From inexactness to certainty: The change in Hume's conception of geometry

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
Keywords Hume  philosophy of geometry  infinite divisibility ofextension  philosophy of space
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DOI 10.1023/A:1008248416334
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Emil Badici (2011). Standards of Equality and Hume's View of Geometry. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92 (4):448-467.

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