon, which is in every case, and 
of necessity, ideal. 



27. The Three-fold division of Perception. Further Development 
of Hume s notion of the Fiction as the Object-in-Consciousness. 

The fact is that the two-fold division of perception with which 
we have seemed hitherto, explicitly at least, to content ourselves, is 
quite inadequate to our present needs. Concrete perception consists 
of three main factors. In the perception of a tree, for example, there 
is first, my experience regarded as a factual reality, which begins and 
ends and is incapable of identical repetition; there is, secondly, the 
real tree itself, which I say I perceive; and there is, thirdly, the tree 
as I perceive it, a subjective object , having no existence in real 
space and time, but possessing an identity wihin the immanent sphere. 

The philosopher s interest should lie exclusively with the third 
element. This element must be divided again into (a) Noesis, the 
experience of the object, arid (b) Noema, the object of the experience. 
But these are divisions within the subjective sphere. 

The two factual realities, the real experience and the real tree, 
are related to one another as being both in the world, and we may 
conclude, if it be profitable, that they are eventually causally 
connected to one another. 

The ideal consciousness, on the other hand, or the tree as I 
perceive it, is related to the two realities contingently only, for it 
is essentially a complete and self-sufficient whole, although it bears 
within itself the evidence , so to speak, of both the others, being 
always within itself, and ideally, the consciousness of an object. 

Hume, at different times, conceived of each of these three 
elements of the whole conscious experience, but he never could con 
ceive of them all at once, or find room for them all within the unity 
of one whole. He made them, largely, alternative to one another, 
either the one or the other, sometimes two together, but never three. 

It was mainly by denying the real tree itself, that he arrived 
at the conception of the object-in-consciousness, or fiction, the tree 



97] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



395 



as I perceive it. In -- Since all impressions are internal 
and perishing existences, and appear as such, the 
notion of their distinct and continued existence must 
arise from a concurrence of some of their qualities 
with the qualities of the imagination, and since this 
does not extend to all of them, it must arise from cer 
tain qualities peculiar to some impressions 1 ); and 
twill be easy, forus to discover the qualitiesbya com 
parison of the impressions, to which we attribute a 
distinct and continu d existence, with those which we 
regard as internal and perishing 2 ), we have an example of 
his sinking the real object of the perception into the real perceptive 
experience. Hume here identifies the psycho-physical experience itself 
with the object which is in that experience, the object, as we say, in 
consciousness. As far as the internal perception is concerned, the 
supposition that the object is entirely exhausted in the experience 
is an old fallacy, and not one peculiar to Hume. It is generally 
supposed, for instance, that a tooth-ache cannot be distinguished from 
the sensation by which we feel it. But this is false. Leaving out of 
consideration the difficult question as to how far the objects of 
internal perception are localised , in this case as to how far the pain 
may be supposed to be localised in the tooth, it remains indisputable, 
that my experience is an experience of a tooth-ache, or, more 
generally, an experience of a pain. This pain ought to be con 
sidered separately, as it is itself separate from the experience. 
In the experience of a pain, the three factors are still to be found; 
first the factual experience itself, which is not much better described 
as a sensation, than would be an external perception; secondly the 
other reality, the pain itself; and thirdly the object-in-experience, or 
fiction, namely the pain as I feel it, or am aware of it. 

The difference between the objects of the internal and the 
external perception is commonly misconceived as lying in the depen 
dence of the reality of the former, and the independence of the 
reality of the latter, on the psycho-physical experience in which 
they are perceived, But actually their difference lies in the diffe 
rent nature of the two perceived realities. The nature of the one is 
such, that it is directly perceptible to any number of persons, and 
of the other that it is directly perceptible only to one. Now Hume 
escaped the common fallacy at the price of falling into another. 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, PP . 483-4. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 484. 



396 C - V - Salmon, [98 

Hume considered the reality of the objects both of the external and 
the internal perception to be dependent on the psycho-physical 
experience in which they were perceived. But he distinguished two 
elements in the object perceived in the external perception. This 
object was dependent on the perception, but in a double sense. It 
was dependent for its reality on the real part of our perceptive 
experience, namely on our sensation. But it was dependent for its 
character , i. e. for our perception of it, on the characteristic or 
conscious part of our perceptive experience, i. e. on our con 
sciousness or imagination of it. It is this regard of the charac 
teristic nature of our perceptions, which makes Hume s analysis so 
illuminating. After a little examination, Hume writes, w e 
shall find that all those objects, to which we attribute 
a continu d existence, have a peculiar constancy, 
which distinguishes them from the impressions, 
whose existence depends upon our perception 1 ). The 
objects of the external perception differ from the objects of the in 
ternal perception in possessing a "peculiar constancy"; but this "peculiar 
constancy" is not the constancy of independent realities in an external 
world, as appears most definitely in the next sentence. These 
mountains, and houses, and trees, which lie at present 
under my eye, have always appeared to me in the same 
order; and when I lose sight of them by shutting my 
eyes or turning my head, I soon after find them return 
upon me without the least alteration. My bed and 
table, my books and papers, present themselves in the 
same uniform manner, and change not upon account 
of any interruption in my seeing or perceiving them. 
This is the case with all the impressions, whose 
objects are suppos d to have an external existence; 
and is the case with no other impressions, whether 
gentle or violent, voluntary or involuntary 2 ). 

Accepting Hume s sceptical premise concerning our inability to 
perceive a real, independent and external world, we are bound to 
recognize that he means by these imaginative ficta , these objects , 
these "houses and mountains and trees", objects-in-consciousness, or 
phenomena. For if Hume identified these objects with the psycho- 
physical experiences in which they were perceived, he would be in 
volved in the contradiction of asserting, that we are conscious only of 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 484. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 484. 



99] The Central Problem of David Hume g Philosophy. 397 



we are 
cer- 



internal and perishing existences, and, in the same breath, that 
conscious of houses and mountains and trees, which need not, 
tainly, be real, but which cannot be internal and perishing existences. 

We find some confirmation of this view of objects as in con 
sciousness, and distinct from the psycho-physical experiences which 
we enjoy in perceiving them, from Hume s remarks concerning 
the "coherence" as well as the "constancy" of objects. This con 
stancy however, Hume writes, is not so perfect as not to 
admit of very considerable exceptions. Bodies often 
change their position and qualities, and after a little 
absence or interruption, may become hardly know- 
able, but here tis observable, that even in these 
changes they preserve a coherence, and have a regular 
dependence on each other; which is a foundation of 
a kind of reasoning from causation, and produces the 
opinion of their contiii u d existence . . . . This co 
herence, therefore, is one of the characteristics of 
external objects, as well as their constancy 1 ). 

These "external objects", which are coherent, are not the physical 
realities, "mountains and houses and trees" in the natural world, for 
these, Hume is convinced, we can never perceive, even if they do 
exist, which we can never know. But neither are these "external 
objects" confused by Hume, here, with our real perceptive experi 
ences, for in a second comparison of the external with the internal 
perception, he draws a distinction between the regularity of the 
real experiences, and of the sensations which he takes to be identical 
with these, and of the coherence, or regularity, of the "external 
objects". We may observe, that tho those internal im 
pressions which we regard as fleeting and perishing, 
have also a certain coherence or regularity in their 
appearances, yet tis of a somewhat different nature, 
from that which we discover in body. Our passions are 
found by experience to have a mutual connection with 
and dependence on each other: but on no occasion is 
it necessary to suppose, that they have existed and 
operated, when they were not perceiv d, in order to 
preserve the same dependence and connection, of 
which we have had experience. The case is no t the same 
with relation to external objects. Those require a 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 4845. 



398 C - V - Salmon, [100 

c p n t i n u d existence, or otherwise lose, in a great 
measure, the regularity of their operation 1 ). 

The external perception differs, Hume takes it, from the internal 
perception, by reason of the activity of the imagination. The internal 
perception is pure sensation. The external perception is sensation 
plus imagination. The imagination creates "fictions" , and these fictions 
are the "external objects". The fictions, which Hume, driven by his 
sceptical prejudices, falsely supposed were perceived in the stead of 
the real objects in the natural world, are none other than the objects- 
in-consciousness, which are discovered by introspection, and are the 
means, through the intentional character of consciousness, of our 
perception of the realities. These invented "fictions", or phenomena, 
are constant and coherent. 



28. Protention and Retention , part of the Apprehension 
of all Consciousness. 

Hume accepts the fact of the coherence and constancy of 
objects in the external perception as a basis on which to explain 
the genesis of their identity. But before proceeding to this question 
of their identity, he is led into attempting a description of the origin 
of their coherence, which is interesting because it is founded on 
a certain expectancy which Hume sees to be characteristic of con 
sciousness. We noticed this expectancy in connection with belief. 
Hume makes use of the notion here to show how the imagination 
pre-constructs what it subsequently apprehends. The description is 
the famous one of a man seated in his chair by the fire, receiving a 
letter brought from a foreign country, by means of a series of ferries 
and posts, carried upstairs by a porter, announced by the noise of the 
opening door etc. The receiver of the letter is described not only as 
presenting to his fancy all this elaborate paraphernalia of transport, 
but also of supposing both its present, and its continuous, existence. 

There is scarce a moment of my life, Hume writes, 
wherein there is not a similar instance presented to 
me, and I have not occasion to suppose the contin u d 
existence of objects, in order to connect their present 
and past appearances, and give them such an union, 
with each other, as I have found by experience to 
be suitable to their particular natures and circum- 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 485. 



101] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 399 

stances. Here then I am naturally led to regard the 
world, as something real and dura hie, and as pre 
serving its existence, even when it is no longer pre 
sent to my perception 1 ). 

In writing, thus, of the "continuous existence* of objects , Hume 
touches what is an essential part of the transcendence of the real 
world which we perceive. Hume accounts for the mode of continuous 
existence in which the world appears to us, in the terms of an ex 
pectancy in consciousness. And indeed this expectancy, by which 
we are enabled to overstep bounds of strict presence, and anticipate, 
and outline, an extension of the strictly present perception, is a 
faculty without which perception, in general, would be impossible. 
For in perceptive consciousness we are aware of scenes, which are 
by no means limited to, or enclosed within, the instant of the present 
consciousness. This is the beginning of all temporal transcendence 
of object, that the object is from the very first moment of its 
conception, or perception, something essentially apart from the 
consciousness itself and that which is directly within the scope of 
the immediate consciousness. That which is present in conscious 
ness, that which is immediately There! under the intuition, includes 
a certain reference to a totality which extends beyond its instant. 
The connection of that which is immediate to consciousness with its 
own totality, extends, so to speak, both ways, through a certain 
retention , as well as a certain protention , of the conscious 
mind. 

Retention and protention are in operation whereever there is con 
sciousness at all. The conception of an abstract isosceles triangle, for 
example, is just as dependent upon a retention and protenlion of the 
constructive faculty, as the perception of any external reality; and 
the perception of any immobile external object is just as dependent 
on it, as the perception of some moving object, like a train. But 
retention and protention involve no element of real time. They 
themselves are rather the means, by which the constructive faculty 
of consciousness creates entire objectivities for itself, so that each 
single object appears before it, as a part of, and in relation to, the 
whole of the particular objective sphere to which it belongs. 

The isosceles triangle, which the geometer sets before his mind s 
eye, must be present to him as a part of the whole interrelation of 
figures possible in geometric space, and itself involves, and is in- 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 486. 



400 C. V. Salmon, [102 

volved in, the laws and relations of them all. The particular tree, 
which is perceived, involves, and is involved in, the entirety of the 
real world, real space, time and causality. Something, of course, of 
the relations of any real object, the tree to other trees in the garden, 
may be perceived with the tree. Something of the antecedent events 
of portage and distance, in Hume s example of the letter received, 
may have been actually present to the mind of the receipient when 
he took and read the letter. But these are not the important factors 
in the matter. There is a question, here, as Hume recognized, of a 
fundamental continuity , which serves as an element on which 
all objects, of whatever kind, must move. It is a continuity prior 
to any real contigencies, a continuity, which makes in the real world, 
for instance, causal relation possible, which makes relation, in general, 
possible in all spheres, mathematical, ethical, aesthetic, social, eco 
nomic etc. Nothing less is in question than the fundamental pro- 
tentive and retentive intention of consciousness, as the underlying 
structure of intelligence. This it is which gives us the order and 
nature of objects in their various fields. This it is which makes the 
fact of transcendence, and, indeed, creates the very division 
between subject and object without which there could be no con 
sciousness of any sort. Hume did well to describe our consciousness 
of the real world in terms of an underlying continuity for which the 
imagination was responsible. 



