Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 23

International Phenomenological Society

Hume's Reflections on the Identity and Simplicity of Mind Author(s): Donald C. Ainslie Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 62, No. 3 (May, 2001), pp. 557-578 Published by: International Phenomenological Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2653536 . Accessed: 09/01/2014 10:55
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

International Phenomenological Society is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Vol. LXII,No. 3, May 2001

Hume's Reflections on the Identity and Simplicityof Mind1


DONALD C. AINSLIE

University of Toronto

The article presents a new interpretationof Hume's treatmentof personal identity, and his later rejection of it in the "Appendix"to the Treatise. Hume's project, on this interpretation, is to explain beliefs about persons that arise primarily within philosophical projects, not in everyday life. The belief in the identity and simplicity of the mind as a bundle of perceptions is an abstrusebelief, not one held by the "vulgar"who rarely turn their minds on themselves so as to think of their perceptions.The authorsuggests that it is this philosophical observationof the mind that creates the problems that Hume finally acknowledges in the "Appendix."He is unable to explain why we believe that the perceptions by means of which we observe our minds while philosophizing are themselves part of our minds. This suggestion is then tested against seven criteriathat any interpretation of the "Appendix"must meet.

It is notoriously difficult to make sense of Hume's discussion of persons. In the section of the Treatise2 devoted to this issue ("Of personal identity," T.I.iv.6; hereafter'the Section'), he describesthe mind as a bundle of perceptions to which we ascribe both identity and simplicity only in virtue of our associating its members together. The most famous interpretive problem arises because Hume later rejects this account:The "Appendix"to the Treatise, published a little less than two years after the original appearanceof

I owe thanks to the journal's referees for their helpful comments as well as to Stephen Engstrom, Andr6 Gombay, Carol Kay, Mary Leng, Terence Penelhum, David Raynor, Lisa Shapiro, Sergio Tenenbaum,Udo Thiel, Wayne Waxman, and JenniferWhiting for their responses to various versions of the argument that I have given here. I presented parts of this paper at the 1997 InternationalHume Society Meeting in Monterey, CA; I would like to thank James Ross, who was the commentator on that occasion, and members of the audience, for their many useful questions and criticisms. My largest debt is to Annette Baier; our many conversations about my reading of these portions of the Treatise helped me to become clear about what I think on this matter. Her support and encouragementof my work has been invaluable. A Treatise of Human Nature, edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge, 2nd ed. revised by P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978). HereafterI will refer to this text parenthetically as 'T' followed by the appropriatepage number. I will refer to various subsections of the Treatise as 'T' followed by Book, Part,and Section numbersgiven in large Roman, small Roman, and Arabic numeralsrespectively.

HUME'S REFLECTIONS ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY OF MIND

557

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Books I and II, includes a retractionof his treatmentof persons. The reasons for the retraction, however, are far from clear. I offer a new interpretationof this vexed issue in what follows. As a preliminary step, I point out in ?1 that Hume's project in most of the Section is to explain a belief that arises primarily within certain kinds of philosophical projects, not in everyday life. The belief in the identity and simplicity of the mind as a bundle of perceptions is, after all, an abstruse belief, not one held by the "vulgar"who rarely, if ever, turn their minds on themselves so as to think of their perceptions.In ?2, I argue that it is exactly this philosophical observation of the mind that creates the problems that Hume finally acknowledges in the "Appendix."For he is unable to explain why we believe that the perceptions by means of which we observe our minds while philosophizing are themselves partof our minds. Finally, in ?3, I test my suggestion against criteria that, I argue, any interpretationof the must meet. "Appendix" ?1. Philosophical and Common-life Ideas of Self

The Section is Hume's contributionthe debate about personal identity that had "become so great ... in England" (T.259) in the years following upon Locke's publication of the second edition of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,with its chapteron identity (Book II, Chapterxxvii).? A brief consideration here of Locke's view and Hume's response to it will set the stage for my interpretation of the Section and the "Appendix" in what follows. For we shall see that Hume, unlike Locke, separates the issues of the identity and simplicity of persons as minds from issues relating to our everyday ways of making sense of one another.In particular,Hume thinks that questions about the mind arise primarilyin the course of philosophical enquiry, not in common life. In the Essay, Locke claims that the identities of persons are based, not on the material or immaterial substances underlying them, nor on the animal bodies in which they are located, but are insteadthe result of the continuation in them of the consciousnesses by which the personsin question are aware of their ideas (E.II.xxvii).4 To be a person, on this view, is to be a subject of thought, where thoughtis construedbroadlyas the perceptionof ideas.5Two points about this claim should be noted. First, Locke understandsconsciousness to have a self-intimatingquality. And so persons are not only subjects
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,P. H. Nidditch (ed.), (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975). Hereafter I will refer to this text parenthetically as 'E' followed by the Book, Chapter, and Paragraph numbers in large Roman, small Roman, and Arabic numerals respectively. Locke's officially defines consciousness as "the perception of what passes in a Man's own mind" (E.II.i.19). "PERCEPTION ... is the firstFaculty of the Mind, exercised about our Ideas; ... and is by some called Thinking in general"(E.1l.ix.1; see E.II.vi.2).

558

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

of thought,they are aware of themselves as such subjects:"It being impossible for any one to perceive, without perceiving, that he does perceive" (E.II.xxvii.9); "[i]n every Act of Sensation, Reasoning, or Thinking, we are conscious to our selves of our own Being; and, in this Matter, come not short of the highest degree of Certainty"(E.IV.ix.3). Second, Locke thinks that his analysis of persons as consciousnesses capturesthe most important aspect of our everyday notion of persons, its "Forensick" aspect. For we take punishmentor rewardto be justified only if the one who is to experience the associated pain or pleasure is the continuationof the same consciousness as the one who did the relevantdeed (E.II.xxvii.26). Hume rejects the first of these two Lockian points in the first three paragraphs of the Section (T.251-53). He starts by outlining the view of "some philosophers"that we are "every moment intimately conscious of what we call our SELF;... [and]feel its existence and its continuancein existence; and both of its perfect identity are certainbeyond the evidence of a demonstration and simplicity" (T.251). While it is not clear that Locke is precisely whom Hume has in mind here,6these philosophersclearly share with him the claim that self-awareness is omnipresent.Hume quickly rejects their view, baldly denying that we have any idea of self "afterthe mannerit is here explain'd" (T.251). Since he thinks that simple ideas are derived from preceding simple impressions (T.4), in orderto have an idea of a simple, unchangingself, we would have to have a simple impression that remained constant even while all our otherperceptionschanged:
But there is no impression constant and invariable. Pain and pleasure, grief and joy, passions and sensations succeed each other, and never all exist at the same time.... For my part, when I enter most intimatelyinto what I call myself, I always stumble on some particularperceptionor other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never catch myself at any time without a perception,and never can observe anythingbut the perception.(T.25 1-52)

And thus Hume reaches his conclusion thatthe mind is "nothingbut a bundle or collection of differentperceptions,which succeed each otherwith an inconceivable rapidity,and are in perpetualflux andmovement"(T.252). This is perhaps not a very good argument,7but leaving that aside, it reveals what separates Hume from Locke and the other philosophers. They take self-awareness to be a necessary concomitant of any mental act, while
6

For these philosophersalso think that self-knowledge has a foundationalepistemic roleHume says that part of their view is that there is nothing "of which we can be certain, if we doubt" (T.251) it-while Locke does not give it this special status. I discuss who Hume's targetis in more detail in "Hume's Anti-cogito" (ms). Indeed it can be read as having the opposite force from what Hume intends: In so far as he describes himself as the one "stumbling" on his perceptionsand "observing"them as a rapidly changing bundle, he might seem to be admittingthat his awareness of his perceptions includes self-awareness. I discuss Hume's negative argumentin the Section in more detail in "Hume's Anti-cogito."

ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY HUME'S REFLECTIONS OF MIND

559

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Hume supposes that when we have a perception we are aware only of its object without thereby being aware of ourselves as subjects of this awareness.8 For his opponents,for example, when we look at a tree, we are aware not only of the tree but of ourselves seeing the tree. For Hume, when we look at a tree, we are aware only of the tree. Awareness of ourselves would requireanothermentaloperation. In the quotation above, Hume describes one such operation, namely 'intimate entry' into himself, a process of reflectively turninghis mind onto itself so as for him to "observe" the perceptions that constitute his mind. How does he explain our capacity for this kind of introspectiveself-observation? The answer to this question comes quite early in the Treatise; after all, his project in it is to use this kind of observation to "explain the natureand principles of the human mind" (T.8). And so he mentions at one point that the vehicles for this self-examinationare what he calls secondary ideas (T.6), ideas that have otherperceptions,either impressionsor ideas, as their objects (I will call the perceptions that are the objects of secondary ideas primary impressions or ideas). Thus in Hume's view my seeing a tree involves the presence of a complex impression of that tree in the bundle of perceptions constitutingmy mind; my rememberingthe tree involves the presence in the bundle of a complex idea of that tree, an idea that is a less vivacious copy of the original impression. As we have noted, given Hume's denial of the first of the Lockian points, neither the impression nor the idea of the tree brings with it any kind of awarenessof myself or of the perceptionin question;I am aware only of the tree. But I can become aware of the perceptions if I reflectively observe my mind while I am seeing the tree, in which case the bundle would include a secondaryidea of the primaryimpression of the tree (which impression would, of course, also be in the bundle); my reflective observationof my mind while I am rememberingthe tree would involve the presence in the bundleof a secondaryidea of the primarymemory-ideaof the tree. Note, then, that while primary ideas copy impressions by their both being of the same thing (the tree), secondaryideas are copies of their primary

It is slightly more complicated than this. Hume thinks that a perceptionhas a characteristic feeling, vivacity, as well as an object. That is, the awareness of the object feels a certain way, depending on how it arises in the mind. Sensations and emotions-what Hume calls impressions-have a high level of vivacity since they arise spontaneouslyand are independent of conscious control. Thoughts-what Hume calls ideas-can be resisted to some extent and thus have lower vivacity (T.1-2). Not all Humean perceptions have objects; in particular, passions and other "impressions of reflexion" (T.7), since they are merely feelings of various sorts, are defined by the kind of vivacity they have (T.277). But when discussing the perceptions that constitute the understanding, the topic of Book I of the Treatise, Hume is willing to say that impressions, as well as ideas, have objects in the sense that they are all of things (see for example, T.36, 38, 84, 90). For a complete catalogue of Hume's use of 'object,' see M. Grene, "The Objects of Hume's Treatise"Hume Studies 20 (1994), 163-77.

560

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

perceptions in a different sense: ratherthan sharing a common object, the primaryperceptionsare the objectsof the higher-levelideas.9 Hume allows that secondary ideas arise not only in situations of philosophical self-observation, but also in common life. For sometimes when I rememberthe tree, my attentionis not on the tree, but on my having seen it. Such a memory is the idea of an impression, namely the idea of seeing the tree (T.106). It is as a result of these spontaneous secondary ideas that we have an idea of our mindedness outside of philosophical contexts."' But, because these secondaryideas arise only intermittently,because most of our perceptionsare not observedby means of secondaryideas, Hume thinksthat:
['t]is certainthat there is no question in philosophy more abstrusethan that concerningidentity, and the nature of the uniting principle, which constitutes a person. So far from being able by our senses merely to determine this question, we must have recourse to the most profound metaphysics to give a satisfactoryanswer to it; and in common life 'tis evident that these ideas of self and person are never vetyfix'd nor determinate.(T. 189-90; emphasis added)

When we 'enter most intimately' into ourselves in the course of philosophical enquiry, in contrast, we form a much more determinateidea. We intenThere are two other places where Hume considers the relation between our primary perceptions and the secondary ideas by means of which we think about them. First, he raises the question of how, in cases when we cannot remember an experience, we can infer that we once had the relevant impressions merely from the fact that we have a primaryidea of the event (T.105-6). The problem is that Hume's analysis of our causal beliefs requires that our inference start with an impression, either of the senses or of memory (T.82-83). But in the case at hand, our starting point is the primary idea we observe in ourselves, not an impression. Hume solves this problem by saying that the observed idea can "supply the place of an impression:" "For as this idea is not here considered, as the representationof any absent object, but as a real perception in the mind, of which we are intimately conscious, it must be able to bestow on whatever is related to it the same quality, call it firmness, or solidity, or force, or vivacity, with which the mind reflects upon it, and is assur'd of its present existence" (T. 106). Thus reflecting on our minds or entering "intimately" into ourselves involves the re-focusing of our attention from the objects of our perceptions to the perceptions themselves. In a way, such re-focusing allows a primaryperception to act as impression, the copy of which is the secondaryidea we use to think about that perception'srole in our mental economy. In the second of the two relevant passages, Hume describes this re-focusing as a change in perspective. We "change the point of view, from the objects to the perceptions" (T.169) when we reflect on our thought. This passage deals with the nature of the causal connection between our ideas and impressions; it is, Hume says, akin to all other causal connections-dependent on our tendency to associate ideas of event-types upon having experienced a constant conjunction of instances of the two types of events-and thus can only be noticed by us in so far as we have had experience in observing, via secondary ideas, the operations of our minds. Such experience eventually causes our (secondary) idea of impressions to be associated with our (secondary) idea of ideas, and thus supportsour belief that impressionscause ideas. Hume relies on our having such an idea when, throughoutBook III of the Treatise, he equates the virtues or vices with "qualities of mind" (e.g. T.575). Recognizing one another as the bearers of such qualities require only that we have a determinateenough idea of mind to see behavior as issuing from people's passions and beliefs, not that we think of their minds as bundles of perceptions.

OF MIND HUME'S REFLECTIONS ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY

561

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

tionally reflect on our minds, formingthe secondaryideas by means of which we observe the perceptionsthat are their objects, and thus we come to recognize the mind as the bundle of perceptionsthatHume takes it to be. It follows from this that Hume must reject the second of the two Lockian points noted above-the claim that an analysis of persons as subjects of thought capturesthe importantaspects of our everyday notion. Since thinking of ourselves as such subjects requires the unusual mental posture of 'intimateentry', and most people have only an indeterminate understanding of themselves in these terms, this "abstruse" notion cannot be what we rely on in everyday life. What does Hume think that we do rely on? He hints at how he answers this question in the Section when he distinguishes between "personalidentity, as it regardsour thought or imagination,and as it regards our passions or the concern we take in ourselves" (T.253). Our everyday notion of self, the notion tied up with our self-concern, is here linked to the passions. And in the portionof the Treatisedevoted to the passions (Book II), Hume explores the so-called indirectpassions of pride and humility, both of which cause us to focus our attention on ourselves (T.277) by "making us think of our own qualities and circumstances"(T.287). Feeling proud of a house, for example, causes us to think of ourselves as homeowners. Indeed, on Hume's analysis, our everyday sense of ourselves as embodied agents, defined by our values, commitments,friends, family, possessions, and so on, seems to springfrom our experienceswith the indirectpassions.11 After making the distinction between the two kinds of personal identity, Hume declares that his topic for the rest of the Section will be personalidentity "as it regardsour thoughtor imagination"(T.253). We are now in a position to be clear about what this amounts to. He has already established that the minds of all of "mankind" are "bundlesor collections of differentpercepAnd one of his fundamentalclaims about perceptions is that tions" (T.252). different perceptions are distinguishable and separable from one another
I have discussed Hume's treatment of the passional self in more detail in "Scepticism about Persons in Book II of Hume's Treatise," Journal of the History of Philosophy 37 (1999),469-92. Otherdiscussions of the distinctionbetween the passional self and the self of thought and imaginationare: Terence Penelhum, "Self-identityand Self-regard,"in A. 0. Rorty (ed.), The Identities of Persons (Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress, 1976), 253-80, and "The Self of Book I and the Selves of Book II" Hume Studies 18 (1992), 281-91; and J. L. McIntyre, "PersonalIdentity and the Passions," Journal of the History of Philosophy 27 (1989), 545-57. At T.261, Hume notes that his analysis of our beliefs about our minds' simplicity and identity is "corroborated" by our everyday passional idea of self "by the making our distant perceptions influence each other, and by giving us a present concern for our past or future pains or pleasures."His point here is that the philosophical analysis of the mind as a bundle of perceptions that we believe to continue identically through time fits with, e.g., our everyday expectations that a future harm to us is to be avoided, in that the connections between our perceptionsthat these expectations involve are such as to facilitate the philosopher's belief in the identity of mind when these perceptionsare observed.

562

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

(T.207, 233, 244, 252, 634). This means that "thereis properly no sinmplicity in [a mind qua bundle] at one time, nor identity in different"(T.253). The only question to ask is why we nonetheless believe that the mind has simplicity and identity. But since, as we have seen, most people do not ever consider their minds-or only rarelyand indeterminately-Hume must mean for this question to apply not to the beliefs of the vulgar, but to the beliefs of those philosophers who reflectively investigate their minds in the course of their studies. For they must believe that the minds they observe are each one identicalmind, if their observationsare going to be helpful for an explanation of our mental economies. We can conclude, then, that the positive portions of the Section, in which Hume offers a psychological mechanism for the generationof the beliefs in mental simplicity and identity, are meant to deal with the beliefs of philosophers who are observing their minds, not the beliefs of those inhabitingcommon life, where, despite the occasional spontaneous secondary idea, the questions of the identity and simplicity of mind do not arise.12 ?2. Philosophical Beliefs in the Identity and Simplicity of Mind Hume models his account of philosophers' beliefs in their minds' simplicity and identity on his account of the general humantendency to find simplicity and identity in cases where we have complex and diverse experiencesthat are congenial to our natural associative principles (T.253); for philosophers' beliefs, though different in content, are generated according to the same fundamentalprinciplesof humannatureas are operativein the vulgar. Hume explains that when we have experiences, the objects of which are related by causation, resemblance, or contiguity, the associations among our perceptions lead us to overlook the differences between our experiences and to He calls suppose that we are dealing with one simple and identical object."3 this 'imperfect identity' (T.256), in contrast to the 'perfect identity' we attribute to objects when our attention remains fixed on them and they undergo no change at all (T.65, 254).14 It is because the mental activity involved in cases where we attribute perfect identity feels similar to the mental activity involved in interrupted experiences of changing objects that we treatthese changing objects as if they had the same kind of identity as the
12

13 14

My claim that Hume's primaryinterest in the Section is the self-as-mind helps to explain his equivocating throughout it between the terms 'self' (T.251, 252, 253, 254, 262), 'person' (T.251, 253, 259, 260, 262), 'soul' (T.254, 261), and 'mind' (T.253, 259, 260, 261, 263). Of course, causal relations between objects are partly constituted by our tendency to associate the ideas of causes and effects (T.92, 170). The importanceof the distinction between perfect and imperfect identity is stressed in L. Ashley and M. Stack, "Hume's Doctrine of Personal Identity,"Dialogue 13 (1974), 23954.

OF MIND HUME S REFLECTIONS ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY

563

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

unchanging, constantly observed ones (T.255).15 Of course, we do not attributeidentityto just anything.And so Hume spends the middle portionof the Section (T.253-58) spelling out what kind of regularitiesour experience must display for us to attribute imperfect identity to objects. There is a "grammar" (T.262; see also T.255) of identity that we rely on in our imperfect-identity claims. (Although Hume does not spend as much time on it, presumablya similar point can be made about simplicity claims.) What happens when Hume uses this account of imperfect identity to explain why, when philosophizing and reflectively observing our minds in terms of their constituentperceptions,we nonetheless continue to believe in their identities?16 Like our belief in the identity of an external object, this belief is the result of our confusing the awarenesswe have of our related but ever-changingperceptionsfor the awareness of something unchanging. The relations between our perceptions, especially causation and memory-based progressof ... thought" resemblance,createsuch a "smoothand uninterrupted (T.260) that we come to attributeto our minds the same imperfect kind of to interrupted and changingobjects. identitythatwe attribute Note, however, that this discussion occurs at a level once removed from that concerning our identity ascriptionsto external objects. When we take a tree to continue identically, for example, our ideas of the tree are associated together because of the causal, spatial, and resemblancerelations among the tree-glimpses that are the objects of these ideas. Because the tree in winter resembles the tree in summer, because the tree's buds caused the tree to flower, because the new branchesin the tree are contiguousto the old growth, our ideas of the tree are associatedtogetherand it feels to us almost the same as it would had we been uninterruptedly looking at an unchangingtree. The explanation of our beliefs about the tree involves the association of perceptions in the observers' minds. The parallel descriptionfor our beliefs in the
15

16

Several interpreters have suggested that Hume's bundle view of the self leaves him unable to account for the various mental actions he invokes throughoutthe Treatise (see, for example, J. A. Passmore,Hume's Intentions 3rd edition [London:Duckworth, 1980], 82-83 and Wade Robison, "Humeon PersonalIdentity,"Journal of the History of Philosophy 12 [1974], 181-93). Don Garrett("Hume's Self-doubts about Personal Identity," in Hume's PhilosoPhilosophical Review 90 [1981], 344 and Cognition and Commitment phy [New York: Oxford University Press, 1997], 170) and Barry Stroud (Hume [London: Routledge, 1977], 130-31) both point out that Hume can explain away any mental-action talk simply by redescribing the action in terms of changes in the bundle of perceptions constituting the mind; mental powers can be redescribed as conditionals true of these changes. Note that, despite Hume's occasional use of third-personlanguage and thought experiments (T.259, 260), this question is irreducibly first personal. It is a question of how I come to believe in the identity of my own mind, of how I come to take my perceptionsto constitute me as a continuing thinking being. As we have seen, Hume suggests that I am to become aware of the perceptionsmaking up my mind "by entering most intimately into what I call myself' (T.252). It is only when we engage in an imaginative thought experiment that Hume allows that we can directly observe someone else's perceptions (T.260).

