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Hume on the Idea of Existence

Hume on the Idea of Existence Hume on the Idea of Existence1 Phillip D. Cummins One, the primary, aim of this paper is to understand an argument Hume employed to defend his contention that there is no special or distinct idea ofexistence. This contention he expressed variously in the following passage: The idea of existence, then, is the very same with the idea of what we conceive to be existent. To reflect on any thing simply, and to reflect on it as existent, are nothing different from each other. That idea, when conjoin'd with the idea of any object, makes no addition to it. Whatever we conceive, we conceive to be existent. Any idea we please to form is the idea of a being; and the idea of a being is any idea we please to form.2 My secondary aim is to understand what the quoted claim amounts to as a characterization of the idea of existence. I am among those who have serious difficulty understanding what precisely Hume is here claiming. Specifically, I am not sure how, if at all, his position on the idea of existence fits with other elements ofhis theory of thought.3 For example, earlier in the Treatise, in "Of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Hume Studies Hume Society

Hume on the Idea of Existence

Hume Studies , Volume 17 (1) – Jan 26, 1991

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Hume Society
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Copyright © Hume Society
ISSN
1947-9921
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Abstract

Hume on the Idea of Existence1 Phillip D. Cummins One, the primary, aim of this paper is to understand an argument Hume employed to defend his contention that there is no special or distinct idea ofexistence. This contention he expressed variously in the following passage: The idea of existence, then, is the very same with the idea of what we conceive to be existent. To reflect on any thing simply, and to reflect on it as existent, are nothing different from each other. That idea, when conjoin'd with the idea of any object, makes no addition to it. Whatever we conceive, we conceive to be existent. Any idea we please to form is the idea of a being; and the idea of a being is any idea we please to form.2 My secondary aim is to understand what the quoted claim amounts to as a characterization of the idea of existence. I am among those who have serious difficulty understanding what precisely Hume is here claiming. Specifically, I am not sure how, if at all, his position on the idea of existence fits with other elements ofhis theory of thought.3 For example, earlier in the Treatise, in "Of

Journal

Hume StudiesHume Society

Published: Jan 26, 1991

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