29. Hume s paradoxical Appearance-Theory . That which it 
involves, and that to which it leads. 

It must not be supposed that the conception of phenomena, into 
which we seek to convert Hume s "fictions", was ever held by Hume 
in the clearness and distinctness it deserves, or that it was held by 
him even confusedly with any consistency. But there are certain 
descriptive passages in the Treatise lit by the flash of a genius too 
penetrating to allow one to deny Hume the conception altogether. 
Hume may be said to have realized spasmodically the nature of ob- 
jects-in-consciousness, and at such times to have treated his "fictions" 
as if they were these. The reader will recognize that Hume s obli 
gation to acknowledge the quality of "continuous existence" in his 
"objects", a quality to which their coherence and constancy have led, 
will put his conception of these "objects" to the proof. If Hume s 
"objects" are phenomena, he need have no difficulty in ascribing to 
them a "continuous existence" of an ideal kind, such a continuity as 



103] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 4Q1 

can permit them to possess their own identity, and allow the same 
"object" to be present in consciousness innumerable times. If, on 
the other hand, Hume s conception of phenomena, which his notice 
of the constancy and coherency of his "fictions" has induced, is weak 
enough to fade, as soon as his treatment of these qualities is done, 
and be transmuted back into the psycho-physical experiences which 
contain them, and from which they have only with the greatest 
difficulty emerged, then it must be expected that Hume will be re 
luctant to allow them to be "continuously existent". Up to the present, 
Hume s doctrine that the mind is necessarily limited to its own "per 
ceptions" has interested us chiefly by reason of its excluding the 
natural world of reality, either sceptically, or merely after the 
fashion of Descartes dubito, from the attention of the philosopher. 
But, while still keeping in mind this, its first, consequence, it is ob 
vious that the doctrine must interest us chiefly at the present because 
it forces a crisis upon Hume, and compels him to pronounce once 
and for all upon the nature of his "perceptions". While the discussion 
was still confined to the coherence and constancy of the "percep 
tions", it was not absolutely necessary to distinguish the "objects" 
of the perception from the perceptive experiences. For it was at 
least conceivable that the perceptive experiences themselves could 
be coherent and constant. But nothing can be more certain than 
that the perceptive experiences themselves, taking them as Hume 
always takes them, as being psycho-physical, cannot be "continuously 
existent". Hume must determine on one or other alternative. On 
the one hand, he is bound to acknowledge that we do perceive, or 
at least believe that we do perceive, something - "objects" or 
"perceptions" which is continuously existent. On the other hand, 
he still believes firmly in the discrete nature of reality, and so is 
bound, either to identify his "fictions" with their psycho-physical 
experiences, and deny all possibility of our perceiving anything con 
tinuously existent, or, transforming his scepticism concerning the 
external world into the reflexive attitude relevant to the subjective 
plane of the argument, to adopt frankly the conception of his 
"fictions" as objects-in-consciousness, and admit that it is these 
phenomena to which the continuity of existence belongs. If Hume 
chose the latter alternative, it is obvious that the "continuous 
existence" will become a mere "identity", which will be proper 1 
the "fictions". For, since phenomena do not exist in real time D 
more will be implied in asserting their "continu d existence , t 
that they are "identical". 

Husserl, Jahrbuch f. Philosophie. X. 



402 C - V - Salmon, [104 

Weighted with the full load of his empirical prejudices, and with 
his habit of real hypostasis, Hume makes a final attempt in the form 
of a highly paradoxical Appearance-theory, to solve the problem of 
consciousness without an appeal to the pure subjective realm. Then, 
recognizing the contradictions in which he has involved himself, he 
passes fairly to the problem of identity, and, there, in one significant 
moment, confesses to the admission of a phenomenon in consciousness 
in the shape of an "idea", which he allows to be identical. 

Hume s Appearance-theory amounts to the assertion, that, 
although something must be admitted to appear to the perception 
as continuously existent, this something turns out itself to be no 
more than an appearance , and consequently no reality . Hume 
employs again his former notion of "relation", which the imagination 
contrives. If continuous existence is anything, it is a "relation". But 

this "relation" is not an instance of the "causal inference" t h o 

this conclusion from the coherence of appearances 
Hume writes may seem to be of the same nature 
with our reasoning concerning causes and effects; as 
being deriv d from custom, and regulated by past ex 
perience, we shall find upon examination that they 
are at the bottom considerably different from each 
other, and that this inference arises from the under 
standing, (the "understanding" is to be identified here with the 
imagination) and from custom in an indirect and oblique 
manner. For twill readily be allowed, that since 
nothing is ever really present to the mind besides its 
own perceptions, tis not only impossible, that any 
habit shou d ever be acquired otherwise than by the 
regular succession of these perceptions, but also that 
any habit sho u d ever exceed that degree of regularity. 
Any degree therefore, of regularity in our percep 
tions, can never be a foundation for us to infer a 
greater degree of regularity in some objects, which 
are not perceived; since this supposes a contradiction 
viz. a habit acquired by what was never present to 
the mind 1 ). 

The imagination s "conclusion" concerning continuous existence 
may seem at first sight to be explained as being founded upon the 
"coherence of appearances". But upon inspection the plausibility 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 4867. 






105] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



403 



of Hume s account vanishes. The difference, which he honestly 
admits between the nature of the present "conclusion" and the causal 
inference, seems too absolute to allow of the present conclusion 
being explained at all. Causality was a "relation" made by the mind 
between certain members of an unvaried sequence which it had per 
ceived. But the present "relation" is described by Hume as being 
made between terms which the mind never has perceived. Hume s 
"any degree of regularity in our perceptions, can never be a founda 
tion for us to infer a greater degree of regularity in some objects, 
which are not perceived", embodies two opposite assertions: 1. that 
by some process as yet unexplained the imagination creates 
the relation of continuous existence, and 2. that, in spite of the 
creation of this relation, we do not and cannot perceive anything 
which is continuously existent. Such an exposition of the result of 
"relation" would rob Hume s earlier accounts of it of all their value. 
For the significance of all possible explanation of our consciousness 
of objects by a description of the genesis of those objects in con 
sciousness, rests on the supposition -- which is, of course, true - 
that the objects in consciousness are a means to our consciousness 
of the transcendent objects. The mind constructs immanent objects, 
and, being intentional, produces thus for itself a consciousness 
of transcendent objects. While admitting that Hume never had any 
distinct notion of the relation of the immanent in consciousness to 
the transcendent beyond it, yet so long as he was prepared to admit 
that what the mind had constructed for itself it did perceive, we held 
it possible to make use of his subjective descriptions of the construc 
tion of objects in consciousness by the imagination. This we believed 
we could do by insisting on the difference involved between the 
natural and the philosophical or reflective attitude, and by intro 
ducing the intentional character of consciousness to relate the sub 
jective to the objective. But were Hume to develop with any con 
sequence the line of thought which he makes use of here, in a 
distinction between that which is "perceived" and that which is 
"imagined", we should have to confess that Hume s subjective con 
ceptions were devoid of value. 

Hume supposes that he cannot admit to any full consciousness of 
continuous existence, without admitting the independent reality of the 
external world; and we know that Hume was convinced that such an 
mission would destroy the validity of the doctrine on which he had boil 
the Treatise, that the mind is limited to its perceptions. He seeks 
in a distinction between "perception" and "imagination . He r 



404 C. V. Salmon, [1Q6 

to his identification of "real perception" with "sense-impression", using 
the former term now to imply that what is "perceived" is not "ima 
gined", and that what is "imagined" is "imagined" merely, and not 
"perceived". Under this scheme, and for its sake, he is content 
a. once more to confuse within the one word "perception" both the 
psycho-physical experience and the object perceived, and b. to make 
an improper use of the notion of "appearance". When we have 
been accustomed to observe a constancy in certain 
impressions, he writes, and have found that the percep 
tion of the sun or ocean, for instance, returns upon 
us after an absence or annihilation with like parts and 
in a like order, as at its first appearance, we are not 
apt to regard these interrupted perceptions as diffe 
rent, (which they really are), but, on the contrary, 
consider, them as individually the same, upon account 
of their resemblance. But as this interruption of 
their existence is contrary to their perfect identity, 
and makes us regard the first impression as annihi 
lated, and the second as newly created, we find our 
selves somewhat at a loss, and are involved in a kind 
of contradiction. In order to free ourselves from this 
difficulty, we disguise, as much as possible, the inter 
ruption, or rather remove it entirely, by supposing, 
that these interrupted perceptions are connected by 
a real existence of which we are insensible 1 ). 

Hume is willing to argue, a. that the discreteness of the psycho- 
physical experiences excludes the possibility of our being conscious 
of anything continuous, and b. that we are limited in perception to 
the "appearances" of objects, which are themselves beyond the reach 
of our perception. These objects, which Hume is now supposing to be 
beyond our reach, are not, in this instance, the supposed realities of 
the external world. For Hume is arguing within the subjective sphere, 
and referring only to what may be found within the body of the 
"impressions". ". . . . twill readily be allowed - - Hume had just 
written - - that .... nothing is ever really present to the mind, 
besides its own perceptions." And now, he says, explicitly, we suppose 
"that these interrupted perceptions are connected by a real 
existence of which we are insensible." Hume s present distinction 
between "appearance" and "objects" is supposed to be valid within 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 488. 



107] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 4Q5 

the subjective body of the "perceptions". It is only to objects which 
are avowedly "fictions", that we are persuaded to attribute a "con- 
tinu d existence". The "fictions" of the "imagination" are constant 
and coherent. We presume them to be continuously existent. Hume s 
argument is the following: It is the nature of that which we perceive, 
to be perceived, and therefore to cease to be anything at all, when 
it is not perceived. This table, therefore, which I, opening my eyes, 
perceive, is a perception, a perception-table, which ceases to exist as 
soon as I shut my eyes. When I open my eyes a second time, and 
again perceive a table, the table which I perceive is a table exactly 
resembling the table which I perceived a moment since, but not the 
same table, being in its nature a perception-table, and, as such, 
numerically different from the former perception-table. I never, 
therefore, really "perceive" the continuous existence of the percep 
tion-table, but owing to a native disposition in the mind, as the 
mind is once in the train of observing an uniformity 
among objects, it naturally continues, till it renders 
the uniformity as compleat as possible 1 ), -- I am led to 
"imagine" it. But this distinction between what I "perceive" and what 
I "imagine" but do not "perceive", with its counterpart distinction 
between that which is all "appearance", i. e. that which I "perceive", 
and that which is "object" which never "appears", i. e. the con 
tinuously existent perception, which I "imagine" only and do not 
"perceive", is both invalid in itself, and an inconsequence within 
Hume s system. In the Treatise it is a curiosity which quickly sinks 
from sight. When Hume proceeds to the question of the identity of 
the "perceptions", he shows himself dissatisfied with his account of 
their "continuous existence". The fact is that all that we really 
"suppose", if we do suppose it and not perceive it, when we say that 
our "perceptions" are "joined by a continuous existence", is that they 
are entities possessed of an identity, which, when they recur, we 
recognize, and say, That is the Same! 

B. Hume s "System". The Problem of Identity 

in External Perception. 

First, to explain the principium individuationis, 
or principle of identity. Secondly, give a reason why 
the resemblance of our broken and interrupt 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 488. 



406 C. V. Salmon, [108 

ceptions induces us to attribute an identity to them. 
Thirdly, account for that propensity, which this 
illusion gives, to unite these broken appearances by 
a continu d existence. Fourthly and lastly, explain 
that force and vivacity of conception, which arises 
from the propensity 1 ). 



30. Introduction To Hume s Principium Individuationis, or 
special problem of Identity in Consciousness. 

Our review of Hume s work has made it evident, that the ultimate 
merit of the Humeian theory, must rest upon his treatment of 
identity. We have seen the steps by which Hume came to conceive 
of the problem of external perception in subjective terms, and we 
have made some estimate of the amount of truth and error involved 
in that conception. Although Hume s sceptical prejudices served to 
remove the discussion from the objective plane of the natural world, 
they have not as yet induced him to make any clear statement about 
the nature of the subjective field, where he is occupied. He has been 
content to employ the word "perception", and to leave its division 
into experience and object implicit and unanalysed. We have watched 
Hume s diverse uses of the subject-object relation in general. Its 
terms made their first appearance in Hume s ambiguous treatment 
of "impressions" and "ideas". Being once introduced they played 
a great variety of parts. At one time Hume would have them both 
comprehended within a quasi-real objectivity, at another within a 
quasi-ideal subjectivity. And forgetful, presently, of both attempts, 
he tries to make the subject-object relation synonymous with the 
conscious ego, and the natural world. Under this interpretation, he 
subsumes the differences between reality and appearance, and 
between sense-perception and imagination. But through all these 
attempts, and beyond them, the immanent subjectivity and the 
transcendent objectivity remain unreconciled and unexplained, 
positive still in spite of all negation, and supported by Hume s 
authoritative beliefs. The vulgar man, who believes both in his own 
existence and that of an independent real world, triumphs over the 
merely speculative philosopher. The sceptical and single meditative 
attitude gives place before the practical, which can embrace them 
both. 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 489. 



109] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 4Q7 

But Hume has still to make a last attempt in the subjective 
sphere to find a tolerant philosophy which will have room within it 
for the immanent origin of a really transcendent world. Whatever 
motives he may have had, Hume finds himself examining perception 
from the subjective side. The natural world has dropped out of 
sight with all its qualities, with the externality which Hume, so 
curiously, leaves out of his regard. The real world cannot explain 
our consciousness of it, our perception must explain it. But if we are 
to be occupied thus exclusively with consciousness, we must divide 
our perception into two elements, we must have both a perception of 
a world in consciousness, and a world in consciousness which is built 
up to be perceived. We must have a subject-object relation within 
the subjective sphere. We must have noesis and noema. We must 
have intentional consciousness that we may have a transcendent 
world. For all Hume s negative treatment of "perceptions", that they 
are not "external", that they are not "distinct", that they are not 
"continuously existent", that they are not even "perceived", but, 
only "imagined", he must still offer something positive, he must offer 
an object in perception. If there is nothing more positive in con 
sciousness, there is at least an object, i. e. there is an identity. 
There must be a 4 pole in consciousness, besides the conscious 
mind or ego-pole , which can receive the "fictions" which the 
imagination invents there are four things requi 
site, he writes by way of preface to his subjective account 
of perception. First, to explain the principium indivi- 
duationis, or principle of identity. Secondly, give a 
reason why the resemblance of our broken and inter 
rupted perceptions induces us to attribute an iden 
tity to them. Thirdly, account for that propensity, 
which this illusion gives, to unite these broken appe 
arances by a continu d existence. Fourthly and lastly, 
explain that force and vivacity of conception, whi< 
arises from the propensity 1 ). 

Of these four principles the most significant is the principium 
individuationis, in which the second, as well as the first, of Hume s 
four requisites is involved. These two taken together form the climax 
of Hume s subjectivism. If Hume will allow, that there is in con- 
sciousness an identical object, he will have left in his system , 
irrefutable foundation on which a sane and conclusive philosophy can 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p, 489, 



408 C. V. Salmon, [HO 

be built up. He will have left a subject-object relation in con 
sciousness, a noesis and noema, which can create a transcendence out 
of immanence through the abilities of intentional consciousness. But 
the third and fourth of the requisites of the Humeian system read 
sceptical even in their presentation. Must Hume "account for that 
propensity, which this illusion gives, and explain that force and 
vivacity of conception, which arises from the propensity"? Then 
"identity" is an "illusion", and no fact , and there is no object in 
consciousness, and no subject-object relation within the subjective 
sphere, and Hume has failed, and is become, once more, philoso 
phically at least, a sceptic. 