564

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

identities of our minds when, as philosophers,we observe them as bundles of perceptions, says: We take our perceptual bundles to continue identically when our ideas of ourperceptionsare associatedtogetherbecauseof the causal and resemblancerelationsamong the primaryperceptionsthat are the objects of these ideas (spatial relationsdo not apply to perceptions;T.260). Because my occurrentimpression of my computerresembles my memory-idea of it yesterday, because my impressionof the coffee cup in front of me causes an idea of it, my ideas of these perceptions are associatedtogetherand it feels to me almost the same as it would had I been observing uninterruptedlyan unchangingbundle of perceptions.17 The explanationof our beliefs about our minds involves the association of perceptions in the observers' minds. The point is that, for Hume's account of imperfectidentity to apply to minds, the association of ideas that this account involves must be the association of secondaryideas-ideas of perceptions,eitherimpressionsor ideas.'8 Given my claim that Hume's treatmentof personal identity addresses a problem that arises only for philosophers who are investigating their minds reflectively, it should not be too surprisingthat it involves secondary ideas. For, as we have seen, Hume thinks that philosophersobserve their minds by forming secondaryideas of theirprimaryperceptions;secondaryideas are the vehicles of reflective thought.And Hume makes it clear that his explanation of personalidentityinvolves secondaryideas:

17

18

Some of Hume's interpretershave suggested that his account of personal identity breaks down here (S. C. Patten, "Hume's Bundles, Self-consciousness, and Kant,"Hume Studies 2 [1976], 59-75; and Stroud,Hume, 125-27). Our primaryperceptions, especially those of sensation, do not seem to have sufficient relations among them to lead us to take them to be a continuing mind. We see a computer screen and then a coffee cup, but these impressions are neither causally related nor resembling. But Patten and Stroud overlook the special context of Hume's considerationof the mind in the Section. We are not just having an impression of a coffee cup, we are observing the impression by means of a secondary idea of it. And immediately thereafterwe observe a causally related idea of the coffee cup. We observe an impression of a computerscreen followed by the causally related idea of it; and we can also observe our memories of previous encounters with coffee cups and computers, ideas which resemble the currently observed perceptions. Overall, Hume does not seem incorrect in suggesting that this "system" of perceptions contains a complex enough networkof relationsto lead us to ascribe imperfect identity to the observed perceptions. See Garrett,"Hume's Self-doubts," 347-50, Cognition, 17273, for anotherexaminationof this purportedproblem. This difference in level has often been overlooked. Wade Robison, for example, misquotes T.259 (see p. 8), as investigating what "associates ideas in the imagination," whereas Hume's concern is what "associates their ideas [sc. the ideas of "our several perceptions"]in the imagination."Robison makes a similar mistake in his summaryof the "Appendix."He thinks that Hume says that the "ideas in a mind 'arefelt to be connected together, and naturally introduce one another"' (T.635; Robison's emphasis), whereas Hume's actual statement concerns the felt connection between the "ideas of them [sc. ideas of "past perceptions"]"(T.635) ("Hume's Appendix" in D. F. Norton, N. Capaldi, and W. L. Robison [eds.], McGill Hume Studies [San Diego: Austin Hill, 1979], 93, 97).

OF MIND HUME S REFLECTIONS ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY

565

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

[I]dentity is nothing really belonging to these different perceptions,and uniting them together; but is merely a quality, which we attributeto them, because of the union of their ideas [sc. the secondary ideas of the primary perceptions] in the imagination, when we reflect upon them. (T.260, emphasis added)

Also:
[A]s ... we suppose the whole train of perceptionsto be united by identity, a question naturally arises concerningthis relation of identity; whetherit be something that really binds our several perceptions together, or only associates their ideas [sc. the secondary ideas of the primary perceptions]in the imagination.That is, in other words, whether in pronouncingconcerningthe identity of a person, we observe some real bond among his perceptions, or only feel one among the ideas we form of them [sc. the secondary ideas we form of the primary perceptions]. (T.259, emphasis added)

Hume, of course, takes the latter option, denying that we have any evidence for real bondsbetweenperceptions. But what of these secondaryideas? Hume relies on associations between them in orderto explain our beliefs in personalidentity and he suggest that a similar story accounts for our beliefs in the simplicity of mind (T.263). These secondaryideas, however, remainas distinctexistences since there are not ideas of them (tertiaryideas?) associated together with the ideas of our other perceptions. And, Hume thinks, there is no other way to explain how we believe a perceptionto be partof a simple, continuingmind otherthan by the association of secondaryideas of it with other such secondaryideas. Yet we nonetheless believe these secondaryideas are partof our minds. To deny this would be to deny that the vehicles by means of which we are thinking about our minds' constituentsare themselves partof the mind. Here, I think, is the problem that Hume finally recognizes in the "Appendix:"The process he has described to explain why we believe in the identityand simplicityof our minds(the association of secondaryideas of our primary perceptions) does not explain why the secondary ideas used in the process are also taken to be part of our minds. The very explanation that Hume offers for our beliefs in the simplicity and identity of mind invokes mental items our belief in the unity of which with the rest of our minds remainsunexplained.19
19

To a certain extent, then, my interpretationis in agreementwith those who see Hume's problem as having to do with mental activity (see n.15). The difference is that I do not see Hume as having a problem with mental activity per se. But the mental activity involved in Hume's explanation of our belief in personal identity turns out to requirethe presence of secondary ideas, our belief in the unity of which with the rest of the mind remains unaccounted for. John Bricke is one of the few interpreters to acknowledge Hume's appeal to secondary ideas (Hume's Philosophy of Mind [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980], 74-99). We disagree, however, on where the problem with Hume's account is located: Bricke thinks that Hume cannot adequately distinguish some secondary ideas from the primaryperceptions that are their objects. I think that Hume's problem lies in

566

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

?3. The "Appendix" In defense of this proposed interpretation,and to clarify it further,I would like to test it against what I take to be the criteriathat any interpretationof the "Appendix"must meet. Although it is probablytrue that Hume's second are underdetermined thoughtsin the "Appendix" by the text, the proliferation of conflicting readings seems due in partto a lack of clarity among commentators as to what an interpretation of the "Appendix" must account for.2"' The criteriathat I suggest here presupposeonly thatthe "Appendix"is a response to a problem in the Section that Hume would recognize from within his own
view.21

(1) The Principles: The first criterion requires that an interpreterspecify what Hume thought he had overlooked in the Section. The first 11 paradevoted to personalidentity graphs(T.633-35) of the partof the "Appendix" summarize,for the most part,Hume's earlieraccount.In particular,once our observational stance on the mind has served to "loosen all our particular to the association perceptions,"our belief in the mind's identity is attributed of secondary ideas:
[T]houghtalone finds personal identity, when[,] reflecting on the train of past perceptions,that compose a mind, the ideas of them [sc. the secondary ideas of the past primaryperceptions] are felt to be connected together, and naturallyintroduceeach other. (T.635; my italics)

He comments that this means that he agrees with those philosophers who think that "personalidentityarises from consciousness,"where consciousness is now defined as "reflectedthought or perception"(T.635). But he seems now to recognize that his previous account applies only to our beliefs about

2() 21

our belief in the unity of the secondary ideas with the rest of our minds. Part of the problem with Bricke's interpretation is that, given the centralityof secondary ideas to Hume's project, it would be unlikely that his problem would be specific to the treatment of personal identity. But Hume clearly thinks that the "Appendix"points to only the one "considerablemistake" (T.623) in Books I and II. See my discussion of the Singularity Criterion,?3 (6), below. Garrett is an exception here. In "Hume's Self-doubts," 355, he presents three criteria, of the "Appendix"must meet. similar to the first three I list below, that any interpretation Thus I do not accept Corliss Swain's argument that, in the "Appendix," Hume means merely to show the incoherence of traditional substantial theories of the mind ("Being Sure of Oneself: Hume on Personal Identity,"Hume Studies 17 [1991], 107-24). 1 take seriously Hume's admission that the Section contains a "considerablemistake"(T.623). Those commentators such as Jane McIntyre ("Is Hume's Self Consistent?" in D. Fate Norton, N. Capaldi, and W. L. Robison [eds.], McGill Hume Studies [San Diego: Austin Hill, 1979], 79-88, and "Further Remarkson the Consistency of Hume's Account of the Self" Hume Studies 5 [1979], 55-61) and Tom Beauchamp("Self Inconsistency or Mere Self Perplexity,"Hume Studies 5 [1979], 37-44), who think that the "Appendix"is a case of Hume's 'backsliding'-his losing the courage of his empiricist convictionsmust take up the burden of showing that the problems in the Section are not truly Humean. And they should provide an account of why Hume would backslide in only this one case.

