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Learning from Six Philosophers Volume 2$
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Jonathan Bennett

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198250920

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198250924.001.0001

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Hume on the Existence of Bodies

Hume on the Existence of Bodies

(p.284) Chapter 37 Hume on the Existence of Bodies
Learning from Six Philosophers Volume 2

Jonathan Bennett

Oxford University Press

Hume's great section on why we believe in the existence of bodies outside ourselves is a masterpiece of controlled complexity; and this chapter analyses it. Starting with the same foundationalism as Berkeley and Locke, Hume thinks he must choose between the two: either our impressions are the only things we perceive, or we conjecture the existence of other things through an inductive inference across the veil of perception. Neither option is satisfactory, he concludes, but he can see no third way. En route to this conclusion he discovers something much better, and gives a curiously weak reason for rejecting it. The section involves a treatment of identity, which is deeply flawed but also brilliantly impressive.

Keywords:   Berkeley, body, Hume, identity, Locke

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