But while on his own confession Hume does fail, and makes of 
identity in consciousness a mere "illusion", he does yet, in his very 
account of that "illusion", describe an object in consciousness, and an 
identity, which cries out against the name illusion, and is essential 
even to Hume s scepticism. 

In an examination of requisites 1. and 2. of Hume s system, 
we shall show that Hume s position involves a positive philosophy. 
Hume calls identity an "illusion", and tries to explain it away as an 
abstract idea. But the "resemblance" from which Hume claims that 
the idea "identity" is abstracted, is itself perceived resemblance, 
and this perception of resemblance involves an identity, in the shape 
of an identical object. Hume distinguishes between "identity", which 
he calls an "illusion", and "unity" which he admits to be a fact . 
He makes "unity" the basis of "resemblance". But the difference 
between "unity" and "identity" is one in name only; "unity" of 
object presupposes "identity" in object. When Hume refuses to 
recognize the fact of the identity of the object in consciousness, the 
object-as-it-is-perceived, with which, even in his account of identity 
as illusion, he cannot dispense, he gives one the impression of wishing 
to use the notion of identity, rather as a stumbling block to positive 
thought, and an inducement to scepticism, than as a problem worthy 
of solution. 

31. Part I: Of Hume s System. Principium Individuationis. 

I. Identity. 

Hume starts his enquiry concerning the nature of our perception 
of identity with a definition of identity itself. 

As to the principle of individuation ; we may ob 
serve, Hume writes, that the view of any one object is not 



Ill] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



409 



sufficient to convey the idea of identity. For in that 
proposition, an object is the same with itself, if the 
idea express d by the word, object , were no way dis- 
tinguishedfromthatmeantby 4 itself ;wereallyshou d 
mean nothing, nor wou d the proposition contain a 
predicate and a subject, which however are imply d in 
this affirmation. One single object conveys the idea 
of unity, not that of identity. On the other hand, a 
multiplicity of objects can never convey this idea, 
however resembling they may be suppos d. The mind 
always pronounces the one not to be the other, and 
considers them as forming two, three or any deter 
minate number of objects, whose existences are 
entirely distinct and independent. 

Since then both number and unity are incompatible 
with the relation of identity, it must lie in something 
that is neither of them. But . . . . at first sight this 
seems utterly impossible. Betwixt unity and number 
there can be no medium; no more than betwixt 
existence and non-existence. After one object is 
suppos d to exist, we must either suppose another 
also to exist, in which case we have the idea of number: 
Or we must suppose it not to exist; in which case the 
first object remains at unity. To remove this diffi 
culty, let us have recourse to the idea of time or 
duration .... time, in a strict sense, implies succes 
sion, and .... when we apply its idea to any unchange 
able object, tis only by a fiction of the imagination, 
by which the unchangeable object is suppos d to parti 
cipate of the changes of the co-existent objects, and 
in particular of that of our perceptions. The fiction 
of the imagination almost universally takes place; 
and tis by means of it, that a single object, plac d 
before us, and survey d for any time without our dis 
covering in it any interruption or alteration (Hume will 
presently explain in detail, how the imagination works in the manu 
facture of this fiction), is able to give us a notion of 

identity Here then is an idea, which i 

medium betwixt unity and number 

and this idea we call that of identity 

the principle of individuation is nothing but the 



410 C. V. Salmon, [U2 

in variableness and uninterruptedness of any object 
thro a suppos d variation of time . . . .*). 

Taken by itself the definition is neat enough. "Identity" is the 
invariableness and uninterruptedness of any object through a supposed 
variation of time. Offered as an abstraction, it contains nothing 
objectionable. But when it is considered in connection with its 
derivation, the hypothetical element involved in the "supposition of 
a variation of time", which in abstraction could be taken as concep 
tual only, assumes a character of illusoriness, which invalidates the 
whole. Identity, the abstraction, becomes a fiction which can never 
properly be assigned to the real objects of the perception. Having 
admitted a distinction between "unity" and "identity", why should 
Hume find any difficulty in the notion of a single object or unity 
persisting through a duration of time? Hume is hampered by his 
earlier doctrine of particularity. It forces him to regard any single 
object as something complete , taken both in, and by, itself. And 
with this absolute view of the particular, he considers himself bound 
to offer an explanation of identity in the terms of the relative sub 
jectivity, which we have so often deplored. He wishes to make 
identity itself dependent on our perception of it. The true sub- 
jectivist must recognize that he is not concerned with any object, 
but is limited always to as much of that object as can be supposed 
to be involved in our consciousness of it. Hume s business did not 
lie with identity itself, but only with our consciousness of identity, 
i. e. with identity in consciousness. By refusing to confine his atten 
tion to the subjective, Hume involved himself as usual in hypostasis, 
and brought empirical elements into the subjective sphere in which 
he worked. Starting from the false and irrelevant premise, that 
there is no such thing as a "real" persistence of any unit through 
a variation of time, Hume made identity itself dependent on our 
perception. He made identity a fiction in the sceptical sense, an 
illusion which, from the point of view of philosophy, we ought 
to dissuade ourselves from believing. Hume tries to explain our 
seeming perception of identity by a relatively subjective standard of 
comparison. And, under analysis, this relatively subjective standard 
turns out to be a comparison of a double set of objects. It is by 
comparing objects with our experiences of objects, according to 
Hume, that we win our notion of their identity, namely their fictitious 
persistence. By a fiction of the imagination, the really unchangeable 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 48990. 



113] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 41 J 

object is supposed to participate in the changes of our perceptions. 
We find ourselves caught once more in the Humeian theory of 
simplicity and complexity, with its differentiation between that which 
is, and that which is perceived. That which is, is simple, and, 
by its nature, cannot participate in change. That which is per- 
ceived is complex, and may be supposed to change to the extent in 
which it may be compared to that which does not change. That which 
is, and does not change, is the sequence of the units which are our 
real experiences, which Hume supposes may somehow be retained 
singly, and yet in relation to one another, by some such faculty as 
memory. The idea of identity is said to spring from a comparison 
of perceived objects with perceiving experiences. But as Hume s 
explanation stands it is manifestly insufficient. It needs, in the first 
place, the explanation which Hume is reserving, as to how this com 
parison between objects and experiences actually takes place. But in 
the second place it needs an explanation, which Hume never gives, 
as to how the supposed single and unique object becomes separated 
from the supposed single and unique experience, so as to be able to 
be compared with it. A moment s consideration should convince any 
one, that the whole question of identity has already been involved 
by the time that this separation has taken place. The problem of 
identity is already contained in Hume s conception of unity. Hume 
should not have made any assertions concerning the single and unitary 
nature of the objects supposed to participate in the changes required 
by the sequence of our experiences, until he had investigated the 
nature of the original separation between experience and object. Had 
he made this investigation, he would have found that the unity, i. e. 
the object as distinct from the experience, was already identical with 
itself; and that this identity of the object with itself, was no mere 
tautological proposition, that is to say a logical duplicity to express 
a real uniqueness, but that it was a pregnant and synthetic identity, 
which the unit contained, as part of its title to be separable from the 
unity of the experience. 

32. Part II of Hume s System. Principium Individuationis. 

II. Unity. 

"In that proposition, an object is the same with itself, if the 
idea expressed by the word object , were no ways distinguished from 
that meant by itself ," says Hume, "we really should mean nothing, 
nor would the proposition contain a predicate and a subject, which 



412 C. V. Salmon, [114 

are however imply d in this affirmation." Hume has his finger on a 
truth which he misinterprets. When we say, with reference to the 
real object, This table is identical, it cannot be doubted that we mean 
to assert, as Hume suggests, that this table is the same as that table, 
which existed, and which we perceived to exist, in a past moment, 
and that this table is the same table as that table, which will exist, 
and which we could perceive to exist, in a future moment. But 
this real table, which is thus really identical, is not the table or the 
identity with which Hume ought to be concerned. The expression, 
This table! is ambiguous. When we say, This table!, and express 
the subject of a judgment, we are already making an assertion of an 
identity which we do not actually express in the judgment, but which 
we could express without tautology. The truth is that This table!, 
which is the subject of the predicate real identity, overlaps or 
coincides in meaning with another This Table! which is also iden 
tical, and the object of the philosophical enquiry. The second This 
table! is not and could not be the subject of the predicate real 
identity, because it is not a real table. Real identity involves, as 
Hume suggests, persistence in time. The one real table was yesterday, 
and is today, and will be tomorrow. The real table has four legs: 
i. e. it had four legs, is having four legs, and will be having four legs. 
But this is not to say, as Hume wanted to say, that this table, which 
we assert to be the same with itself, i. e. to be identical, is different 
from itself, that is, that the This table! is one table, belonging 
to, and included in the moment of time A, and that the Itself is 
another table, belonging to and included in the moment of time B, 
for such a proposition would have avoided tautolgy only at the price 
of being self-contradictory. When we say that an object is the same 
with itself, we mean that it is the same with, and not different from, 
itself: we mean that it is identical. In others words, while it is true to 
assert that the time element enters into real identity, it is false to make 
of this time a sequence of discrete moments, in which a real object 
could not persist, but only a plurality of unique objects corresponding 
to, and included in, these moments. Real time is such that real objects 
can persist in it, that is to say, be identical with themselves. Per 
sistence is the characteristic of reality. When we say that objects exist, 
we mean that they persist. The real table, which has four legs, actu 
ally includes within itself a certain flux or continuum of time. The 
present existence of the table is a state of being, not an isolated 
moment , but a condition of past, present and future. Both the past 
and the future are contained in the real present. So much is this 






115] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 413 

continuous time nature essential to the existence of the real parti- 
cular, that we ourselves are seen to come into a certain psycho- 
physical and contingent contact with it, as perceiving subjects. Not 
only the object itself, but also the perception of the object, requires 
time, that is, takes place in, or exists in, time. And here we come 
again to a thought of Hume s. Hume recognized that it is due to our 
consciousness of the sequence of our experiences, that we are con 
scious of real time. He saw that our perception of time, like 
every other perception, was dependent upon the subjective, and 
that we only perceived it because we had already made it for 
ourselves. But from this notion he made his usual deduction, 
that if we had made time, and were as subjects responsible for 
it, time must be admitted to be a fiction. At any rate, time must 
be taken to belong exclusively to subjects, and cannot be supposed 
to belong to objects. But this argument of Hume s was fallacious. 
Again he misunderstood the nature of the dependency of time upon 
the subjective, which he took as his premise. Just as in the case of 
space he did not recognize that there was a subjective, or immanent, 
as well as objective, or transcendent, space , so, here, he does not 
recognize that there is a subjective as well as an objective time , these 
two times being, like the two spaces, of a quite different nature, the 
one immanent and ideal, and the other transcendent and real. He 
sees that our perception of real time is dependent in a certain sense 
upon the subjective , that, as he put it, we perceive real objects 
in time because of a certain "comparison" which we make between 
real objects and our experiences, but he misunderstands the nature 
of this "comparison". It is riot by means of comparing real objects 
with our real perceptive-experiences of them, that we are capable of 
perceiving real time, but by means of certain ideal syntheses , which 
take place, not like our real experiences in real time, but in the ideal, 
immanent time of the pure subjective sphere. We can only perceive 
the real identity, the persistence of objects in real time, because we 
have constructed for ourselves an identical object in the ideal time. 
Hume, being limited to his conception of comparative subjectivity , 
conceived that subjective time was real time. Indeed he thought 
that the only time was this subjective , and uni-dimensional, sequence 
of real experiences, and that our only consciousness of subjective 
time was our consciousness of this sequence . . But why did he not 
recognize, that this sequence of our real experiences, being indeed 
a part of real time, belongs to the objective and not to the subjective 
world, and that, therefore, our consciousness of the sequence of 



414 C. V. Salmon, 

these real experiences, is liable to all his own objections against our 
perceiving real, identical, objects in time? For in order to exist in 
real time at all, these real experiences, like other real objects, must 
be supposed to be identical. If Hume was to deny the existence 
of external objects in time, he should also have denied, and just as 
forcefully, the sequence, and our consciousness of the sequence, of 
our real experiences. For the whole of real time, like the whole of 
real space, is essentially transcendent to the subject. It is true, that 
there is a certain difference between the two cases, for while the 
existence of external objects in time requires their persistence, the 
sequence of internal experiences does not demand a similar per 
sistence of the individual experiences. But this fact in no way alters 
the equal reality of the time involved in both; and this may be seen 
in the fact that the notions of persistence and sequence are strictly 
complementary to one another. Nothing can persist unless a sequence 
of something else is involved; and there can be no sequence unless 
something else persists. Time lends its name alternately to these two 
halves of its own complementary whole. In the first case when the 
object persists, time is the sequence, the object persisting through a 
sequence of moments of time; in the second case, when events, such 
as experiences or any other real events, follow one another, time 
is the persistence, or persisting element in which the sequence 
takes place. 

Real time is a continuum, so that any moment of it contains 
both past, present and future. This is involved in the notion of real 
identity. But the whole of identity is not exhausted in the real 
identity which we perceive; there is a certain ideal identity in the 
perception, an immanent identity, which is involved in our perception 
both of the sequence of our experiences, and of the identity of a 
persisting object in the external world. 

This identity is also an identity in time, but in subjective, and 
not in objective, time. Now the main differences involved in the 
distinct natures of objective or transcendent, and subjective or imma 
nent time, may be summed up by saying that while, as we have seen, 
objective time is a continuum composed of continuing moments , 
each of which must be allowed to contain both a past and a future 
in their present, subjective time, is not a continuum but an entirety, 
in which each moment is an entirety, and, as such, absolutely inde 
pendent of any other moment. Subjective time is not a flux or 
stream, but is seen under each reflexion as a whole. 

