chapter  3
16 Pages

Hume on the mind/body relation

We have seen that Hume appears to identify the mind (or self, in its mental aspect) with a system of perceptions. It is because of the way in which our perceptions are organised – i.e. by virtue of the relations of resemblance and causation they exhibit in memory – that we arrive at the mistaken view of the mind as something, a substance or connecting principle, to which these perceptions belong. It is a striking feature of Hume’s account of the idea of a simple and identical mind or self that it focuses entirely on our perceptions and their relations to each other. For it might well be argued that it is impossible to provide an adequate explanation of the synchronic and diachronic identity of the mind independently of reference to its relation to body (Pears 1990: 129-31). We saw in the previous chapter that there is indeed a sense in which this is true, to the extent that reference to the agency aspect of the self is required for the purpose of providing such an explanation. In any case, it is evident that Hume’s account of mind follows the same sort of pattern as his earlier account of our idea of body, namely, as a collection of sensible qualities related to each other in certain ways, the ways in which they are related giving rise to the mistaken belief in body as something simple and identical (T, 1.4.3.2).1 The question which naturally arises at this point is how, in Hume’s view, mind and body are related to each other. This in fact is a topic with which Hume deals in T, 1.4.5 and it is to his discussion there that I now turn.