HUME'S REFLECTIONS ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY OF MIND

567

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

ourpast perceptions.His problem arises when it comes to beliefs about our present perceptions: "The present philosophy ... has so far a promising aspect. But all my hopes vanish, when I come to explain the principles, that unite our successive22perceptionsin our thought or consciousness" (T.63536).23 The problematic principles, whatever they are, should explain our beliefs in the unity of our minds not only in the past, but during the very period when we observe them; the problem thus primarily concerns our beliefs in the simplicity of our minds (there is a derivativeproblem concerning identity, since an object must have some kind of unity or simplicity before its continuity throughtime can count as identity). It follows that any of the "Appendix"should specify why his original account is interpretation unable to explain the "uniting"of our current successive perceptions even while it works when it comes to explaining our beliefs about our past perceptions. My suggestion is that Hume's problem is explaining why we believe that the secondaryideas, the association of which causes the belief in the identity of mind, are also partof the mind. When the perceptionswe reflect on are in the past, this accountsucceeds in explainingour currentbelief in the continuity of the mind during thatprior stretchof time because our currentsecondary ideas of the past perceptionsare run together so as to producethe belief that those perceptionsconstituteda simple, identical entity. The fact that current
22

23

Wayne Waxman thinks that Hume's problem in the "Appendix"arises when he realizes that, in the Section, he had presupposedthe successiveness of perceptionsto one another prior to their being associated by the imagination. But, Waxman thinks, a succession is constituted out of the association of its elements ("Hume's Quandary Concerning PersonalIdentity,"Hume Studies 18 [1992], 233-53). I find this suggestion doubtful. First, Hume allows that objects exist in succession "independent of our thought and reasoning" (T.168). Second, Waxman supposes that perceptions must be retained in memory before the imagination can associate them. And thus he supposes that we must have "consciousness" of the succession of perceptions before we can associate its elements (it is exactly this "consciousness" that creates the problem he takes Hume to recognize in the "Appendix").But Hume does not think that association is something done to perceptions of which we are already aware; rather,the association of ideas is what explains why we think of one object after having experienced (or thought of) another. And, third, Waxman treats "consciousness" as if it were presupposed in all association, whereas Hume is quite clear that it is the equivalent of "reflected" thought,thoughtthat is being investigatedreflectively. As Waxman admits, his problem would go to the heart of Hume's treatment of association and thus it is hardto reconcile with the "Singularity" (6) and "Insulation"(7) criteria, below. Stroud points out that this statementis ambiguous.Hume could be asking for an explanation of the principles that actually produce a connection between our perceptions, or he could be asking for an explanation of the principles in virtue of which we come to believe that our perceptions are united (Hume, 133). It seems to me that unless the 'backsliding' thesis is correct (see n.21), the second option is clearly what Hume has in mind, given his earlier statement that "the uniting principle among our internal perceptions is as unintelligible as that among external objects, and is not known to us any other way than by experience" (T.169).

568

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

secondaryideas are involved in the productionof this belief poses no problem because the belief does not concern current constituents of the mind. But when it comes to the belief in the simplicity of the mind during the moment we are reflecting,then the secondaryideas by means of which this reflection takes place are themselves takento be partof our minds even though they are not themselves "observed"in such a way that associations of ideas of them can explain our beliefs aboutthem;for, since thereare not ideas of these ideas in our minds, no association of ideas of them can take place. This means that the very ideas in virtue of which we are able to think of our perceptions-the ideas that are the vehicles of "consciousness,"that is, "reflectedthought or perception"-are not themselves associatively integratedinto the rest of what we take to be our simple identicalminds. (2) The Inconsistency: In the twelfth paragraph of the relevant portion of the "Appendix,"Hume tells us why he has been dissatisfied in his attemptsto accountfor the unexplainedprinciples:
[T]here are two principles, which I cannot renderconsistent; nor is it in my power to renounce either of them, viz. that all our distinct perceptions are distinct existences, and that the mind never perceives any real connexion among distinct existences. (T.636; Hume's italics)

of perceptionsand These two principlesare centralto Hume's understanding appearthroughoutBook I (T.207, 233, 244, 252); he even reiteratesthem in the "Appendix"(T.634). And, as has oft been noted, they are not inconsistent. Interpreters thus must both provide a plausible third (or more) principle which leaves Hume facing an inescapable inconsistency and connect this inconsistency with the problemof accountingfor the "uniting"of our successive perceptions. Since, on my interpretation,Hume's problem in the "Appendix"is that we still take to be ours the secondaryideas which, accordingto his explanation of our beliefs in personalidentity and simplicity, ought to be viewed as outside of our minds, I see the enthymematicinconsistency as pointing to the following set of propositions: (i) (ii) All our distinctperceptionsare distinctexistences (T.636). The mind never perceives any real connexion among distinct existences (T.636). We attribute simplicity and identity to the bundle of perceptions making up our minds (T.635). The only way to explain our belief that our successive perceptions constitute simple identical minds is by the association of secondary ideas of these perceptions(T.635).

(iii)

(iv)

HUME'S REFLECTIONS ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY OF MIND

569

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

(v)

The secondary ideas in (iv) are distinct existences, (i), no ideas of which are associated with the ideas of the otherperceptionswe take to make up our minds. Nor can we discerna real connectionbetween these secondaryideas and the otherperceptions,(ii). From (iii) and (v), we know both that there are perceptions which we take to be partof our minds and that there are not ideas of these perceptions associated together with the ideas of our other perceptions. From (iv), we know that there is no other way to explain our belief in the unity of our secondaryideas with the rest of our minds.

