PDC Homepage
Home » Products » Purchase

Hume Studies

Volume 46, Issue 1/2, April/November 2020

Hynek Janoušek
Pages 33-55

The Broader Context of Sympathy in Book 2 of the Treatise

The following text suggests interpreting Hume’s theory of sympathy in Book 2 of the Treatise of Human Nature in a broader context of relations, feelings, and senti­ments. It is this context which marks off different types of impressions and their different phenomenology, and offers rich insights into Hume’s theory. As regards Hume’s theory of sympathy, it can be analyzed for various cases of sympathy both in the context of the (1) conception involved in a given case of sympathy, and in the context of its (2) doxastic and (3) affect-constituting vivacity. The article first describes three kinds of associative relations (causal relations, relations of modes and substances, and projection of spatial contiguity) involved in the conception of passions in sympathy, and shows how these relations might help to differentiate impressions of our feelings from those of other people. Yet another distinction between impressions produced by sympathy is possible with respect to the context of belief or doxastic vivacity involved in the conception of the feelings of others. The text tries to illustrate this by showing how the neutralization of disbelief and relations of space and time differentiate impressions of sympathy with fictive heroes of tragic plays, from sympathy with real people in everyday life. Finally, the article discusses a broader context of the affect-constituting vivacity. Even though Hume’s view of the origin of this vivacity remains unclear, it can be shown that the affect-constituting vivacity grounds our proper experience with others as affective others, and differentiates our conception of persons from our conception of inanimate objects. Moreover, different kinds of associative relations involved in the transfer of the affect-constituting liveliness differentiate felt emotions of people which are close to us from felt emotions of people related to us merely on account of our self-interest.