In this paper, I return to the well-known apparent inconsistencies in Hume’s treatment of personal identity in the three books of A Treatise of Human Nature, and try to defend a Humean narrative interpretation of the self. I argue that in Book 1 of the Treatise Hume is answering (to use Marya Schechtman’s expressions in The Constitution of Selves) a “reidentification” question concerning personal identity, which is different from the “characterization” question of Books 2 and 3. That is, I maintain that whereas in Book 1 Hume is using his philosophical empiricism to provide his own version of the problem of how to recognize persons as the same at different times, in Books 2 and 3 he is presenting selves from a different, both sentimental and ethical standpoint, as the focus of people’s concerns. I start by discussing Hume’s notion of personal identity as presented in Book 1 and in the “Appendix.” I then specify the narrative conception of the self Hume relies on when dealing with passions and morality as the self-consciousness persons develop as bearers of characters of or about which they can be morally proud or humble. I finally conclude by distinguishing Hume’s narrative self from the idea of “the unity of human life” that Alasdair MacIntyre puts forward in After Virtue.
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