Does it make sense to talk of unconscious IDEAS? I know psychoanalysts often talk of unconscious ideas, but am puzzled by their supposed status. Many of our physiological processes are unconscious to us, but ideas? If there were unconscious ideas, how would we identify them, and how would they relate to our conscious ideas? A fan of Hume

I am also a fan of Hume, and it's easy to see how the issue you raise may appear to be particularly difficult for Hume. For Hume, ideas are copies of impressions. Impressions are sensations (or reflections - feelings) that we are aware of. Ideas are less lively, but still present to mind. So how could there be an idea about which we are not aware? Moving away from Hume for a second, consider your beliefs. Do you believe that fewer than five thousand people would fit inside a typical passenger car? Surely you believe this, but it's unlikely you had ever consciously entertained the idea involved in this belief. It's correct to say that you've believed it all along, even before it was raised as a matter of belief a few sentences ago. Such dispositional beliefs provide good examples of ideas that you have, but which you've never consciously entertained. How do we identify them? Certainly it's not by introspection, but rather by observing our dispositions to behave in various ways. You might think about examples where you can determine what another person believes by what they do and say, even when the individual in question might deny holding the belief you attribute to them. Now I think that Hume can account for such unconscious ideas, but this can wait for another question!

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