Thesis (Ph.D)

Hume and the Self: Pride, Narrativity and Social Media


In this thesis, I aim to explore the development of Hume’s theory of the self through time. I begin with his scepticism concerning the self in book 1 of the Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), expressing his idea that we are simply a bundle of experiences and there is no such thing as the self that we can introspect and identify. I then plot his route to the discovery of the self in book 2 via the passions. I explore his mechanism of sympathy and the role this plays in the mutual construction of pride and the self as well as the double relation of ideas and impressions. Additionally, I suggest that Hume was a narrative theorist, as he placed importance on our whole lives – on our past, present and future, rather than on single, unified acts. I highlight the social nature of the Humean self and show its ability to evolve with the changing times. I find the introduction of social media and the new ways in which we communicate are compatible with Hume’s account. We are still able to apply his mechanisms of human nature to the kind of feedback we receive from this wider social sphere. A Humean, sympathetic being feels pride from the positive reactions of others and encapsulates individual instances into a narrative that highlights the emotions. The social self is created by this changing communication platform; moving away from face to face interaction, I will show that the Hume’s account of the self is able to survive such change and we should acknowledge its adaptability. I thus detail how Hume’s sympathetic mechanisms and the double relation of ideas and impressions relate to the kind of social interactions we have in the online sphere. To my knowledge this is the first study that considers Hume’s account of the self in this context.

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Khan, Shamsa


Supervisors: O'Brien, Dan

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of History, Philosophy and Culture
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


Year: 2020

© Khan, Shamsa
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