(vi)

It might seem that (v) would not really trouble Hume. He is not, for example, troubledwith the thought that some of our past experiences are so irrecoverablethat we cannot form the propersecondaryideas of them necessary for their integrationinto the bundle.It is enough that we can trace causal connections between the forgotten experiences and those we remember (T.262). Can Hume make a similar move to avoid the problem in (i)-(vi)? Even though at a particular moment, the secondaryideas used in the association of our primaryperceptionsremain apartfrom the bundle, this need not be a permanentsituation.We can reflect on our secondaryideas, make them objects of tertiaryideas, and thus associatively integratethem-although not the tertiary ideas-with the rest of the perceptions in the bundle. At each level, a furtherreflection will both integratea set of higher-level ideas, and introduce a new set of ideas of perceptions which, not being observed as perceptions, remain distinct from the bundle. We might not get all of our perceptionsinto the bundle all at once, but they can all be integratedat some time or another. True enough, but this does not solve the problem of our belief in the mind's simplicity, the unity of the mind at a time. At any moment, when reflecting on our minds, we take ourselves to be observing one mind. When we recognize that, at that moment,we have perceptionswhich are not associatively integrated into our mind-bundles, then our belief in the mind's simplicity cannot be explainedsolely in terms of the associationof secondary ideas. There remain these occurrentsecondary ideas, no ideas of which are associated with the ideas of our otherperceptions,that we nonethelesstake to be partof our minds.24
24

The fact that secondary ideas are caused by the primary perceptions that are their objects (T.6) might seem to be enough to explain our belief that these ideas are part of our minds. But recall that, for Hume, causal beliefs involve the association of the idea of the cause and the idea of the effect (T.I.iii.6). Believing that primaryperceptions are the causes of secondary ideas thus involves the association of (secondary) ideas of the primary perceptions and tertiary ideas of the secondary ideas. And yet we believe that these other secondary and tertiaryideas (those that constitute our belief that secondary ideas are caused by primaryperceptions) are themselves part of our minds, even though

570

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

(3) The Escape: The problem with Hume's explanation of our belief in personal identity would be avoided, he tells us, "[d]id our perceptions inherein somethingsimple and individual,or did the mind perceive some real connexion among them..." (T.636). I take this to mean that if we could recognize connections between our perceptionsother than by the association of their secondaryideas, we would not have to be reflectively observing our perceptions in order to include them in what we take to be our minds. The secondary ideas, which are not observed as perceptions in the process by which he had originally thought we come to believe in personal simplicity and identity, could then be recognized as partof a simple and identical mind after all. But neither inherence nor "real connexions" are viable in Hume's system, and so he is left with his insoluble problem. (4) The Sceptic's Plea: This, of course, leads Hume to "plead the privilege of a sceptic" (T.636). Clearly Hume thinks that this entitles him to continue his project of using reflective observationof the mind to explain its fundamentalprinciples even though he now recognizes that he is unable to account for one of the beliefs presupposedby his method-the philosopher's belief that the mind she observes is one identical mind. I have tried to stay neutralin this essay on the controversialquestion of how to interpretHume's must be able to make sense of his scepticism.25But any such interpretation the about problem personal identity that he recognizes in the response to For he prefaceshis second thoughtsby saying thathis confusion "Appendix." about persons is akin to "thosecontradictionsand absurdities,which seem to attend every explication, that humanreason can give of the material world" (T.633), the very problems which broughthim to embrace "trueskepticism" in the "Conclusion" to Book I of the Treatise(T.273). of the "Appendix"should also, (5) Charity: A successful interpretation I think, make clear why Hume was so quick to recognize the limitations of his original account in the Section. There must be a fairly natural move should explain which he had overlooked. At the same time, an interpretation why Hume was likely to have missed that move in his initial consideration. My claim that the problem arises from the role secondary ideas play in the account leaves it close enough to the surface that it is plausible for Hume to have discovered it on a re-reading. The harder question is why he was convinced by his first discussion of the issue in the Section. I think that there are four reasons for Hume's having initially overlookedthe problemposed by
no (higher order) ideas of them are being associated with our ideas of our other perceptions. For two recent interpretationsof Hume's view that play up its 'naturalistic'explanatory dimension, see Annette Baier, A Progress of Sentiments(Cambridge:HarvardUniversity Press, 1991) and Garrett, Cognition. For more sceptical interpretations see Robert Fogelin, Hume's Scepticism in A Treatise of Human Nature (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985) and Wayne Waxman, Hume's Theory of Consciousness (Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1994).

25

OF MIND HUME'S REFLECTIONS ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY

571

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

his reliance on secondary ideas in explaining our beliefs in the identity and simplicity of our minds. First, in the Section, Hume follows in the footsteps of Locke by giving most of his attention to our belief in the identity of mind. His treatmentof our belief in its simplicity is clearly an afterthought (T.263). Since it is exactly the issue of simplicity that creates the problems for him that he confronts in the "Appendix,"his earlier neglect of the issue might go partof the way towardsexplaining his originallymissing them. Second, in comparing our belief in the identity of external objects with our belief in the identity of our minds, Hume seems to have failed to notice the significant differences between these two kinds of identification. Most importantly,in the case of externalobjects, that to which we ascribe identity (the object) is different from that which does the ascribing (the associative tendencies in our minds). In the case of our minds, however, we are both the objects of our internalinvestigation and the subjects doing the investigation. We do not get outside of ourselves when we reflectively observe ourselves, but remain simultaneously the observers and the observed. In the Section, Hume treats the mind as if it were different from the observer, ignoring the secondaryideas, the associationsof which explain our belief in the identity of he realizes that our the mind. But in the "Appendix,"on my interpretation, belief in the unity of these secondary ideas with the rest of the mind must also be explained. Third, Hume's prematuresatisfactionwith the Section might stem in part from some of the analogies and thoughtexperimentsthat he uses there. Most notably, at a crucial moment in the argument,Hume considers what would happen were he able to observe the "breastof another"(T.260), that is, the perceptionsin someone else's mind. And, he says, from that perspective, the resemblances between and causal connections among the other person's perceptionslead him to ascribe identity and simplicity to that person's mind. He goes on to say that "[t]hecase is the same whetherwe consider ourselves or others" (T.261). But, of course, these two cases are not the same. In the thought experiment,Hume does (albeit only imaginatively) stand outside of the observed mind and can thus observe all of that mind's occurrentperceptions; the secondaryideas which have these perceptionsas their objects are in his mind, whereasthe observedperceptionsare in the otherperson's mind. In the first-personcase, however, these secondaryideas are part of the mind to which we are attributingidentity and simplicity, even though we are not at that moment observing them as perceptions.Our believing that they are part of the mind needs to be accountedfor. A similar problemcan be seen in one of Hume's most famous metaphors for the mind, the theatre, where the perceptions constituting the mind are

572

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

comparedto the actors in a play (T.253).26But Hume goes on to explain our beliefs in the identity and simplicity of mind from the perspective of the observer of the mind, or, analogously, the spectatorof the play. And yet the operationsin the mind of the observeror the spectatorare not recognized in Hume's metaphor,even though in the case of the mind, these operationsare also believed to be partof the mind being observed. Hume's disavowal of an interest in the "place, where [the play's] scenes are represented,... [and] the materials,of which it is compos'd" (T.253)-anything that might serve as a substance-likesupportfor the actors-perceptions-seems to have blinded him to his reliance on a position in the audience of his mind. The fourth reason why Hume might originally have been satisfied with his account of the belief in the mind's simplicity in the Section is that our beliefs about our secondaryideas have a somewhat different status from our beliefs about our primary perceptions. Hume thinks that usually we form beliefs about perceptionswhen we "observe"them (T.252). But even though we do not observe the secondaryideas involved in producingour belief in the unity and identity of the observed perceptions, we nonetheless believe that they are presentin our minds. But what is the natureof this belief? How is it possible to believe that the secondary ideas by means of which we observe our minds are themselves part of our minds without thereby having higherlevel ideas of them?Why does Hume not say that,just as we are not aware of the perceptionof a tree when we are aware of a tree by means of that perception (recall Hume's denial of the first of the Lockian points), we are not awareof the secondaryideas of our primaryperceptionswhen we are awareof those perceptionsby means of those secondaryideas? Indeed, I take it that this is how things normally work when we philosophize. We remainunawareof the secondaryideas by means of which we make of the claims about our minds. We have only an indeterminate understanding place of our secondaryideas in our mindsjust as in common life people have of the place of theirprimaryperceptions only an indeterminate understanding in their minds (T. 189-90). But things are different when, in the context of a discussion like the one that occurs in the Section, philosophersbring forward the perceptual constitution of mind as a topic of discussion. For then we believe that the mind is a bundle of perceptions at the same time as we believe that secondary ideas are working behind our backs, as it were, to produce our beliefs in the simplicity and identity of mind. Our secondary
26

