Personal identity may be like a river which is totally alter'd "in less than four and twenty hours."

— Hume, David (1711-1776)

Place of Publication
Printed for John Noon
January 1739
Personal identity may be like a river which is totally alter'd "in less than four and twenty hours."
Metaphor in Context
Secondly, We may remark, that tho' in a succession of related objects, it be in a manner requisite, that the change of parts be not sudden nor entire, in order to preserve the identity, yet where the objects are in their nature changeable and inconstant, we admit of a more sudden transition, than wou'd otherwise be consistent with that relation. Thus as the nature of a river consists in the motion and change of parts; tho' in less than four and twenty hours these be totally alter'd; this hinders not the river from continuing the same during several ages. What is natural and essential to any thing is, in a manner, expected; and what is expected makes less impression, and appears of less moment, than what is unusual and extraordinary. A considerable change of the former kind seems really less to the imagination, than the most trivial alteration of the latter; and by breaking less the continuity of the thought, has less influence in destroying the identity.
Published anonymously with vols. I and II appearing in January in 1739 and vol. III appearing in November of 1740. Only 1 entry in the ESTC (1740).

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature. Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects. 3 vols. (London: Printed for John Noon, 1739; Thomas Longman, 1740). <Link to ESTC><Link to ECCO><Link to ECCO-TCP><Link to OLL>

Reading David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, eds. D. F. and M. J. Norton (Oxford: OUP, 2000). Searching in Past Masters and OLL editions.
Personal Identity
Date of Entry
Date of Review

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.