The Self in Philosophy

An analysis of theories on self by philosopher David Hume and how they compare with the theories of Rene Descartes.

The question: “Is Self or not, and if there is, what is its nature?” been argued in philosophy since the time of the Greek philosophers. This paper examines the views of philosopher David Hume on the subject, whereby he counters the often accepted idea of the self as an enduring entity with experiences and thoughts and a separate existence. The paper also discusses the comparative views of philosopher Rene Descartes whose ideas were challenged by Hume.
“Of course, people believe that they possess a single self with the same personal identity throughout their lives. This is the common sense view that Hume counters. Hume says that people are deceived in this belief, however, and deceived specifically by the operation of memory, “which by the association of your past separate ideas connects one idea with the others, and leads you to form the fictional idea that these impressions that you recall are united in some sense in a permanent self” (Lavine 173). Hume ultimately rejects this idea simply because for the idea of the self to be meaningful, it must derive from an impression. What we refer to as the self, however, is not derived from a single impression at all but, as noted, from a series of impressions, from “all those impressions to a self which is imagined to exist and to underlay them or contain them” (Lavine 173).”