When the subject reflects upon the object as it is in conscious- 



117] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 415 

ness, he is reflecting upon an entirety, a whole, a unity, as Hume 
would have called it, or an identity which is perfect. From what has 
been said about the complementary nature of real time, and the 
distinguishing unitary nature of ideal time, it will be understood 
that, there being in this latter neither sequence nor persistence, but 
only the absolute present, all divisions involved in reality, and in 
particular the real division between the object perceived and the 
perception of the object, and the quality of change involved in this 
division, will be absent from the subjective sphere. The very rule 
which the reflecting subject must follow, namely, that in reflection, 
he accept nothing which is not found in that strict moment 
or present of consciousness, which he is examining, is enough to 
suggest the nature of the identity, which will be disclosed to him. It 
will be an identity of object of experience, and an identity of ex 
perience of object. Within the unity of the object in experience 
remain the differences between the object of experience, noema, and 
the experience of object, noesis, but these do not involve real time 
or real separation. 

For there can be no identity of any kind, either real or ideal 
and this is where Hume s conception of "unity" was at fault which 
does not involve synthesis, or the relation of parts to a whole. Were 
there no synthesis within the unity of the ideal identity of the object 
in consciousness, there could be no knowledge of the identity of the 
object itself. The identical real object endures and is independent of 
our consciousness of it. But although the identity of the object in 
consciousness is such, that it can be repeated in innumerable 
experiences, that is to say, the noema in a plurality of noesis s, yet it 
cannot be said of the identity of the object in consciousness, as it 
can be of the identity of the real object, that it is separable from our 
consciousness of it, for the noesis-noema relation is, in ideal actuality, 
an inseparable unity. And here we find the clue concerning the nature 
of the relation, or dependence, not of the real identity of the real 
object upon the ideal identity of the object in consciousness, and not 
of the real identity of the real object upon the real identity of the 
real experience, but of our perception of the identity of the real 
object, and of our perception of the real identity of the real 
experience, upon the ideal identity of the object in consciousness, i. e. 
the identity of the object as we are conscious of it. It is only because 
the object as we are conscious of it is identical, that we perceive the 
identity of the real objects in the world. In this there is the appe- 
of a paradox; for, it may be asked, if the identity of the object 



arance 



416 C. V. Salmon, [118 

in the subjective sphere is inseparable from our consciousness of its 
identity, why are we not conscious in ordinary perception of the identity 
of the ideal object, instead of the identity of the real object? In other 
words, if the identity of the ideal object is dependent upon our being 
conscious of it, how can it be identical when we are not conscious of 
it, and how can it, therefore, be the means of our perceiving the real 
identity of real objects in the world? But it is evident, that such 
questions as the above, are based on the misunderstanding of the 
relation of our consciousness of real objects to our consciousness of 
phenomena. 

These do not conflict with one another, or dispute for the 
attention of consciousness. That they are both involved in any con 
crete experience becomes obvious in a moment, when it is considered 
that the real objects of the real world, and among these our bodies 
and all our organs, hands, eyes, ears etc., are not sufficient to produce 
a consciousness of themselves in any subject, are not, in fact, 
sufficient to produce any single subject . Neither the physiologist 
nor the physicist can discover any property of real objects, by which 
these could produce consciousness. If we are to be conscious of these 
objects, it is obvious that there is need for consciousness as well as 
for objects, of the existence of consciousness, if that word is to be 
used, as well as the existence of objects. Consciousness, then, as well 
as real objects, has a nature of its own; and consciousness, as well as 
reality, is capable of an ontology. 

Setting out, then, from the side of the subject we being sub 
jects there is nothing contradictory in the assertion, that not the 
objects, but the consciousness, is responsible for our consciousness of 
objects. And to confine ourselves exclusively to perception, there is 
nothing contradictory in saying, that not the real objects and their 
qualities, but the ideal objects , i. e. the objects as they are in con 
sciousness, and their qualities , are responsible for our perception of 
real objects. For it is presupposed in this saying, that, when we 
perceive, we are not conscious of consciousness, or of any objects in 
consciousness, i. e. of the objects as they are in consciousness, but, 
on the contrary, of the real objects which, therefore, we say that we 
perceive. In perception we perceive real objects: and when we are 
conscious of consciousness, that is of objects in consciousness, we are 
no longer perceiving, but are living in that subjective reflexion, which 
is necessary to the intuition of phenomena. 

If, therefore, we perceive the qualities of real objects, there can 
be nothing contradictory in saying, that we only perceive those objects 



119] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 417 

and those qualities, not because the real qualities of those objects 
are what they are, or because the real objects are so qualified, but 
because the ideal objects in consciousness are what they are , and 
have such and such qualities . 

And, to return to the present issue, it is not contradictory to say 
that we only perceive the identity of real objects because the objects 
in consciousness are, according to their natures, identical. And now, 
turning to the explanation, which Hume is reserving, as to how the 
idea of identity, according to the account he has given of it, is 
invented , since it is not perceived , by the subject, we shall find, as 
we have insisted, that even he should in consistency have admitted, 
that the subject is only enabled to invent identity, owing to the fact , 
that the object as we are conscious of it is identical, or, in other 
words, that there is an identical moment in consciousness itself. 



33. Survey of Hume s Arguments to the Establishment of his 
account of Identity. 

In the Second Part of his Four-part System, Hume s business is 
to show that identity , whose definition he has given in the First Part, 
comes to be attributed to objects in perception. This explanation 
amounts to a concession that the object in consciousness is identical. 
But the concession is made reluctantly, and is never expressed in the 
form of a definite admission. On the contrary, no sooner has Hume 
made the concession, than, in the Third and Fourth Parts of his 
System, he proceeds to retract it. Identity is acknowledged as an 
identical "image" only to be quickly dethroned and relegated once 
more to the dismal obscurity of an unexplained abstract idea, while 
Hume proceeds unhindered to his famous sceptical conclusions. But 
Hume s recognition of the identity of the object in consciousness, 
shortlived though it is, makes this portion of the Treatise supremely 
important. Here Hume comes nearest to a true conception of con 
sciousness itself, and of subjectivist philosophy. For in spite of the 
devious and often unjustifiable ways by which he travels, in spite of 
his making use of a representative theory of perception, which he has 
himself shown to be invalid, Hume does arrive here, for one moment, 
at the conception of an identical object in consciousness. He misread, 
the nature of this object. He calls it, falsely, an "image 
Hume has unveiled a phenomenon; and, cleared of its spurious label, 
this phenomenon can provide a foundation for positive, and 
sceptical, subjective idealism or Phenomenology. 

Huerl, Jahrbuch f. Philosophic. X. 



418 & V. Salmon, [120 

Hume has to explain how the subject attributes identity, in the 
sense of persistence, to what he perceives. From his own position, 
Hume has to account for the fact, that although our "perceptions" 
are not identical, we do, in the ordinary course of experience perceive 
them and believe them to be such. But, lover of paradox that he 
is, no amount of ingenuity can help Hume in this case. Even his 
clever theory of belief, which has served him so often before in 
dealing with a variety of objects and their qualities , now avails him 
nothing. We cannot possibly perceive an identity unless we perceive 
something identical: and we cannot perceive something identical 
unless that something is identical. As much as this, which is, of 
course, everything, Hume finds himself obliged to allow. Having 
allowed it, Hume does his best to cover his retreat by con 
fusing two levels of objectivity or subjectivity it does not 
matter which they are called, for by this time each is involved in the 
other within the introspection. But the distinction between "image" 
and "object", which Hume seeks to draw, will not bear inspection. 
There is no room within the pure subjective sphere for any such 
discreteness. And even as these two appear in Hume s own 
account, we can find no grounds of difference to separate them. 
The identical "image" is an identical object in consciousness. This, 
as soon as he abandons his idle representative theory, Hume is 
bound to admit. 

The stages of Hume s argument are three. 

1. He asserts that our "perceptions" themselves are not identical, 
and seeks to bring in the testimony of the vulgar man to support the 
assertion. But the vulgar man himself can be shown to hold no such 
opinion. Hume misjudges him. He is not capable of the subtlety 
which Hume imputes to him. Hume is himself at fault. Hume only 
succeeds in establishing the non-identity of our "perceptions" by 
confusing together, a. the real objects of the physical world; b. our 
real psycho-physical experiences, and c. the ideal objects in con 
sciousness, i. e. phenomena. 

2. Hume makes use of a distinction between resemblance and 
identity. He compares two examples of experiences supposed to be 
different, the first supposed to be an example of a perception of real 
identity, wherein Hume examines what he calls the disposition 
of the mind in viewing any object which preserves a 
perfect identity, and the second, a perception of false identity, 
wherein Hume examines what he calls an instance of some other 



121] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 419 

(i.e. non-identical) object, that is confounded with it, by 
causing a similar disposition 1 ). 

But Hume s distinction in these two examples between real and 
false identity is not valid. The identity of the object in each case 
is in fact the same. It is not real in any physical sense, for it is an 
identity of objects in the subjective sphere. But it is not false , for 
it is a perceived identity. Moreover the examples themselves do not 
differ as Hume supposes, and will not support the differences between 
resemblance and identity. 

3. Hume propounds his notions of the "disposition" of the mind, 
and of the "idea" in the mind. When these are dissociated, the one 
from its empirical connection with the psycho-physical experience, 
the other from its connection with the notion of "image" employed 
in representative theories of perception, they can sustain the synthetic 
differences of the intentional noesis-noema character of consciousness, 
and offer a foundation for a true Phenomenology. 

34. Hume s Seven Definitions of a "Perception". Part II of 
Hume s System. 

I now proceed, says Hume, to explain the second 
part of my system, and shew why the constancy of our 
perceptions makes us ascribe to them a perfect 
numerical identity, tho there be very long intervals 
betwixt their appearance, and they have only one of 
the essential qualities of identity, viz. invariab- 
leness 2 ). That I may avoid all ambiguity and confusion 

onthishead he continues I shallobserve, thatl here 
account for the opinions and belief of the vulgar with 

regard to the existence of body; and therefore must 
entirely conform myself to their manner of thinking 
and of expressing themselves. Now we have already 
observ d, that however philosophers may distinguish 
betwixt the objects and perceptions of the senses 
which they suppose co-existent and resembling; yet 
this is a distinction which is not comprehended by t 
generality of mankind, who as they perceive only one 
being, can never assent to the opinion of a doub 
existence and representation. Those very sensatio 
which enter by the eye or ear, are with them the true 



l)Gr. & G,I, P .492. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 490 

9* 



420 C. V. Salmon, [122 

objects, nor can they readily conceive that this pen or 
paper which is immediately perceiv d, represents 
another, which is different from, but resembling it. 
In order, therefore, to accomodate myself to their 
notions, I shall at first suppose; that there is only a 
single existence, which I shall call indifferently 
object or perception, according as it shall seem best 
to suit my purpose, understanding by both of them 
what any common man means by a hat, or shoe, or 
stone, or any other impression, convey* d to him by 
his senses 1 ). 

We shall concern ourselves in the next section with the character 
of the vulgar man whom Hume introduces; our present business lies 
with what Hume has to say concerning the nature of the "percep 
tions" whose identity is in question. To this, three additional quota 
tions are relevant. 

Hume says, The persons, who entertain this opinion 
concerning the identity of our resembling percep 
tions, are in general all the unthinking and unphi- 
losophical part of mankind, (that is, all of us, at one 
time or another) and consequently such as suppose 
their perceptions to be their only objects, and never 
think of a double existence internal and external, 
representing and represented. The very image, which 
is present to the senses, is with us the real body, and 
tis to these interrupted images we ascribe a perfect 
identity 2 ). Hume says again, Tis certain, that almost all 
mankind, and even philosophers themselves, for the 
greatest part of their lives, take their perceptions 
to be their only objects, and suppose, that the very 
being, which is intimately present to the mind, is the 
real body or material existence. Tis also certain that 
this very perception or object is suppo s d to have a 
continued uninterrupted being, and neither to be 
annihilated by our absense, nor to be brought into 
existence by our presence 3 ). And again Hume says, Tis 
indeed evident that as the vulgar suppose their per 
ceptions to be their only objects, and at the same 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 49091. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 493. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 495. 



123] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



421 



time believe the continu d existence of matter, we 
must account for the origin of the belief upon that 
supposition 1 ). Now although these quotations leave no doubt 
that it is to nothing but "perceptions" that we all of us, at one time 
or another, ascribe that real identity which is characteristic of the 
continu d existence of the objects of the external world, they do, at 
the same time, leave us in the greatest doubt, as to what these 
"perceptions" actually are. For we find it asserted in them, that 
perceptions are a. "those very sensations, which enter by the eye or 
ear", b. "what any common man means by a hat, or stone, or shoe, 
or any other impression convey d to him by his senses", c. "the only 
objects" which we perceive, d. "the very image which is present to 
the senses", e. "the real body", f. "interrupted images", and g. "the 
very beings which are intimately present to the mind". Moreover 
there is discrepancy in this variety. Only one of these definitions 
appears as quite unqualified. The assertion c., that our perceptions 
are the only objects which we perceive, appears in each of the four 
passages. One other appears twice. In two of the passages Hume 
lays it down, e. that our perceptions are considered as real bodies. 
The rest make but a single appearance. 

When these assertions are grouped together, according to their 
significance, they fall into two groups, which, at the price of avoiding 
contradiction within themselves, seem to contradict one another. The 
first group is composed of the following: 

Group I. 

Our perceptions are 
c. our only objects, 

b. what any common man means by a hat, a stone, or shoe, 
e. the real body, 

and according to the interpretation which is given to it, 

g. the very beings which are intimately present to the mind. 
The second group makes up the deficit: 

Group II. 

c. our only objects, 

a. those very sensations, which enter by the eye or c 

d. the very image which is present to the senses, 
and according to the interpretation which is given to it, 

g. the very beings which are intimately present t 

1) Gr. &Gr.I,p-497. 



