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Portrait of David Hume (detail) by Allan Ramsey (1754)

Constance Maund (1912–1999)

Constance Alice Macartney Iredell was born in London on 15 March 1912 and died in Chichester on 4 January 1999. She was a student at Bedford College London and was taught by Susan Stebbing. In 1933 she married the naval officer Loben Edward Harold Maund (1892-1957). She was elected a member of the Aristotelian Society in 1933 and was always referred to as ‘Mrs. Maund’ in their lists even after she was awarded a PhD from the University of London in 1936.

Maund is best known for the book she published (at age 25) from her thesis, Hume’s Theory of Knowledge: A Critical Examination (MacMillan & Co, 1937, 310pp; reprinted by Russell & Russell, 1972). While her writings focus upon the work of Hume, she herself claimed that philosophy should be the study of problems, and not of philosophers or their works. Contrary to the commonly held view of the day, Maund did not think that epistemology was philosophically prior to questions about the world (metaphysical or scientific).

Maund argued that Hume was one of the first to extend epistemology beyond the mere study of what is certain, to the study of all forms of cognition. According to Maund, Hume’s own work was strictly epistemological in focus, not metaphysical or psychological. Central to Maund’s reading of Hume is her distinction between ‘object-propositions’ and ‘perception-propositions’. Object-propositions refer to objects as independent of and external to the mind while perception-propositions are ‘accusative’, i.e. they refer to objects that are indisputably given as phenomenal elements of one’s immediate perceptual experience (and hence they are not, strictly speaking, independent of or external to the mind). Maund claims that Hume’s treatment of objects (including space, time, etc.) ought to be read in the accusative sense as part of an epistemological investigation, not an ontological one. Thus, when speaking of Hume we need to distinguish between two types of scepticism: (1) with regard to the senses, and (2) with regard to reason. Hume’s scepticism applies only to the apprehension of objects in the non-accusative or object-propositional sense, not to perceptions or objects in the accusative sense (which are known with certainty). Object-propositions that purport to carry us beyond the evidence of the senses are ‘accusatives of believing’, not of knowing.

Selected and adapted from Philip Rose, Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy (2006), ed. A.C. Grayling, Naomi Goulder, and Andrew Pyle

Mrs. Maund has written a careful and accurate study of Hume’s epistemology. By a thorough analysis of each of his main problems she shows its real significance and the strength and weakness of Hume’s solution. Where his position is weak she looks carefully for traces of an alternative and sounder view, but she never makes the mistake of improving her author out of recognition, and her criticism is always clear and unequivocal. She adds her quota to the recent revival of Hume by insisting that anyone who thinks of his philosophy either as mere psychological associationism or as the self-destruction of pure empiricism will miss most of his greatness. She also reinstates the Enquiry as a genuine and in some ways improved recasting of his views and not merely a watered-down popularization of the Treatise. Her book is written with unrelenting sobriety and sincerity and especially in its early chapters should interest students who wish to concentrate on Hume’s permanent significance in philosophy.

–J. D. Mabbott, Philosophy (October 1937)

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