chapter  5
17 Pages

The Self as Agent

ByConstantine Sandis

Having established the revisionist contours of Hume’s basic thoughts on the self and identity in Book I, we are finally now in a position to consider the self of Books II and III. Of particular interest here is how the self of those Books relates to character and, thereby, action. It is noteworthy that those who wish to emphasize Hume’s scepticism with regard to the self either ignore or downplay his remarks on character. This strategy not only provides an incomplete picture of how Hume understands people over time, it also inevitably leads to a weakened understanding of his account of human motivation (Chapter 6), his virtue ethics (Greco 2013), and a large part of his methodology in the History of England (Chapter 7; cf. Baier 2008a, and Phillipson 2011). Indeed, it forms the basis of his ‘science of mankind’ as a whole (see T 2.3.2.2/408–409). Christine Korsgaard takes Hume’s empirical science to result in the objectionable view that ‘an action essentially is nothing more than a movement caused by a judgement or idea that regularly has an effect on the will’ (Korsgaard 2009: 63–64). This chapter builds on Hume’s account of the self (as outlined in Chapter 4) to demonstrate that this is not so.