2012 年 2012 巻 63 号 p. 297-311_L16
In this paper I examine Hume's theory of meaning and abstraction. Although his doctrine of abstraction relies on his theory of meaning, his own conception of meaning is not necessarily the so-called “idea theory of meaning”, which supports the possibility of private language. On the contrary, he tries to defend a sort of use theory of meaning: the meaning of abstract terms must consist in our custom or disposition to use them in society and conversation. This idea is derived from his concept of ability, which depends on his conception of the resemblance and the uniformity of nature.
The aim of this paper is to show that we can interpret Hume's view of meaning as a use theory of meaning. To begin with, I criticize the traditional interpretation of Hume's theory of abstraction, which faces a substantial difficulty concerning the possibility of communication. Then, I clarify that he proposes in his Treatise the following two doctrines of abstraction: (1) two sorts of resemblance and (2) the principle of the uniformity of nature. These enable us to understand language by appealing to the ability to generalize the use of our abstract terms. Finally, I show that his theory of meaning does not only offer us a criterion for the correct use of abstract terms, but also a defensible foundation of communication.