422 C - V - Salmon, [124 

It appears that the definitions in Group I are spatial, but 
in Group II, n o n s p a t i a 1. This differentiation should not in 
duce the reader to forsake the subjective sphere, in which the 
whole discussion takes place, as the subjective nature of Hume s 
conception of space is already known. Definition g., "the very beings 
which are intimately present to the mind", would seem to belong 
more naturally to Group II, owing to the non-spatial significance 
which it is usual to attach to the word mind . But with a certain 
straining of the meaning, it could no doubt be made to fit Group I, 
if that were necessary. Hume himself was, doubtless, aware of the 
two tendencies, in his definition, and it may be presumed that he 
had this distinction in mind, when he said, "I shall at first suppose, 
that there is a single existence, which I shall call indifferently object 
or perception, according as it shall seem best to suit my purpose". 
Adapting the Humeian terminology to our classification, we should 
qualify Group I with the name of "objects", and Group II with 
that of "perceptions". In Group I, perceptions as objects, there is 
nothing remarkable to observe. But in Group II, perceptions as 
perceptions, the notion of representation , contained in the word 
"image" in definition d., is to be remarked, first because it seems 
difficult to reconcile with the valid definition c., that our perceptions 
are our only objects, and secondly, because it is a notion which Hume 
works to its full extent a little later. 



35. Vindication of the Vulgar Man from the opinion that our 
"perceptions" are "interrupted". 

We have seen that although Hume s purpose was* to contrast 
the vulgar with the philosophic point of view, in order to ascertain 
from their conflict, what might be the essential nature of our "per 
ceptions" themselves, he was not able to avoid a certain discrepancy, 
or difference of opinion, even within the vulgar body of opinion. 
The truth is that Hume is not desirous of avoiding it. For 
he wants the vulgar man to endorse his opinion that our "per 
ceptions" are not themselves identical. By confusing "perceptions" 
defined as objects with "perceptions" defined as experiences, he is 
able to saddle the former with what he supposes to be the discrete 
character of the latter. But if the vulgar man is to be credited 
with the opinion c., that our "perceptions" are our only objects, he 
must assert and believe contrary to Hume, that our "perceptions" 
are identical. No doubt we do injustice to his character, when we 



125] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 423 

credit the vulgar man with so subtle an opinion. But we have Hume s 
authority on our behalf. For nothing is more certain than that, if the 
vulgar man were to be thought as simple as his name, he could not 
have been of any service to Hume. For the simple man could not 
have been supposed able to debate in the subjective sphere, where 
Hume s argument takes place. But Hume wishes to have the authority 
of the vulgar man, in asserting that our "perceptions" are "inter 
rupted" Wehavealreadyobserved, Hume writes, - 

that however philosophers may distinguish betwixt 

the objects and perceptions of the senses yet this 

is a distinction, which is not comprehended by the 
generality of mankind 1 ). And Tis indeed evident, - 
he writes later that as the vulgar suppose their per 
ceptions to be their only objects, and at the same 
time believe the continu d existence of matter, we 
must account for the origin of the belief upon that 
supposition 2 ). 

To enter, therefore, -- he now proceeds -- upon the 
question concerning the source of the error and de 
ception with regard to identity, when we attribute it 
to our resembling perceptions, notwithstanding their 
interruption; I must here recall an observa ntion, 
which I have already prov d and explained 3 ). 

This observation concerns the notion of resemblance. Hume s 
reference is to Part II. Sect. 5, where the "relation" of resemblance 
was discussed. Our next section will be devoted to the present use 
which Hume makes of it. Before passing to it, we have to vindicate 
the vulgar man. For when Hume talks of "the error and deception 
with regard to identity, when we attribute it to our resembling per 
ceptions, notwithstanding their interruption", he is making a pre 
supposition concerning the nature of our "perceptions", which the 
vulgar man would not admit. Concerning the nature of "perceptions" 
in general, it is obvious that the vulgar man would be prejudiced 
in favour of the definitions of them, appearing in Group I, rather 
than those in Group II. He could, no doubt, be brought to accept 
these latter definitions, when the nature of the inevitable conjunction 
between the senses and their objects had been described to him. 
But he would certainly insist upon regarding this conjunction as 



an 



1)G,.&G,.I, P .491. 2)Gr.&Gr.I, P .497. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 491- 



424 C. V. Salmon, [126 

actual inseparability, and the difference as something verbal and arti 
ficial. For the one opinion to which the vulgar man must cling is 
that his perceptions are his only objects. The vulgar man would, of 
course, be able to distinguish quite clearly between his "perceptions" 
and his perceptive experiences. He would not hesitate to say, "I saw a 
rainbow yesterday", where such a distinction is actually asserted. But 
it is not this distinction which is here involved. The question is confined 
here to the possibility of recognizing two elements in the objective 
character of the perceptive experience. Now, as against Hume, it 
seems to us, that the vulgar man world assert staunchly that he refers 
exclusively to one object when he has a perception; that is to say, 
the he refers all the qualities perceived in the perception, qualities 
such as extension, reality, distance, identity etc., to one single object, 
the perception , namely, and does not hold, as a philosopher might, 
that his perception is merely something like an image , which re 
presents some object outside the perception , some object, that is, 
not perceived, to which certain of the qualities involved we cannot 
talk here of perceived qualities must be attributed. 

If the vulgar man believed, as Hume says, that his perceptions 
were hats, stones, shoes and such like, he would not admit for an in 
stant, that his perceptions were "interrupted". He would acknowledge 
readily enough that he does not always perceive his perceptions , that 
he sees his shoes this evening, and that he will see them again to 
morrow morning, but that during the night he will not see them. 
But this "interruption" he would attribute unhesitatingly to his real 
perceptive experiences. He would say, My boots, my "perceptions", 
exist equally during the night, as during the day, it is only that I do 
not see them. If they did not exist during the night, I should not be 
able to see them again tomorrow morning. It is indeed probable 
that the vulgar man would take objection to the word "perception". 
While willing perhaps, for Hume s sake, to forsake his ordinary and 
naif standpoint, and to enter the subjective sphere, and make no 
mention of any absolute reality conceived without reference to some 
subjectivity, he would none the less dislike the suggestion in the 
word "perception" that the existence of the perceived object is in 
distinguishable from the act of its being perceived. If I agree to call 
my shoe a "perception" - he might urge against Hume you must 
allow that this "perception" has a reality of its own. While admitting 
that the objects which I perceive are dependent , in a certain fashion, 
on the consciousness by means of which I perceive them, I can and 
must recognize that these "perceptions" have a nature -of their own. 



127] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 425 

Different "perceptions" have different natures. I can distinguish 
between a pair of shoes which I perceive, and a pair of shoes which 
I only dream that I perceive, etc. The vulgar man would refuse to 
acknowledge that his "perceptions" were interrupted. If he were a 
man of unusual perspicuity, and had succeeded in understanding the 
pure nature of the subjective sphere, he would object to Hume s use 
of the word "interrupted" in connection with "perceptions". Our 
"perceptions" have an ideal existence only, he would say, they are 
not real in the same sense as our perceptive experiences themselves, 
and cannot therefore be supposed to be "interrupted" in the same 
real, discrete, and temporal sense as our perceptive experiences. The 
question which we are discussing, he might continue, does not concern 
any real identity, and cannot depend upon any real interruption. 
We are not met to decide what is the nature of the identity or 
non-identity of any real object itself in any real external world. Our 
business is to determine how it is that we come to perceive the 
identity of the real object in the external world; or, if you like it 
better, how we come to imagine the identity of the real object in 
the external world, etc. It is interesting to note that Hume falsifies 
the opinions of the vulgar man, exactly when, and to the measure 
that, he confuses these two questions with one another. It is when 
Hume thinks that the nature of reality excludes the possibility of a 
real thing being identical, and therefore also excludes the possibility 
of our perceiving an identical real object, that he falls into the 
fallacy of making the vulgar man attribute the characteristics of 
reality to his "perceptions". It cannot be asserted too frequently, that 
the characteristics of reality have no bearing upon our perceptions . 
If it were true that the nature of reality is such that no real thing 
can be identical, this would not, by itself, be sufficient to prevent 
our perceiving the identity of real things. 

From his own sceptical point of view, Hume contradicted him 
self in this matter, for he could not truly assert both that the nature 
of reality excluded the possibility of its being identical, and that 
reality was for ever beyond the reach of perception. For if he had 
not perceived that reality was not identical, on what grounds 
he assert it? 

36. The Re-appearance of Hume s notion of the "Idea". 

Passing to consider the principle which Hume has already 
established, but which he considers himself bound to bring mt< 
further prominence, we find the following: Nothing is. mere apt 



426 C. V - Salmon, [128 

to make us mistake one idea for another, than any 
relation betwixt them, which associates them together 
in the imagination, and makes it pass with facility 
from one to the other. Of all relations, that of re 
semblance is in this respect the most efficacious; and 
that because it not only causes an association of ideas, 
but also of dispositions, and makes us conceive the 
one idea by an act or operation of the mind, similar 
to that by which we conceive the other. This circum 
stance I have obser v d to be of great moment; and we 
may establish it as a general rule, that whatever ideas 
place the mind in the same disposition or in similar 
ones, are very apt ^to be confounded. The mind 
readily passes from one to the other, and perceives 
not the change without a strict attention, of which, 
generally speaking, tis wholly incapable 1 ). 

We are arrived at the first stage of Hume s argument, where he 
will draw a distinction between a genuine and spurious identity, 
based upon a confusion between identity and resemblance. The first 
observation of importance, which any reader should draw from reading 
the passage just quoted, is the re-appearance of Hume s old word 
"idea". "Nothing is more apt to make us mistake one idea for 
another", Hume said, "than any relation betwixt them, which asso 
ciates them together in the imagination, and makes it pass with faci 
lity from one to the other," and again, "Of all relations, that of 
resemblance is in this case the most efficacious; and that because it 
not only causes an association of ideas, but also of dispositions, and 
makes us conceive the one idea by an act or operation of the mind, 
similar to that by which we conceive the other." 

What does Hume mean here by calling the perception an "idea"? 
The notion recalls the vaguest of the definitions, definition g., "the 
very beings which are intimately present to the mind". Accepting the 
reference, to which Hume alludes in the text, and going back to an 
earlier part of the Treatise, (namely to Part II. Sect. 5), we find the 
word "idea" there commonly in use. That section starts to concern 
itself with abstract ideas such as space in general, and the idea of 
a vacuum, but it proceeds to wider interests. We find a repetition 
of the conception of the relations of resemblance, con 
tiguity and causation, as principles of union among 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 4912. 



129] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 427 

ideas 1 ), and the following curious notion, I shall .... observe, 
that as the mind is endow d with a power of exciting 
any idea it pleases; whenever it dispatches the spirits 
into that region of the brain, in which the idea is 
plac d; these spirits always excite the idea when they 
run precisely into the proper traces, and rummage 
that cell, which belongs to the idea. But as their 
motion is seldom direct, and naturally turns a little 
to the one side or the other; for this reason the animal 
spirits, falling into the contiguous traces, present 
other related ideas in lieu of that, which the mind 
desir d at first to survey. This change we are not 
always sensible of.... 2 ). 

This might stand as a physical and contingent parallel to Hume s 
present notion of the "association of dispositions", and the mind being 
placed in a "disposition" by its "ideas". But the conception becomes 
almost identical with the present, as the context continues, under the 
heading of resemblance: viz. Of the three relations above 
mention d that of resemblance is the most fertile 
source of error; .... Resembling ideas are not only 
related together, but the actions of the mind, which 
we employ in considering them, are so little diffe 
rent, that we are not able to distinguish them. This 
last circumstance is of great consequence and we may 
in general observe, that wherever the actions of the 
mind in forming any two ideas are the same, or re 
sembling, we are very apt to confound these ideas, 
and take the one for the other. Of this we shall see 
many instances in the progress of this treatise 3 ). We 
may remember what an important part the conception of the "idea" 
plays in Hume s doctrine; how he inherited the notion from Locke, 
and how he modified it and gave it the supremacy in his own philo 
sophy. When Hume said, I content myself with knowing 

perfectly the manner in which objects affect my 
senses, and their connections with each other, as far 
as experience informs me of them. This suffices for 
the conduct of life; and this also suffices for my 
philosophy, which pretends only to explain the 
nature and causes of our perceptions, or impressions 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 364. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 365. 3) Gr. & Gr, I, p. 365. 



428 C. V. Salmon, [130 

and ideas 1 ); he was really expressing his subjectivism in terms of 
the Lockeian idea, although he there uses the three words, "per 
ception", "impression" and "idea" indiscriminately, and as if they 
were interchangeable with one another. 

At last, in the present connection, we have an opportunity of 
ascertaining Hume s most definite conception of the "idea". Hume 
brings his principle of resemblance to bear on the question of 
our perception of identity. He describes its operation in two 
examples, the first being offered as an instance of the perception of 
a comparatively genuine , and the second as an instance of the per 
ception of a comparatively spurious , identity. In order to apply 
this general maxim, he says, we must first examine the 
disposition of the mind in viewing any object which 
preserves a perfect identity, and then find some 
other object, that is confounded with it, by causing 
a similar disposition. When we fix our thought on any 
object, and suppose it to continue the same for some 
time; tis evident we suppose the change to lie only 
in the time, and never exert ourselves to produce any 
new image or idea of the object. The faculties of the 
mind repose themselves in a manner, and take no 
more exercise, than what is necessary to continue 
that idea, of which we were formerly possest, and 
which subsists without variation or interruption. The 
passage from one moment to another is scarce felt, 
and distinguishes not itself by a different perception 
or idea, which may require a different direction of 
the spirits in order to its conception 2 ). 

It is to be observed that Hume is now employing a three-fold 
division of elements within the subjective perception, where we know 
that there is room only for a two-fold division into noesis and noema. 
Hume speaks I. of a "disposition of the mind", II. of an "idea or 
image", and III. of an "object". There is only one set of theories 
which makes use of such a tripartite division in consciousness. These 
are the varieties of the representative theory of perception. We 
are obliged to conclude that, in spite of his own most effective 
criticism of representative theories in general, Hume is himself now 
going to make use of one. The word "image" gives the whole matter 
away. It is true that the representative theories which Hume re- 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 3678. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 492. 



131] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 429 

futed were such as bore a reference to the real, transcendent world, 
in so far as the object represented by these was a reality existing 
in the transcendent world. But, nevertheless, a representative theory, 
conceived of as operating within the subjective sphere, where the 
object represented is not a transcendent reality, but a perception- 
reality, perception-houses, perception-trees, etc., is open to precisely 
the same objection, as those relating to reality. This is the objection, 
which Hume himself brought against those others, namely that we do 
not perceive two sets, but only one set, of objects. Just as, when the 
object perceived is taken to be a reality, what is perceived is not the 
representation of a reality but the reality itself, so, when the object 
perceived is taken to be a perception, what is perceived is not the 
representation of a perception, but the perception itself. But Hume 
talks as if our perceiving a perception was dependent upon our per 
ceiving an "image" or "idea" of the perception. His three-fold divi 
sion of the elements of perception is made to support an operation, 
or effect, of each upon the other. 

"The mind being in a certain disposition surveys an idea 
which is an image of the perception ." There can be no doubt that 
a representative theory is here involved of the kind which Hume 
himself has already refuted. 



37. Hume s "Philosopher" examined. 

In making use of a representative theory within the subjective act 
of perception, Hume was guilty of holding the opinion characteristic 
of the Philosopher whom he professed to despise. This character we 
will now examine. It is not improbable that some one may have 
objected to our exposition of the views of the vulgar man, on the 
ground that according to our interpretation he does not differ from 
the philosopher. But in reality, although our version of the vulgar 
man shared with Hume s philosopher a conception of the subjective 
nature of consciousness, he differs from him in two important respects. 
Hume s philosopher was a comparative subjectivist, while the vulgar 
man was not: and the vulgar man would not hold a representative 
theory of perception, as Hume now wishes him to do. The philo 
sopher is introduced as belonging to a class of men differing from the 
vulgar precisely in this, that they believe in a certain duplicity of 
objectivity . . . . however philosophers may distinguish 
betwixt the objects and perceptions of the senses; 
which they suppose co-existent and resembling, Hume 



430 c - v - Salmon [132 

writes, yet this is a distinction, which is not compre 
hended by the generality of mankind, who as they per 
ceive only one being, can never assent to the opinion 
of a double existence and representation 1 ). And Hume 
says . . . . Philosophers . . . . distinguish . . . . betwixt 
perceptions and objects, of which the former are 
supposed to be interrupted and perishing, and 
different at every different return; the latter to be 
uninterrupted, and to preserve a continued existence 
and identity 2 ). And again, This hypothesis is the philo 
sophical one of the double existence of perceptions 
and objects; which pleases our reason, in allowing, 
that our dependent perceptions are interrupted and 
different; and at the same time is agreeable to the 
imagination, in attributing a continued existence to 
something else, which we call objects 3 ). Now whatever 
Hume may have read into the notions of the philosopher, it is 
manifest, that, if he is to be true to his part, the philosopher must be 
supposed to start all his arguments within the subjective sphere. 
Unlike the vulgar man, the philosopher does not have to be weaned 
from a natural reference to reality. He starts his theories from the 
standpoint of the comparative subjectivist. He believes that there 
is such a thing as reality, but he believes that we cannot know any 
thing about this reality apart from our perceptions. We are always 
confined, he believes, to the perception of images of realities, so that 
we can never perceive the realities themselves. The philosopher lives 
his life in the contemplation of reality, by means of the images of 
it which he believes himself to perceive. 

When the philosopher is asked to join in the discussion he is told, 
that he must leave aside all reference to reality. But though he 
resigns his ordinary indirect reference to reality through images, he 
carries with him his representative theory, and this theory, being 
translated into the new subjective terms, convinces him that he per 
ceives his images of reality only by means of certain "ideas", which, 
in their turn, represent those images. Let anyone who thinks that we 
are doing the philosopher injustice, consider Hume s statement, that 
the philosophical hypothesis has no primary recom 
mendation, either to reason or the imagination 4 ), but 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 491. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 499. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 502. 4) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 499. 



133] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 431 

acquires all its influence on the imagination from the 
vulgar one 1 ). Hume supposes that the philosophical hypothesis 
owes its origin, as he falsely supposes the vulgar hypothesis also to 
owe its, to the acceptance of a representative theory of perception. 
In other words, Hume considers that the representative theory in 
volved in the philosophical hypothesis is based upon, and depends 
upon, the representative theory which he believes to be involved in 
the vulgar hypothesis. 

Hume stands in the whole matter, therefore, in this curious 
situation, that all the arguments, which he brings against the philo 
sophical hypothesis and its origin, can be, and should be, brought 
also against his own account of the origin of the vulgar hypothesis, 
which he professed to hold and which we attempted to rectify. In 
criticising the philosopher, Hume was unwittingly criticising himself. 

38. Hume s Example of the comparatively Genuine Identity. 

We have now to examine the details of Hume s account of our 
perception of the comparatively genuine identity. Nothing is 
more apt to make us mistake one idea for another - 
Hume writes than any relation betwixt them, which 
associates them together in the imagination, and 
makes it pass with facility from one to the other. Of 
all relations, that of resemblance is in this respect 
the most efficacious; and that because it not only 
causes an association of ideas, but also of dispositions, 
and makes us conceive the one idea by an act or opera 
tion of the mind, similar to that by which we conceive 
the other . . . . The mind- readily passes from one to 
the other, and perceives not the change without a 
strict attention, of which, generally speaking, tis 
wholly incapable 2 ). 

We may suppose, then, that I am looking at an inkpot. I look at 
it continuously for some minutes, without taking my eyes off it. 
Under these conditions I perceive what we may agree to call an 
identical inkpot. Being convinced that if the real inkpot were to be 
identical, it would have to be continuously existent, and, as such, 
existent independently of my perception of it, Hume passes, through 
a misunderstanding of the nature of the dependence of the objective 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 500. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, PP . 491-2. 



432 C - V - Salmon, [134 

upon the subjective , to the conclusion that I could not perceive any 
such independent object. From thence, by a confusion of premise and 
deduction, Hume passes further to the conclusion that no such inde 
pendent object could exist, and arrives, by these most doubtful 
means, at the sphere of the subjective. The inkpot, then, which I 
perceive, and whose identity, together with the perception of whose 
identity, is in question, is a "perception". The gist of Hume s descrip 
tion is as follows. 

In my perception of the identical inkpot a chain of events is 
taking place. I am suffering a sequence of uni-dimensional sensations, 
or real perceptive experiences. These sensations resemble one 
another. They are exactly alike in everything except their individual 
singularity. Each of these sensations, or perceptive experiences, pro 
duces in my mind an idea, that, perhaps, which is "intimately present 
to the mind". This idea is an "image" of an "object". But the con 
scious mind has a natural tendency towards laziness. When, therefore, 
I notice how exactly resembling these individual singular experiences 
or sensations are, I cease to allow each one to produce its own parti 
cular idea, and make the "idea" produced by one of them, persist, or, 
as Hume says, "subsist", and serve the turn of all the rest. But since 
this "idea" is the "image" of an "object", when the "idea" persists, 
the "object" which it represents, appears to persist. "The faculties 
of the mind repose themselves in a manner, and take no more exercise 
than what is necessary to continue that idea, of which we were 
formerly possest, and which subsists without variation or inter 
ruption." 

Hume s description is ingenious, but it is based upon a variety of 
distinctions which it is difficult to preserve. Although Hume s sceptical 
conclusions should have the effect of altogether excluding the objective 
world of reality from the discussion, much of the force of the descrip 
tion rests on an assumption of the real discreteness of the inkpot 
which we perceive. But the inkpot whose identity Hume ought to be 
discussing is not a real inkpot. The inkpot with which his business 
lies is a "perception". Nothing Hume has established up to this point 
argues against the possibility of a perception being identical. On the 
contrary, the fact that we perceive an identical inkpot, would, by 
itself, seem to entail that the object in consciousness, the perception- 
inkpot, was identical. Not being aware of the intentional structure of 
consciousness, Hume persisted in making his account of the subjective 
genesis of our perceptions an alternative, and, as it were, a second-best, 
to accounting for them in terms of objective reality. He will let the 



135] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 433 

word perception cover both the real object which is perceived, and 
our perception of that object, with the object in consciousness on 
which that perception rests. The need of offering a subjective account 
of our perceptions only arises, Hume thinks, in the event of our 
suspecting the reality with which they present us. 

Hume s empirical prejudices affect his present position in two 
ways. They affect his attitude, and his method. They spoil his atti 
tude by engendering a false motive. Only because Hume believes 
that there can be no such object in the real world as an identical 
inkpot, does he consider himself bound to explain our perception of 
it. They spoil his method by making him rest even our perception 
of the identical inkpot upon a basis of reality. Hume s only reason 
for denying the identity of the perception-inkpot is that he thinks 
its identity is incompatible with the plurality and discreteness of the 
real experiences in which we perceive it. He returns to his old 
notion of the "fiction", and of the blind imagination which has 
created it. Even the perception-inkpot cannot be identical. The only 
thing which is identical is our "image" of the perception-inkpot. The 
mind is lazy and contents itself with one image, instead of enter 
taining the number corresponding to the number of our real 
experiences. And when the "image" subsists, the perception-inkpot, 
which it represents, appears to "subsists". There Hume makes use 
of his paradoxical appearance theory, to distinguish between the 
subjective appearance and the subjective reality of a perception. 
For this use of the distinction there is, of course, no ground. If an 
inkpot, which is admitted to be a perception, appears to subsist, then 
it must be supposed really to subsist, for the nature of a perception 
is to be perceived 1 ). Hume s use of the real discreteness of our per 
ceptive experiences, to deny the identity of the perception in those 
experiences, is a case of the empirical hypostasis. The one perceptive 
experience of my looking at an inkpot for some minutes without 
interruption, can no doubt be divided from the objective point of 
view, into a number of different real experiences corresponding to the 
number of real units of time which it occupies. But the number of 



1) Hume s attempt to distinguish between the appearance and the reality 
of a perception, must be contrasted with the proper division of the whole of the 
subjective perception into noesis and noema. Hume s attempt is improper because 
it rests on the notion of a division within the noema into appearance and reality, 
which is foreign to it. The whole perception can be divided into noesis and noema, 
perception of object, and object of perception; but neither of these will suffer any 
further division of the kind which Hume attempts. 

Husserl, Jahrbuch f. Philosophic. X. 10 



434 C. V. Salmon, [136 

units contained in the real period of time, and the consequent number 
of real perceptive experiences which I may be said to have enjoyed, 
cannot influence the unity of the purely subjective experience with 
which I am dealing when I am concerned with the perception-inkpot. 
In the same way, the number of the several different perceptive- 
experiences, which, as we shall see, are involved in Hume s example 
of the comparatively false identity, cannot affect the essential unity 
or sameness of the subjective perception, which ensues from the 
identity of the subjective experiences. Hume s notion of the "fiction" 
compels him to employ a representative theory, whose validity he 
has himself already denied. The "fiction" rests on a real basis of 
sensation. It cannot therefore be identical. It can only appear to 
be identical. In other words, it can only he a representation of 
something which does not exist . The nature of the representative 
theory which Hume employs cannot be considered, until Hume s 
second example of the perception of identity, his description of our 
perception of a comparatively spurious identity, has been considered. 
To this we shall now turn. We shall find that Hume s blameworthiness 
for using a representative theory is mitigated by the impossibility of 
recognizing any difference separating the "idea" or "image" represen 
tative, from the represented "object" or "perception". 



39. Hume s Example of the comparatively Spurious Identity. 

Now what other objects, Hume writes, besides iden 
tical ones, are capable of placing the mind in the same 
disposition, when it considers them, and of causing 
the same uninterrupted passage of the imagination 
from one idea to another? This question is of the last 
importance. For if we can find any such objects, we 
may certainly conclude, from the foregoing prin 
ciple, that they are very naturally confounded with 
identical ones, and are taken for them in most of our 
reasonings. But, tho this question be very important, 
tis not very difficult or doubtful. For I immediately 
reply that a succession of related objects places the 
mind in this disposition, and is considered with the 
same smooth and uninterrupted progress of the ima 
gination, as attends the view of the same invariable 
objects. The very nature and essence of relation is 
to connect our ideas with each other, and upon the 






137] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 435 

appearance of one, to facilitate the transition to 
its correlative. The passage betwixt related ideas 
is, therefore, so smooth and easy, that it produces 
little alteration on the mind, and seems like the con 
tinuation of the same action; and as the continuation 
of the same action is an effect of the continued view 
of the same object, tis for this very reason we attri 
bute sameness to every succession of related objects. 
The thought slides along the succession with equal 
facility, as if it considered only one object; and there 
fore confounds the succession with the identity 1 ). 

It is to be observed that, in the opening sentence of this passage, 
Hume is guilty either of denying, or of disguising, what he has but 
just established. "What other objects", Hume says, " beside iden 
tical ones, are capable of placing the mind in the same disposition 
etc.?" But the whole sense of the description which Hume gave of 
our perception of identity lay in Hume s premise that the objects 
perceived, the perception-inkpots namely, were not themselves iden 
tical. We are supposing no such absurd view, as that Hume should, 
by the word "objects", be referring now to objectivity itself. That 
sphere is excluded from Hume s consideration, once and for all, by 
the fact of its non-existence. Hume knew that no real identical 
inkpot existed in a real external world. His business was to discover 
whether there was such a thing as an identical perception. And only 
on the ground of denying that there was an identical perception- 
inkpot, was he impelled to a representative theory, and the suppo 
sition of an identical "image" of a perception. Not the perception 
itself, Hume asserted, but only the "idea" or "image" of a perception, 
is identical. We might take his present admission of the identity of 
the object in question, namely the "perception", as an argument to 
add to our inability to distinguish between the "idea" or "image" 
and the "object" supposed to be imaged, and our consequent inability 
to deny the identity of the "perception" itself. 

But Hume was impelled now by a fresh consideration to allow 
the identity of the objects which in the previous example he had 
denied. In basing all our perception of identity upon a re 
cognition, or perception, of resemblance, Hume had left himself 
no means of accounting for any direct perception of resemblance. 
For, according to his account, whenever the "mind" noted a re- 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 4923. 

