chapter  4
15 Pages

Hume’s second thoughts about personal identity

I turn now to the vexed issue of how we are to understand Hume’s remarks about personal identity in the Appendix to the Treatise: remarks which appear to amount to a retraction of his earlier account of the self and its identity. As I have indicated, my principal concern is to provide a brief discussion of the issues of interpretation which arise in this context; but I shall also make a suggestion about the kind of problem which might help to account for Hume’s references to error and inconsistency. It is worth noting that personal identity is identified by Hume as the ‘one article’ in which he has been able to discover a considerable mistake in his reasoning (App. 1), and he goes on to confess his inability to reconcile the contradictions which arise here (App. 21). This shows that whatever the source of Hume’s second thoughts about personal identity might be it is not something that infects his treatment of the other issues with which he is concerned in Book 1 of the Treatise. This, in turn, provides an important constraint on any interpretation of these second thoughts, along with other constraints such as the need to identify problems which might have been of concern to Hume himself as well as being ones which would account for the way in which he describes his second thoughts.