Structure and Interpretation

Hume’s argument concerning induction is the foundation stone of his philosophical system, and one of the most celebrated and influential arguments in the entire literature of western philosophy. It is therefore rather surprising that the enormous attention which has been devoted to it over the years has not resulted in any general consensus as to how it should be interpreted, or, in consequence, how Hume himself should be seen. At one extreme is the traditional view, which takes the argument to be thoroughly sceptical, leading to the sweeping conclusion that all “probable reasoning” or “reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence” is utterly worthless, so that Hume is portrayed as a negative Pyrrhonian intent on undermining the credentials of all our would-be knowledge of the world. But at the other extreme a number of very prominent commentators, particularly in recent years, have put forward a strikingly contrasting view, that Hume’s intentions here are entirely non-sceptical, and that so far from advancing a negative thesis himself, he is merely intent on showing the implausible consequences of the “rationalist” position taken by some of his philosophical opponents.
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