10* 



436 C. V. Salmon, [138 

semblance among the "images" or "ideas" before it, it contented 
itself forthwith with one "image", which it allowed to stand for those 
that came after it. But how, then, should we ever perceive objects 
which we pronounce to be "resembling", and yet deny to be "iden 
tical"? Our "mind", being lazy in its "disposition", will never allow 
us to contemplate a series of resembling "objects" through a series 
of resembling "images" to which it can so easily put a stop. It would 
seem as though the "disposition" of our "mind" would effectually 
prevent our ever perceiving a resemblance. For an answer to this 
objection the reader must search Hume in vain. At one moment he 
seems to wish to solve the difficulty by the simple process of denying 
(as we have seen) the point on which his former explanation rested. 
At another, he seems to recognize that he owes his reader some more 
plausible account. This reasoning, it must be confest he 
observes - - in a footnote to this section is somewhat ab 
struse and difficult to be comprehended We 

may observe, that there are two relations, and both 
of them resemblances, which contribute to our mis 
taking the succession of our interrupted perceptions 
for an identical object. The first is the resemblance 
of the perceptions; the second is the resemblance, 
which the act of the mind in surveying a succession 
of resembling objects bears to that in surveying an 
identical object 1 ). Hume s explanation of our perception of 
the spurious identity is to rest on the resemblance of a state of 
mind, rather than on a recognition by the mind of the resemblance 
of its images. The state of mind of coming to perceive a spurious 
identity resembles the state of mind of coming to perceive, or, 
possibly, of perceiving, a genuine identity; and the recognition by 
the mind of this similarity of its two states induces it to accept one 
image, instead of a sequence, with the perception of identity which 
this acceptance produces. But here again Hume finds himself obliged 
to admit the actual identity of the object as it is perceived. He 
speaks of the state of the mind "in surveying an identical object". 
Hume is hard pressed. Unless he can preserve some distinction 
between his first and second examples, he has no ground left for 
distinguishing between identity on the one hand and resemblance 
on the other. He wants to deny the identity of the perception, and 
to that end, is obliged to make that identity a "fiction", and to ex- 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 493. 



139] The Central Problem of David Hume e Philosophy. 437 

plain our perception of it in terms of a perception of resemblance. 
But once this explanation is given, he becomes aware of having 
endangered the very distinction between identity and resemblance 
of which he supposes himself to have made use. He finds, in fact, 
that either all perceived identity must be perceived resemblance, 
or all perceived resemblance perceived identity. As quickly as 
possible, then, Hume drops the means of his former account, 
and proceeds to his second example, as if he had allowed, from 
the beginning, that the first perception was an instance of an 
identical perception. 

But, even forgetting this inconsequence, Hume has not escaped 
from his difficulty; he has only changed its orientation. If he suppose 
himself to have accounted for our perception of identity, he cannot 
suppose himself to have explained the nature of our perception of 
resemblance. For if, in the first example, we perceived an identical 
object, it was its perceived identity, and not its perceived resem 
blance, which induced us to be satisfied with one "image" instead of 
a series of "images". The resemblance of the so-called "images" can 
have been produced by nothing except their "identity". It is obvious 
that the explanation of our perception of resemblance would cause 
Hume just as much trouble as, from the other stand-point, the ex 
planation of our perception of identity, From the one point of view, 
having perceived a resemblance, why should the mind go on to per 
ceive an identity? From the other point of view, having perceived 
an identity, why should the mind work backward to perceive a re 
semblance? This latter problem Hume does not attempt to solve. He 
could indeed have made no progress in that direction, until he had 
examined introspectively the assertion of the "unity" of an object, 
which he considered as a tautology. "An object is the same with itself". 
This "unity" of the object in consciousness is the foundation of its 
ability equally to be identical with, and to be resembling to, other 
objects. This "unity" is no other than the perception or "idea" 
when it is purged of its association with any "image", and is allowed 
to be present itself to consciousness within the reflective perception. 
That it is always identical with itself means that it can be present 
to consciousness on more than one occasion; and, that it can resemble 
other perceptions means that it can be retained in consciousness as 
an identity by the memory. 

As Hume s two examples do not differ from one other, as he 
wishes it to be supposed, by being, the one a perception of a genuine , 
and the other a perception of a spurious identity, we can accept 



438 C - V - Salmon, [140 

them as being, what they are in fact, two versions of a perception 
of a similar kind of identity. What really differentiates the examples 
from one another is not the quality of the perceived identity, but 
a difference in the circumstances from which the identity is perceived. 
His first description, that of the processes involved in "viewing any 
object which preserved a perfect identity", is applicable to a man 
perceiving an identical object within the unity of one real perceptive 
experience, as when he gazes uninterruptedly upon any object for 
the space of some definite time. His second description, that of the 
processes involved in "viewing a succession of related objects", is 
applicable to a man perceiving an identical object through the variety 
of several real perceptive experiences, as when he opens and shuts 
his eyes successively upon one object. Concerning the circumstances 
of his second instance Hume is explicit. We find by experience, 
he writes, that there is such a constancy in almost all 
the impressions of the senses, that their interruption 
produces no alteration on them, and hinders them not 
from returning the same in appearance and in situ 
ation as at their first existence. I survey the furniture 
of my chamber; I shut my eyes, and afterwards open 
them; and find the new perceptions to resemble per 
fectly those, which formerly struck my senses. This 
resemblance is obser v d in a thousand instances, and 
naturally connects together our ideas of these inter 
rupted perceptions by the strongest relation, and 
conveys the mind with an easy transition from one 
to another. An easy transition or passage of the ima 
gination, along the ideas of these different and inter 
rupted perceptions, is almost the same disposition of 
mind with that in which we consider one constant and 
uninterrupted perception 1 ). 

The different angle from which the two experiences are described, 
might, perhaps, be made to account for the discrepancies between the 
descriptions, of which there are not a few. 

But we are not concerned with the details of these, 
except in so far as they are pertinent to the exactness of 
two conceptions, which reside in these examples, and are of capital 
importance. 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 493. 



141] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



439 



40. Hume s notions of the "disposition of the mind", and of 
the "idea", set free from the results of his Empirical Prejudice. 

The worst consequence of Hume s sceptical premise, that there 
was in general no such thing as a transcendental world of reality, was 
that it forced him to find a place for reality as it were within the 
subjective sphere, and eventually to identify consciousness with 
reality through the means of sensation. Sensation appeared to him 
to offer a means of crossing from things psychical to things physical, 
and vice versa. But for this hypostasis, Hume s scepticism corrected, 
as he allowed it to be, by a mere change from a philosophical to a 
practical attitude towards life, might have been wholly commendable, 
as having had the fortunate effect of driving his enquiries into the 
realm of the subjective. As it is, Hume s empirical hypostasis is apt 
to spoil his most intuitive observations of consciousness in action 
by originating some reference of them to reality. There is no 
more valuable and suggestive notion to be found in the Treatise, 
than Hume s present notion of the identical "idea", falsely called 
"image", and of the "disposition" or "act of the mind in surveying 
an identical object". When these two notions are purged from their 
empirical associations, the "idea" which is the product of the "dis 
position" can be converted into the "phenomenon", which is the 
product of the purely conscious "act". The "disposition of the mind" 
has to be rid of its connection with the "animal spirits" of which 
Hume speaks, and of its connection with "causality". 

The "idea" has to be dissociated from Hume s notion of the 
"object", which always bears with it an empirical reference on the 
one hand to that external world of reality which Hurne denies to 
exist, and on the other hand to the act of sensation regarded in 
physiological terms. Beyond this again, the "idea" has to be dis 
sociated from Hume s present connection of it with an "image , 
which is to be the middle term of his representative theory. This 
is not difficult to do. We have to cling fast to the "idea" as the 
identical "perception", which is produced by the disposition and 
processes of the "mind". The "idea" in the examples is the 
identical inkpot-as-it-is-perceived by the perceiving subject. The 
"idea" is that identical object which is left, the noema in noesis, 
when the real inkpot-of-the-external-world has been excluded from 
consideration. 

Hume himself was not able to identify the "idea" with his re 
presentative notion of the "image", except in most confused and 



440 C. V. Salmon, [142 

obscure terms. The words "idea", "image", "perception", and "ob 
ject", are used so carelessly, and so freely interchanged with one 
another, that after the most careful examination of Hume s two sets 
of descriptions, it is quite impossible to be sure whether he supposes 
the image to represent the object-in-consciousness, or the object-in- 
consciousness the image. 

In the first of the two examples we are supposed to notice the 
"resemblance" of the "objects" perceived, and so, being lazy, to con 
tent ourselves with one "idea". The "idea" is here falsely connected 
with the "image" of the "objects", instead of with the "object" itself. 
"When we fix our thought on any object" Hume wrote (Refer back 
to p. 130) - "and suppose it to continue the same for some time; 
tis evident we suppose the change to lie only in the time, and never 
exert ourselves to produce any new idea or image of the object." 
This must imply that if not the "objects" themselves, then at least 
our consciousness of those objects, has the power to produce an 
"image" of them. But this involves a complete revolution of the 
system of representation: for whoever heard of an object represen 
ting an image, instead of an image an object? 

As Hume explains his example, three processes seem to take 
place. First, thanks to an image, we perceive an object, then, thanks 
to perceiving the resemblance of a sequence of objects, we content 
ourselves with one image which we allow to subsist , and thirdly, 
thanks to this one subsisting image, we perceive one identical object. 
But this is absurd. If it is only by means of an image that we per 
ceive the object at all, we cannot contrive to alter the number or kind 
of the images by means of a direct reference to the objects. If, there 
fore, we perceived any resemblance before we perceived the identity, 
it would necessarily be the resemblance of the images, and not the 
resemblance of the objects, which we perceived. And, similarly, we 
could not perceive the identity of an object, until we had first 
perceived the identity of an image. But if we perceived the identity 
of the image, we should not need to perceive the identity of the 
object, for there would be no means of distinguishing the image from 
the object. These would, in fact, be not only identical with themselves, 
but also identical with each other. 

What applies to the first example, applies equally to the second. 
There is no room within Hume s explanation for the distinction 
between image and object. His own criticism of representation in 
general, that we do not perceive two sets, but only one set, of objects, 
is applicable to the present instance. We do not perceive an identical 



143] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 



441 



image and an identical object, but only an identical object. That, 
therefore, in Hume s explanation, which is allowed to be identical, 
namely, the "idea" or "image", becomes the identical "object" or 
"perception", and, as such, must drop the alternative title of 
"image"; for there is no sense in talking of an idea as an image 
of itself. The idea is the perception, and the identical object in 
consciousness. 

Induced partly by his sceptical prejudices, and partly by an 
original conception of the subjective sphere, Hume convinced himself, 
in his attempt to account for our perception of identity, that the 
"perception" which was identical was a subjective object in con 
sciousness, the object namely, as the subject perceived it, which is 
a phenomenon, or, as Hume called it, an "idea". Working from this 
conviction, Hume may be said to have discovered phenomena by a 
reflective observation of the processes involved in consciousness in 
the act of perception. His actual descriptions of these processes are 
inaccurate and often clumsy. The distinctions of which Hume makes 
use, in his account of how a perception of resemblance leads to a 
perception of identity, are difficult to preserve. His descriptions are 
seldom free from a conception of activity which is drawn from the 
physical world of reality. His empirical hypostases tend to convert 
the subjective "disposition of the mind" into something physiological 
or psycho-physical, and to connect the phenomena or "ideas" which 
this "disposition" produces, with the utterly useless and fallacious 
notion of "images" employed in representative theories of perception. 
The representative theory, to which Hume considers himself driven, 
in spite of his previous condemnation of it, is itself the result of 
his empiricism, which not only made him sceptical concerning the 
existence of the external world, but left him no means of connecting 
a subjective consciousness with the same. But, in his inability to relate 
the subjective with the transcendental, Hume suffered from a lack 
common to all philosophers until the time of Brentano, the lack 
namely of the conception of intention, and the intentional character 
of consciousness. 

41. Hume deserts the Phenomenal sphere. Identity is converted 
into an Abstract Idea. Parts III and IV of Hume s "System". 

The tripartite division of the subjective act of perception, to 
which Hume was led in his attempt to explain how we are able to 
perceive identity, carried with it this much at least in its favour, that 



442 c - v - Salmon, [144 

it could be translated, by the suppression of its middle term, into the 
proper division of the conscious act into noesis and noema. But in 
the Third and Fourth parts of his System, for the sake of giving some 
account of our belief in the continued existence of objects, the per 
ception of whose identity he has established, Hume sees fit to 
hypostasise a modicum of the "disposition of the mind" into a real 
psycho-physical experience. Thus it is that he turns a three-fold 
division of perception, which was not beyond the reach of subjective 
conversion into phenomenology, into a four-fold division which 
carries him ever further and further from the phenomenological bias. 
As he goes he abandons his representative theory. But along with 
that he flings to the winds his notion of the "disposition" and the 
"idea". We hear no more of these. 

The change of attitude is made with astonishing rapidity. Even in 
the summary he gives of his account of our perception of identity, which 
precedes his consideration of continuous existence, he rejects all the 
careful distinctions on which that account was based. The persons, 
who entertain this opinion concerning the identity 
of our resembling perceptions he writes are in 

general all the unthinking and unphilosophical part 
of mankind (that is, all of us at one time or other) . . . . 
. . . . The very image, which is present to the senses, 
is with us the real body, and tis to these interrupted 
images we ascribe a perfect identity 1 ). In this crude 
language Hume merges all his terms. He actually speaks here of 
"interrupted" "images" which are "present to the senses"! But Hume 
is urged now by another need. Just as he founded his problem of 
identity upon the seeming irreconcilability of the interruptedness of 
our experiences with the identity of our perceptions and for the 
sake of keeping up their irreconcilability was willing to confuse the 
differences of significance contained in the one word perception , and 
to misrepresent the vulgar man so now, in order to found the 
problem of continued existence upon a seeming contradiction, he is 
willing to forget his solution of the problem of identity, and having 
but just reconciled interruption and identity, is willing to set them 
once more by the heels. 

The very image, he writes, which is present to the 
senses, is with us the real body; and tis to these inter 
rupted images we ascribe a perfect identity. But as 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 493. 



