Sympathy and Spatiality of Passions in Hume’s Treatise
The article discusses Hume’s theory of sympathy
in Book II of his Treatise of Human Nature with special regard to the social
function of sympathy as well as to the constitution of one’s own self in
indirect passions. Two things are pointed out as important for understanding
Hume’s theory, even though they tend to be overlooked by many commentators. It
seems clear that – in the context of sympathy – Hume does not treat ideas of
passions as weaker copies or shadows of impressions of passions. This opens up
an important role for the sympathetic sharing of emotions, for such sharing is
a necessary condition of proper intersubjective relations among persons.
Furthermore, Hume does not claim that passions simply spread by emotional
infection, but rather that human mind has a natural tendency to take over
emotions of other people. However, this tendency clashes with other principles
of human nature. The second part of the article poses a question which
apparently has not been raised so far. Given the spatially unextended nature of
passions, how are passions, according to Hume, related to bodily expressions.