Hume on Force and Vivacity. A Teleological-Historical Interpretation

Wild, Markus
Hume seems to have discarded with final causes and teleology. However, his invocation of a pre-established harmony between the course of nature and the succession of our ideas suggests otherwise. This paper takes Hume’s general strategy of shifting to the external perspective into account, and argues that the seemingly internal property of force and vivacity are, in fact, functional-teleological properties. Force and vivacity bears many explanatory burdens: It explains the difference between imagination and memory, between conception and belief, and it establishes causal necessity. What kind of property is this supposed to be? We can answer this question by taking into account Hume’s explanation of the way in which this very property is communicated in the cases of ideas of memory and belief, and of the function it performs in these cases. It will be argued that force and vivacity is not an intrinsic, phenomenal property of ideas. It is a relational and historical property. A major objective of the paper is the application of this interpretation from the case of ideas to the case of impression. What kind of history could transfer force and vivacity to impressions? Answer: natural history. By a careful examination of passages concerning innate capacities, passions, and animal instincts, we can make sense of the tenet that impressions have force and vivacity because of our natural history. It will be suggested that Hume’s philosophy of mind is fit to integrate Darwinian Design as an explanatory corner-stone.