"The mind is a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance;pass, re-pass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations. There is properlyno simplicity in it at one time, nor identity in different;whatever natural propension we may have to imagine that simplicity and identity. The comparison of the theatremust not mislead us. They are the successive perceptions only, that constitute the mind; nor have we the most distant notion of the place, where these scenes are represented,or of the materials,of which it is composed"(T.253). 573

HUME'S REFLECTIONS ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY OF MIND

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

ideas are the objects of a theoreticalclaim-that associationsamong them are responsiblefor these beliefs-without being "observed" in the mannerneeded for them to be associatively integratedinto the bundle.What then can explain our nonethelessbelieving thatthe unobservedsecondaryideas, the presenceof which is indirectlyrecognized given Hume's explanationof our beliefs about the mind, are part of our simple, identical minds? This is what leaves Hume in the "labyrinth" (T.633) he describesin the "Appendix." (6) Singularity: Perhaps the most difficult problem for most interpretations of the "Appendix"is that they fail to explain why Hume thinks that his discussion of personal identity contains his single "very considerable mistake" (T.623) in all of Books I and 11.27He seems to find the problem he
27

For example, those who see Hume's problem in the "Appendix" as having to do with mental activity (see n. 15) will have difficulty explaining why this problem does not infect the whole of Book I, since mental activities are endemic to it. Also, several recent interpreters take Hume's problem in the "Appendix" to concern how perceptions can be taken to be in a bundle in the first place. Garrettthinks that this is a problem for Hume only in the case of those perceptions that lack spatial properties(such as passions, tastes, and smells [T.235]) ("Hume's Self-Doubts," 350-58; Cognition, 180-85). Stroudworries about how Hume can explain the discreteness of one person's bundle from another's (Hume, 134-40). John Haugeland thinks that Hume's account of mental causation presupposes that perceptions come in bundles, but that he can only explain their coming in bundles in terms of mental causation ("Hume on Personal Identity;"this essay has circulated in manuscriptform for many years, and is often cited as being co-authored by Paul Grice, but it has recently appeared in Haugeland's Having Thought: Essays in the Metaphysics of Mind [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998], 63-71, where he clarifies his sole authorshipof it, and appreciathe tion of Grice for his help with it [364]). Pearsthinks that the problemis understanding causal relations between perceptions "as mental particulars"prior to the 'bundling' of the "total mind" into "individual minds" (Hume's System [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990], 135-51). is that they think that Hume startsout The general problemwith these interpretations with a notion of perceptions as existing in some free-floating way, such that their being found in bundles constitutingindividuals' minds becomes a mystery. The text they take to supportthis assumptionis Hume's comment that "thereis no absurdityin separatingany particular perception from the mind; that is, in breaking off all its relations, with that connected mass of perceptions,which constitutea thinkingbeing" (T.207). But we should be wary of wrenching this statement from its unusual, dialectical context, where Hume has announced that he will speak of objects and perceptions interchangeably (T.202, 211). I take it that his point in this passage is that we can always separate in thought a perception from all others; we have the freedom to resist our associative impulses (T.10). And there could be a mind with this single perception (T.634). In undertaking the "science of man," we step outside of our minds, as it were, to observe its operations in terms of perceptions.But we do not thereby observe all the perceptionsin the world! In the end, it is hard to see how these interpretationscan explain Hume's thought that his problem about personalidentity is singular:If he had recognized a grave problem about bundling, he should have expressed concern about the overall success of his project (Stroud acknowledges this consequence of his interpretation,Hume, 140, as do will also Pears, Hume's System, 151, and Haugeland,"Hume,"70). These interpretations have problems with the "insulation"criterion, described below, (7), in that other occurrences of the idea of self in Books I and II would be jeopardized if Hume had indeed recognized any problemswith bundling.

574

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

diagnoses in the "Appendix"to be a limited one, affecting only the Section Indeed, most of and not any other partof his treatmentof the understanding. the rest of Book I (the discussion of space and time, Partii of Book I, is the notable exception) re-appearsin one form or another in the first Enquiry, which he describes as differing from the Treatise only in the "manner"in which his views are presented.28Accordingly, as much as we might see general and pervasive problemsin Hume's quite austereempiricist program, of the "Appendix;"instead we ought not to read them into an interpretation we should explain why Hume thinks that the problem acknowledgedthere is not a threatto his other views. On my interpretation,Hume's problem is in explaining our belief in the mind's simplicity-why we believe the secondaryideas to be partof the mind even though no ideas of them are associated with our ideas of our other perceptions. Given that, for him, the vehicles for mental observation are secondary ideas which themselves remain unobserved, it will always be impossible to have all of the mind in view all at once. But the only time he needs to have this panoramicperspectiveon the mind is in his explanationof our belief in its simplicity. We have seen that in other cases, if he needs to consider the role of secondaryideas, he can always step back and bring them into view, by formulating tertiary ideas of them. It follows that the "Appendix,"which on my view depends on Hume's recognitionof this problem with mental observation, is a withdrawalonly from the account of the belief in mental simplicity and identity. Hume's conception of scepticism seems to allow him to take this problem to be a localized one, and thus not to see his second thoughts as creatingdangerousproblems anywhere else in his theory. (7) Insulation: Not only does Hume think that his "mistake" in his treatment of personal identity is singular, he also seems to think that this mistake is insulated from the many other appearancesof the idea of self in Books I and II of the Treatise. For example, even though Hume openly appeals to his view of the mind as a "bundle"of perceptions at a crucial he shows no sign of moment in "Of scepticism with regardto the senses,"29
28

29

Hume says: "I had always entertaineda notion, that my want of success in publishing the Treatise of Human Nature, had proceeded more from the manner than the matter, and that I had been guilty of a very usual indiscretion,in going to the press too early. I, therefore, cast the first part of that work anew in the Enquiryconcerning Human Understanding" ("My Own Life," in D. Hume, Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary, E. F. Miller [ed.], [Indianapolis: Liberty/Classics, 1987], xxxv). He says in a letter that the "philosophicalprinciples are the same" in both the Treatise and the first Enquiry (Letters of David Hume Vol. 1, J. Y. T. Grieg [ed.], [Oxford:ClarendonPress, 1932], 158). "[W]hat we call a mind, is nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions, united together by certain relations, and suppos'd tho' falsely, to be endow'd with a perfect simplicity and identity" (T.207; there is a footnote referringto T.I.iv.6 at T.206). Robert Fogelin draws attentionto this passage when suggesting that Hume's problem in the "Appendix" concerns the nature of the "connection" that is supposed to obtain

HUME'S REFLECTIONS ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY OF MIND

