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Hume's Relative Ideas

Hume's Relative Ideas 55. HUME'S RELATIVE IDEAS The fundamental principle in the analysis of propositions containing descriptions is this: Every proposition which we can understand must be composed wholly of constituents with which we are acquainted. Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy In this paper I shall show that Hume found within the "way of ideas" the basis for a distinction between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description. By examining the distinction between positive and relative ideas and Hume's discussions of relative ideas in the light of the logical writings of Antoine Arnauld and Isaac Watts, I shall argue that relative ideas are the cognitive analogues of definite descriptions. Although Hume often regarded epistemic claims based upon relative ideas with at least a modicum of scepticism, the doctrine of relative ideas provides the basis for the intelligibility of and the critical moves in his discussions of that unintelligible chimera of... substance. The recognition that Hume espoused the doctrine of relative ideas also sheds light on his discussions of the missing shade of blue and his claim that one has an idea of the thousandth part of a grain of sand, even though one's mental image of that minute entity differs http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Hume Studies Hume Society

Hume's Relative Ideas

Hume Studies , Volume 7 (1) – Jan 26, 1981

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Hume Society
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Copyright © Hume Society
ISSN
1947-9921
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Abstract

55. HUME'S RELATIVE IDEAS The fundamental principle in the analysis of propositions containing descriptions is this: Every proposition which we can understand must be composed wholly of constituents with which we are acquainted. Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy In this paper I shall show that Hume found within the "way of ideas" the basis for a distinction between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description. By examining the distinction between positive and relative ideas and Hume's discussions of relative ideas in the light of the logical writings of Antoine Arnauld and Isaac Watts, I shall argue that relative ideas are the cognitive analogues of definite descriptions. Although Hume often regarded epistemic claims based upon relative ideas with at least a modicum of scepticism, the doctrine of relative ideas provides the basis for the intelligibility of and the critical moves in his discussions of that unintelligible chimera of... substance. The recognition that Hume espoused the doctrine of relative ideas also sheds light on his discussions of the missing shade of blue and his claim that one has an idea of the thousandth part of a grain of sand, even though one's mental image of that minute entity differs

Journal

Hume StudiesHume Society

Published: Jan 26, 1981

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