Volume 14, 1988/1989
Was Hume a Subjectivist?
In a crucial passage in the Treatise, Hume argues that all our sense impressions are dependent for their existence upon the state of our sense organs. Hume points out that this is not the same as an ontological dependence upon minds; and moreover the argument is clearly causal. Hume uses it to establish the system of the philosophers as opposed to the system of the vulgar. This paper argues that Hume’s case parallels that which, in this century, the critical realists made against the new realists. Consequently, it is also argued, Hume is best construed, in this passage at least, as defending critical realism, rather than, as many critics contend, a version of subjectivistic scepticism.