Associations are principles whereby impressions come to exist in different capacities than by what was received initially. So for example, in having the impression of brown, furry, smelly, and so on by association we come to correlate these actually distinct impressions into one identity known as a dog. Another example is the formation of concepts, which are universal in a way that singular impressions could not be. Now, granted that impressions are in themselves truly distinct, it can be established that the process of knowledge is not merely passive, since some active agent is necessary in order that distinct impressions can come to be comprising thought that is unitive and universal. But this means only that this active agent is directly acting upon the received impressions in what is a typical instance of change, which is in the traditional sense the actualization of a potential. That is to say, our received impressions have the potential to be understood and formed in universal, transcendent terms (Hume's notion of causality won't do here since the change involved here is not a matter of relations between impressions, but is rather about a necessarily connected operation occurring between impressions themselves and some active agent). Now as such, any actualization of a potency can only occur if that which is in potency is actualized by that which is actual. Thus, we must submit the existence of the self, which we call that which is 'actually associative.
However, is this correct? Is there a way of approaching the reality of an active agent without necessarily arriving at the need of the existence of that which is simply active, that which is responsible for the occurrence of the change taking place in our processes of association?