“Fictions of the Imagination” in Hume’s ‘Treatise’


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Hume’s ‘Treatise’ accords ‘fictions of the imagination’ a central role in human cognition, and yet Hume’s theory of ‘fictions’ is routinely neglected by scholars and philosophers. This dissertation is the first monograph-length study of this theory and of the rationale that Hume provides for it. Against common views of Hume’s theory of mental representation, it argues that Hume’s theory of ‘fictions’ forms part of an original theory of the imagination and its powers, according to which what can be imagined outstrips what can be represented in any sense experience. From this interpretation, the dissertation derives solutions to several puzzles that arise in connection with better-known aspects of Hume’s philosophy, including a famous puzzle about Hume’s discussions of personal identity.