145] The Central Problem of bavid Hume s Philosophy. 443 

the interruption of the appearance seems contrary 
to the identity, and naturally leads us to regard these 
resembling perceptions as different from each other, 
we here find ourselves at a loss how to reconcile such 
opposite opinions. The smooth passage of the imagi 
nation along the ideas of the resembling perceptions 
makes us ascribe to them a perfect identity. The inter 
rupted manner of their appearance makes us consider 
them as many resembling, but still distinct beings, 
which appear after certain intervals. The perplexity 
arising from this contradiction produces a properi- 
sion to unite these broken appearances by the fiction 
of a continu d existence, which is the third part of 
that hypothesis I proposed to explain 1 ). 

Nothing is more certain from experience, Hume 
continues, than that any contradiction either to the sen 
timents or passions gives a sensible uneasiness .... 
.... Now there being here an opposition betwixt the 
notion of the identity of resembling perceptions, and 
the interruptions of their appearance, the mind must 
be uneasy in that situation, and will naturally seek 
relief from that uneasiness. Since the uneasiness 
arises from the opposition of two contrary principles, 
it must look for relief by sacrificing the one to the 
other. But as the smooth passage of our thought along 
our resembling perceptions, makes us ascribe to them 
an identity, we can never without reluctance yield up 
that opinion. We must, therefore, turn to the other 
side, and suppose that our perceptions are no longer 
interrupted, but preserve a continu d as well as an 
invariable existence, and are by that means entirely 
the same 2 ). 

But the "opposition", betwixt the notion of the identity of 
resembling perceptions and the interruption of their appearance, 
was no more difficult than the parallel notion of the opposition 
between the identity and the interrupted appearances of real objects 
in the transcendent world. Hume s "smooth passage of our thought" 
turned out to be not a transition of perception from resemblance to 
resemblance, but simply the perception of an identity. In the case 

1) Gr. & Gr. I, PP . 493-4. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 494. 



444 c - v - Salmon, [146 

of the perception of objects in the transcendental world, it has to be 
granted that the identity which we perceive in them is inseparable 
from the perception of their continued and invariable existence. The 
perception of any object whatsoever is inseparable from the per 
ception of its identity. To say that our perception of the identity of 
the objects in the transcendental world is dependent on our perception 
of their continued existence is to put the cart before the horse. It 
would be better to say that our perception of their continued and 
invariable existence is dependent upon our perception of their 
identity. For unless we perceive its identity (Hume s "unity") we 
cannot perceive any object at all. Continuous existence happens to be 
the mode in which a certain set of objects, namely, realities, in the 
transcendental world, exist . 

When Hume turns to the other alternative, and instead of 
supposing that our perceptions are interrupted and therefore not 
identical, supposes that they are identical and therefore not inter 
rupted "our perceptions are no longer interrupted, but preserve a 
continu d as well as an invariable existence, and are by that means 
entirely the same" - he is again at fault in presuming that our per 
ceptions cannot be both at once, but must be either the one or the 
other. It is obvious that an object cannot both appear and not appear 
to the same subject at the same time. But that is not relevant to the 
question whether an object is exhausted in its appearance, so that if 
something like the same object appear again later, the subject is 
justified in believing that it cannot be the same. A distinction must 
be drawn between noesis and noema, so that a man may say, the 
identical perception is now before my consciousness, and is now no 
longer before, it, and is now before it again, etc. Hume would appear 
to realize, where the difficulty lies, when he says .... as the 
appearance of a perception in the mind, and its 
existence seem at first sight entirely the same, it may 
be doubted, whether we can ever assent to so palpable 
a contradiction, and suppose a perception to exist 
without being present to the mind. In order to clear 
up this matter, he proceeds, and learn how the inter 
ruption in the appearance of a perception implies not 
necessarily an interruption in its existence twill be 
proper to touch upon some principles, whi c h we shall 
have occasion to explainmore fully after wards. The 
reference is to Part IV. Sect. 6., where we are left in no doubt, 
that Hume misinterprets the material in his hands. In this latter 



147] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 445 

section identity is conceived as an abstract idea, a "fiction" in the 
worst sense of the word. There is no such thing anywhere as identity, 
nor can we ever anywhere perceive such a thing. But yet, Hume 
supposes that we are able to believe in identity, owing to the 
nature of our disposition. In order to satisfy its lazy desire to 
convert a plurality of resembling entities into a single entity, the 
mind treads from one contradiction to another, until it reaches 
a stage of invention, where they seem to be resolved. This 
interpretation of Hume s conception of identity as an abstract idea 
may be confirmed by some further quotations from this section. 
We have a distinct idea of an object, Hume writes, that 
remains invariable and uninterrupted thro a supposed 
variation of time; and this idea we call that of iden 
tity or sameness 1 ). It is this idea by which we falsely qualify, 
the objects which we perceive, whether these objects are supposed 
to belong to the external world, or to our individual selves or ego s. 
Hume treats these two sets of objects separately, but in both cases 
he speaks of the attribution of identity as a "mistake". He says, 
Our propensity to this mistake is so great from the 
resemblance above-mention d, that we fall into it b e - 
foreweareaware. . . . 2 ). He even refers to it as an "absurdity". 
In order to justify to ourselves this absurdity, we often 
feign some new and unintelligible principle that con 
nects the objects together, and prevents their inter 
ruption or variation 3 ). 

In one sentence we find the conception of the subjective faculty 
of genesis in consciousness, which we have tried to guard so jealously, 
abandoned in a now avowedly sceptical use of the "imagination", 
we feign the continu d existence of the per 
ceptions of our senses, Hume writes and run into the 
notion of a soul, and self, and substance, to disguise 

the variation we may farther observe, that 

where we do not give rise to such a fiction, our propen- 
sion to confound identity with relation is so great that 
we are apt to imagine something unkown and myste 
rious, connecting the parts, beside their relation 4 ). 

Hume sums up the matter in a passage which leaves no further 
room for doubt. Thus the controversy concerning iden- 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 535. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, pp. 5356. 

3) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 536. *) Gr. & Gr. I, P . 536. 



446 C - V Salmon, [148 

tity he writes is not merely a dispute of words. For 
when we attribute identity, in an improper .sense, to 
variable or interrupted objects, our mistake is not 
confin d to the expression, but is commonly attended 
with a fiction, either of something invariable or 
uninterrupted, or of something mysterious and inex 
plicable, or at least with a propensity to such fic 
tions 1 ). It is to be presumed that Hume makes his reference to a 
"proper sense" of the attribution of identity, not for the sake of 
preserving any memory of his former virtues, but merely to keep for 
himself the pretension, at least, to some means of distinguishing ob 
jects which appear to be identical from those which appear to be 
resembling only. 

42. A concluding Estimate of Hume s position. 

It must always be regretted that Hume confined himself to the 
perception, and did not seek to extend his problems to the other 
activities of consciousness. He speaks of identity in general, as if the 
whole problem were set within the faculty of perception, and as if the 
only objects about whose identity any question could be raised, were 
the reality in the external world, and the psycho-physical ego. And, 
having no proper notion of space, Hume was free to treat these two 
upon the same level. The objections which he brought against the 
identity of the former, he could bring equally against that of the 
latter. Hume did not succeed in touching the true generality of the 
problem. How is an identical object possible in consciousness? Hume 
should have asked; or, What is identical in consciousness, when I 
say that I perceive an identical object? The question which Hume 
did ask, What is the difference between the "appearance" and the 
s "existence" of the perceptions? should be converted into: How, within 
the subjective sphere, can the object of which I am conscious be 

distinguished from the experience in which I am conscious of it? 
Hume s "existence" should have become the identical object , the ob 
ject of the intention of the consciousness, the "idea", falsely called 
"image", whereto the "mind" can return innumerable times, and 
always to an exact identity. Hume s "appearance" should have become 
the experiential or pure psychological experience , the conditions 
and moments of the "mind s" consciousness of its object. The 
problem might have been extended to cover all the fields, the logical, 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 536. 



149] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 447 

for instance, as well as the perceptive. Hume might have considered 
the identity of a judgment. How can the proposition 2 + 2 = 4, be 
separated from the moments in which it is apprehended, and remain 
the proposition 2 + 2 = 4, whose identity can be re-apprehended 
innumerable times? Hume might have extended his problem to the 
aesthetic. What constitutes the identity of a Beethoven Symphony, 
he might have asked, that it is separable from all the scripts which 
contain it, and all the representations of it by orchestras which I 
can hear? The answer to these questions lies open to the intro 
spective gaze, and may be expressed in a description of the processes 
of consciousness which are there revealed. 

Hume s sceptical prejudices concerning the external world need 
not we have often asserted have spoiled his subjective obser 
vations of their value. Even had the philosophic doubt grown strong 
enough to overcome the opposite assurance of everday, Hume s 
impeachment, had it grown to such, of the authority of the con 
scious intuition, need not have robbed his philosophy of its value. 
In concluding that, when we practise our accustomed perception of 
the external world, we are not receiving the fullest evidence of our 
perceptions, since a little examination reveals their falsity , Hume 
would by no means have escaped from the problem of identity. The 
question, What is identical in consciousness? would have remained to 
be solved, albeit in the terms of hallucination rather than perception. 

We can find a parallel to Hume s suggested falsity of perception, 
in other spheres. Suppose that the proposition 2 + 2 = 5, be present 
to the mind. If the mind believes it, the proposition is a "fiction" 
in Hume s sceptical sense. It represents something which cannot be 
as it appears. We must conclude that the intellectual apprehension 
was not made with the fullest evidence, since a little examination 
reveals its falsity. But, taken as a false or imaginary proposition, 
it has an identity which may usefully be investigated and described. 
The mind can return to the proposition 2 + 2 = 5 innumerable times. 
The mind can mean it, in its identity, as often as it will. A parallel 
could be given of a memory which has been qualified and shown 
to be inexact by some other person, The memory would have been 
shown to be false , but it could be remembered itself, for all that, 
and believed either to be true or false. From the philosophical 
point of view Hume supposed perception to be deceptive and 
illusory; but he needed still to examine the nature of that per 
ception. He did examine it, and found it consistent with itself, within 
itself, although it seemed to contradict the dictates of his reason. So 



448 C. V. Salmon, [15Q 

Hume could do no more than leave the attitudes of everyday and of 
philosophy at loggerheads, and profess to be alternately credulous 
and a sceptic. But he needed not to have made a battleground of his 
faculties. Each faculty must be allowed to be autonomous with regard 
to its own data. If the perception present us with a consistent world, 
we must believe it, and practice in it as we can. Indeed, as Hume 
simply said, we do believe it. The "studied principle" cannot prevail. 
In the sphere of perception the reason has no rights. Let the per 
ception be taken in full evidence, and, beyond the possibility of the 
Cartesian doubt, I cannot question it. For, in fact, as Hume urged, 
where the processes synthesize in consciousness, the belief naturally 
follows. Belief, Hume realized, is nothing but the result of synthesis. 
There is protention in consciousness. The "mind" expects and is 
satisfied, and, where the satisfaction is perfect, it cannot doubt. 

But now, instead of using his opportunities, Hume constrains 
himself to contradict himself, and become empirical, and and profess 
a comparative subjectivism and the novelty of scepticism . Hume 
interprets the "existence" of "perceptions" and their "appearance" in 
a real sense. The world itself is made out of "perceptions" he says. 
The world is an "idea". The individual is a "bundle of experiences". 

But our business does not lie with Hume s conclusions. Although 
they are usually taken as the epitome of Hume s contribution to 
philosophy, they lie outside of, and are foreign to, his subjective 
conception of the philosophical problem. The task of this essay is 
already done. The second half of the Third Part of Hume s System, 
concerned with the objectification of the perceptions, and the attemp 
ted "proof" that a perception of being may be sometimes "present 
to", and sometimes "absent from" a "mind", without implying a 
necessary "interruption in its existence", has been quoted, (Refer 
back to p. 125 et seq.). 

The supposition of the continu d existence of sen 
sible objects or perceptions, Hume writes, implies not 
necessarily an interruption in the existence. We may 
easily indulge our inclination to that supposition. 
When the exact resemblance of our perceptions makes 
us ascribe to them an identity, we may remove the 
seeming interruption by feigning a continu d being, 
which may fill those intervals, and preserve a perfect 
and entire identity to our perceptions 1 ). The price at 



1) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 496. 



151] The Central Problem of David Hume s Philosophy. 449 

which such a solution is reached is the sacrifice of all the distinctions 
which were involved in Hume s treatment of identity. When the per 
ceptions were identical, they were subjective perceptions, perceptions 
of a subject with an object in the perceptions; but now that they are 
continuously existent, they are no longer perceptions in the sub 
jective sense. It is no longer objects in perception, which are per 
ceived to be either identical or continuously existent; but the per 
ceptions themselves, as objects out of perception, are supposed to 
be both the one and the other. 

The belief, accompanying this very remarkable perceptive-ex 
perience is re-introduced as a mode of "vivacity". Hume says, 1 1 
has been proved already, that belief in general con 
sists in nothing, but the vivacity of an idea: and that 
an idea may acquire this vivacity by its relation to 
some present instance 1 ). 

But now, by confounding all his previous distinctions, by con 
fusing "fictions" with "realities", "objects" with "perceptions", and 
all of them with psycho-physical experiences, Hume succeeds in de 
riving the vivacity of the belief in identity, in body, and continued 
existence, from "some lively impressions of the memory". Our 
memory Hume writes presents us with a vast number 
of instances of perceptions perfectly resembling 
each other, that return at different distances of 
time, and after considerable interruptions. This re 
semblance gives us a propension to consider these 
interrupted perceptions as the same; and also a pro- 
pension to connect them by a contin u d existence, in- 
order to justify this identity, and avoid the contra 
diction, in which the interrupted appearance of these 
perceptions seems necessarily to involve us 2 ). 

But it is time to forego the examination of these contradictory 
conclusions , in which Hume involves himself, and in so doing departs 
ever further from the former virtues of his subjective idealism. 

1) Gr. & Gr.I, p. 496. 2) Gr. & Gr. I, p. 496. 



Husserl, Jahrbuch f. Philosophic. X. 11 



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