575

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

worry that he must re-visit this section in the "Appendix."3" On my view, this is not a problembecause Hume, in the "Appendix," is not backing off of his claim that the mind is a bundle of perceptions, even though he now recognizes that no one can view, at one time, all of her own mind as such a bundle.31He is withdrawingonly from his explanation of our belief in the mind's simplicity and identity. Hume also seems to think that his problemwith his treatmentof personal identity and simplicity does not infect his use of the idea of self in Book II of the Treatise, even though the idea of self plays two centralroles there:First, it is the object of the "indirectpassions" of pride and humility (T.277). And, second, Hume relies on what he calls "the idea, or rather impression of ourselves" (T.317) in his discussion of sympathy, a process by which other
between elements of the bundle. Hume needs to maintainboth that perceptions are separable from the bundle, so that they could exist independent of it, and that they are integrated into it in such as way as for associations involving its elements to produce the belief in the mind's identity and simplicity (Hume's Skepticism, 105-8). As Fogelin admits, if this were really Hume's problem, he should have recognized that it affects more than the Section; in particular it applies to "Of scepticism with regard to the senses." But, like those who see Hume's problem as one of bundling, Fogelin wrenches Hume's discussion of 'unperceivedperceptions' (T.206-8), where the idea of separating perceptions from the bundle arises, out of context even though Hume is openly using a non-standard notion of perceptionat this point in his argument(T.202, 211). In fact, the bundle view even re-appearsin Hume's final work, the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, where all of the charactersassent to Demea's statement that "the soul of man ... [is] a composition of various faculties, passions, sentiments ideas; united, indeed, into one self or person, but still distinct from each other" (Norman Kemp Smith [ed. and intro.], [Indianapolis:Bobbs-Merrill,1947], 159). Our ideas of our minds as bundles of perceptions will, however, be "inadequate"(T.23, 29), Hume's term for ideas that do not fully capture the details of their objects (Locke also uses this term, E.II.xxxi). Our ideas of higher numbers, for example, are usually inadequate to their objects, in that we often do not have a distinct notion of 1000 (as opposed to 1001) when thinking of it. Hume thinks that, since the mind has "the power of producing"an adequate version of the idea when needed, the inadequacy of these ideas does not make a difference in our reasoning (T.23). The fact that the idea of our mind as a bundle of perceptions misses out on some of the unremembered perceptions is an inadequacy somewhat similar to the inadequacy of our ideas of high numbers. If I need to know whether I was the one who, say, went to England when I was two years old, I can rectify the inadequacyof the currentidea of my mind by tracing out causal connections between my rememberedperceptions and the forgotten experiences of the trip to England. Most of the time, the inadequacyof our ideas of our minds broughtabout by the omission of the secondaryideas (by which we think about our mental contents as perceptions) can easily be fixed by a further reflection through which we make the missing secondary ideas into the objects of tertiaryideas. But the fact that I can never form an idea which captures all the perceptions in my mind at that very moment means that the idea of self is necessarily inadequate. Since the discussion of inadequacycomes as an aside in the discussion of generality (T.I.i.7), I interpretGarrettto mean that the idea of self is inadequatewhen he suggests that the idea of self is general ("Hume's Self-Doubts," 340). For surely it makes no sense to treat the idea of self as a general idea. My idea of self-qua-mind is the idea of my concrete bundle of perceptions, one that contains only the experiences I have undergone; it is not the idea of mind-in-general.

30

31

576

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

people's sentiments are transfused into us so that we come to feel their sentiments. An interpretationof the "Appendix"must be able to show that his rejection of the Section's argumentdoes not affect his use of the idea of self in these other contexts. can easily satisfy this criterionbecause it points to the My interpretation special philosophical context of Hume's concern with persons in the Section our beliefs about our and the "Appendix."He is interestedin understanding But as I noted in when we observe them philosophically. minds, especially ?1 above, the self as it appears in Book II is the self "as it regards our passions or the concern we take in ourselves"(T.253). There Hume describes the mental principles that explain our everyday notion of persons. The fact that he is unable to account for why, when reflecting on the mind's perceptual constitution, we take it to be simple and identical is irrelevantfor this project. ?4. Conclusion

I am not the first person to have suggested that Hume's problems in the "Appendix"concern the issue of reflection.Norman Kemp Smith, for example, suggests that Hume came to recognize that the mind must include "thoughtprocesses which amountto reflexion, in the ordinary,non-technical, but that he was unable to explain the possibility of sense of that term,"32 reflective thinking. Unfortunately Kemp Smith does not explain what he means by 'reflexion', nor he does spell out just why Hume would have problems with explaining this kind of thought. D. G. C. MacNabb wonders how a bundle of perceptionscould reflectively be aware of itself.33But he misses out on the fact that, for Hume, this means simply that there are perceptions in the bundle which have other perceptions as their objects.34In the end, is successful because they do not show how neither of these interpretations reflection would pose a problem for Hume, given his own understandingof his project. And, more importantly,they fail to recognize the special character of the reflectionpresupposedby our beliefs aboutour minds as bundles of perceptions. They fail to see that the negative argumentat the beginning of the Section means that the remainingpositive argumentsdeal with the beliefs we hold when we reflectively observe our perceptionsin the course of philosophizing.

What I have shown is that understanding reflection in the way that Hume himself seems to understandit-namely, as making our perceptions into the objects of our thoughtthroughthe use of secondaryideas-allows us to find a truly Humean problem in the "Appendix."We cannot reflect on all of our
32

33 34

The Philosophy of David Hume (London:Macmillan, 1941), 556. David Hume: His Theoryof Knowledgeand Morality(London:Hutchinson, 1951), 152. Pike makes this point in "Hume's Bundle Theory of the Self: A Limited Defence," AmericanPhilosophical Quarterly4 (1967), 159-65.

HUME'S REFLECTIONS ON THE IDENTITYAND SIMPLICITY OF MIND

577

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

perceptions at one time, even though the only Humean explanation we can give for our belief in the mind's simplicity requiresjust such a reflection. Hume saw no route out of this problem,I suggest, and he concluded that the only method available for understandingthe operations of the mind-his this facet of humanexpe"science of man"-was of no use for understanding unconcernedabout this limitarience. Hume seems to have been remarkably tion to his philosophical project. But, in retrospect, we can see Hume's recognition of the inability of introspective investigation to yield an explanationof our beliefs in the unity of mind as setting the stage for Kant's innovation-transcendental apperception, a mode of self-awarenessboth differentfrom Humeanreflection (which he calls 'inner sense') and in virtue of which our representationsare united. Kant concedes the empirical point about self-awareness that Hume levels against Locke and the other philosophers in the first few paragraphsof the Section; it is true that we are not always thinking of ourselves when we go about our business in the world. But, in anotherway, namely transcendentally, Kant retains the first of the Lockian points about the omnipresence of self-awareness.We are subjects of thoughtonly if our various ideas, perceptions, representations,call them what you will, are united in such a way as for a person to be able to make judgements. This is a condition of the possibility of thought. And thus even though Hume is right that the mind as simple and identical only arises as a topic for those who reflect on their minds, it nonethelessplays a role in our everyday lives because, even without thinking of it, we presupposeit all the time.35

Critique of Pure Reason, N. Kemp Smith (tr.), (New York: St. Martin's, 1965). Kant discusses transcendental apperception and its role in our thought throughout the "TranscendentalDeduction" (A 84-130, B 116-69). For his agreement with Hume's claim that there is no empirical support for the ever-presence of the idea of self, see A 107.

578

DONALD C. AINSLIE

This content downloaded from 144.122.104.66 on Thu, 9 Jan 2014 10:55:41 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions