4. Knowledge and Sensory Knowledge in Hume’s Treatise
Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, forthcoming.
In this paper, I argue that we should attribute to Hume an account of knowledge that I call the ‘Constitutive Account.’ On this account, Hume holds that (i) every instance of knowledge must be an immediately present perception (i.e., an impression or an idea); (ii) an object of this perception must be a token of a knowable relation; (iii) this token knowable relation must have parts of the instance of knowledge as relata (i.e., the same perception that has it as an object); and any perception that satisfies (i)-(iii) is an instance of knowledge. I then apply the Constitutive Account to the case of sense perception. With the help of some relevant passages from the Treatise, I argue that Hume holds that there are relations of impressions that can be intuited, are knowable, and are necessary. These relations constitute Humean sensory knowledge and they are widespread in vision. On Hume’s view, all one needs to do is sense and, if the objects of one’s senses are of the right sort, one will thereby know. While Hume is rightly labeled an empiricist for many different reasons, a close inspection of his account of knowledge reveals yet another way in which he merits the label.
We argue that prevailing definitions of Berkeley’s idealism fail to rule out a nearby Spinozist rival view that we call ‘mind-body identity panpsychism.’ Since Berkeley certainly does not agree with Spinoza on this issue, we call for more care in defining Berkeley’s view. After we propose our own definition of Berkeley’s idealism, we survey two Berkeleyan strategies to block the mind-body identity panpsychist and establish his idealism. We argue that Berkeley should follow Leibniz and further develop his account of the mind’s unity. Unity—not activity—is the best way for Berkeley to establish his view at the expense of his panpsychist competitors.
Some of Aristotle’s statements about the indemonstrability of the Principle of Non-Contradiction (PNC) in Metaphysics Γ 4 merit more attention. The consensus seems to be that Aristotle provides two arguments against the demonstrability of the PNC, with one located in Γ 3 and the other found in the first paragraph of Γ 4. In this article, I argue that Aristotle also relies upon a third argument for the same conclusion: the argument from truth. Although Aristotle does not explicitly state this argument, it is the best argument that he could use to defend some of his statements in the second paragraph of Γ 4. Since the argument relies on only a few of Aristotle’s core views about truth, I propose that it is faithful to his considered position throughout his corpus, and it may be the strongest argument he could offer for the indemonstrability of the PNC.
There are some necessary conditions on causal relations that seem to be so trivial that they do not merit further inquiry. Many philosophers assume that the requirement that there could be no temporal gaps between causes and their effects is such a condition. Bertrand Russell disagrees. In this paper, an in-depth discussion of Russell’s argument against this necessary condition is the centerpiece of an analysis of what is at stake when one accepts or denies that there can be temporal gaps between causes and effects. It is argued that whether one accepts or denies this condition, one is implicated in taking on substantial and wide-ranging philosophical positions. Therefore, it is not a trivial necessary condition of causal relations and it merits further inquiry.