Journal for General Philosophy of Science 29 (1):1-20 (1998)
|Abstract||Although Hume's analysis of geometry continues to serve as a reference point for many contemporary discussions in the philosophy of science, the fact that the first Enquiry presents a radical revision of Hume's conception of geometry in the Treatise has never been explained. The present essay closely examines Hume's early and late discussions of geometry and proposes a reconstruction of the reasons behind the change in his views on the subject. Hume's early conception of geometry as an inexact non-demonstrative science is argued to be a consequence of his attempt to discredit geometrical proofs of infinite divisibility of extension by anchoring the meaning of geometrical concepts in inherently inexact qualitative measurement procedures. This measurement-based attack on the exactness and certainty of geometry is analyzed and shown to be both self-refuting and inconsistent with the general epistemological framework of the Treatise. The revised conception of geometry as a demonstrative science in the first Enquiry is then interpreted as Hume's response to the failure of his earlier attempt to discredit geometrical proofs of infinite divisibility of extension|
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