Paper presented to the Twenty-seventh Hume Society Conference, 26 July 2000, Williamsburg, Virginia. -/- At the time I thought there was a stronger link between Maclaurin and Hume, but in discussions at and after the meeting, decided Hume was not taking his mechanics out of Maclaurin’s Account. Although I still have found Maclaurin useful in interpreting Hume -- see Sapadin 1997 for a discussion of popular Newtonianism in Hume's day -- I suspect my draft suffers somewhat from ambivalence. There are (...) still similarities, and possible avenues of influence, arguing that Hume was not ignorant of the new mechanics, but it also becomes clear that he did not understand it: although he adopts the Newtonian measure of force, he misapplies it. (shrink)
We may distinguish two interpretations of the relation between Newton’s natural philosophy and Hume’s science of human nature. The first interpretation can be called ‘traditional,’ the second ‘critical.’ This article will not side with either readings of Hume’s Newtonianism (or with some middle positions). Instead, essential points of confluence and divergence will be discussed.
Gözlemlenenlerden gözlemlen(e)meyenlere diğer bir deyişle genel yasalara ulaşma imkânı veren çıkarım yöntemi olarak tümevarımsal ya da endüktif akıl yürütmenin rasyonel olarak temellendirilmesinin imkanına yönelik soruşturma tarih içerisinde tümevarım sorunu ya da endüksiyon problemi olarak tezahür etmiştir. Bu sorunun temel argümanı tarihsel okumalara baktığımızda İskoç ampirist filozof David Hume tarafından öne sürülmüştür. Hume, tümevarımsal çıkarımlar temelinde, gözlenmeyen meseleler hakkındaki inançlarımıza hangi gerekçelerle ulaştığımızı soruşturmaktadır. Hume soruşturmasının sonucunda gözlemlenenden gözlemlen(e)meyen durumlara ilişkin yapılan olgu meseleleri ile ilgili bütün tümevarımsal akıl yürütmelerin dolaylı ya (...) da dolaysız olarak nedensellik ilişkisine ve bu ilişkinin temelinde yer alan doğanın düzenliliği ilkesi ya da “gelecek her zaman geçmişe benzer” önermesine dayandığını ifade ederek bütün tümevarımsal akıl yürütmelerde ortak olan geleceğin her zaman geçmişe benzeyeceği ifadesinin rasyonel olarak temellendirilmesinin mümkün olmadığını belirtmektedir. Bu bağlamda, çalışmada tümevarımsal akıl yürütme sonucunda ulaşılan sonuca inanmanın hiçbir rasyonel temelinin olamayacağı yönündeki Hume’un görüşü argüman formunda yeniden yapılandırılarak ortaya konulacaktır. (shrink)
Nesse artigo, apresento a crítica de Hume de seu Tratado da natureza humana contra a garantia de inferência de causalidade a partir de argumentos de cunho psicológico e de um argumento lógico. Em seguida, são esclarecidos os detalhes da crítica que Popper dirige contra Hume em seu artigo Ciência: Conjecturas e refutações, no qual foca em uma solução do Problema de Hume – considerado como uma faceta do Problema da Demarcação. Explicarei que Popper defende que a ciência avança sempre da (...) teoria em direção à observação – e não o contrário – e que uma atitude crítica em relação às inferências de causalidade pode nos livrar de um dogmatismo irracional. Ainda assim, sustento que Popper está mais para um reformador do pensamento de Hume do que para um demolidor. (shrink)
Tamas Demeter presents a clear and compelling new perspective of Hume’s methodology and conceptual structure in David Hume and the Culture of Scottish Newtonianism. Hume, he argues, is a Newtonian of the Scottish tradition, but not the mechanical kind that is modeled after the Principia. Instead, Hume should be understood as a kind of European Enlightenment “vitalist.” As a result, his work reflects the more organic methodology that defines Newton’s Opticks.
David Landy starts his book by delineating the received view of David Hume’s position on scientific explanation. He thinks that many still hold the view, thanks to the program of logical positivism and empiricism, that Hume subscribes to the Deductive-Nomological (DN) account of scientific explanation. Then he assimilates the DN account with Graciela De Pierris’ Newton-inspired inductivist reading. Landy has some sympathies toward the New Humean reading about explanation. The unobservable reality of causal powers and forces is productive to the (...) manifest phenomena. Landy clarifies that he disagrees with the New Humeans, because he accepts knowledge about the “descriptive content of such substances.” Accordingly, a central claim of his book is “that Hume’s view occupies a middle ground on the spectrum between De Pierris’s “inductivist” interpretation of him and that of the New Humeans. (shrink)
In this paper I distinguish four methods of empirical inquiry in eighteenth century natural philosophy. In particular, I distinguish among what I call, the mathematical-experimental method; the method of experimental series; the method of inspecting ideas; the method of natural history. While such a list is not exhaustive of the methods of inquiry available, even so, focusing on these four methods will help in diagnosing a set of debates within what has come to be known as ‘empiricism’; throughout the eighteenth (...) century there was a methodological reaction against the hegemonic aspirations of mathematical natural philosophy associated with the authority of Newton.In particular, I argue that the methods of inspecting ideas and natural history remained attractive to ‘empiricist’ thinkers with reservations about aspects of Newtonianism. Moreover, I show that the language of experimentalism meant different things to researchers with different attitudes toward Newton’s legacy. In order to illustrate and make more precise these claims, I embed my taxonomic treatment of the four methods within a narrative in which I primarily focus on Colin Maclaurin, Isaac Newton, David Hume, and Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon. (shrink)
Although the main focus of Hume’s career was in the humanities, his work also has an observable role in the historical development of natural sciences after his time. To show this, I shall center on the relation between Hume and two major ﬁgures in the history of the natural sciences: Charles Darwin (1809–1882) and Albert Einstein (1879–1955). Both of these scientists read Hume. They also found parts of Hume’s work useful to their sciences. Inquiring into the relations between Hume and (...) the two scientists shows that his philosophical positions had a partial but constructive role in the formation of modern biology and physics. This is accordingly a clear indication of Hume’s impact on the scientiﬁc tradition. Before proceeding to analyze Hume’s contribution to the history of science, it is important to address his broader role in the history of philosophy of science. Hume’s discussions concerning the topics of causation, induction, the distinction between mathematical and empirical propositions, and laws of nature have been important for the philosophy of science of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (shrink)
This chapter examines the relationship between laws and mechanisms as approaches to characterising generalizations and explanations in science. I give an overview of recent historical discussions where laws failed to satisfy stringent logical criteria, opening the way for mechanisms to be investigated as a way to explain regularities in nature. This followed by a critical discussion of contemporary debates about the role of laws versus mechanisms in describing versus explaining regularities. I conclude by offering new arguments for two roles for (...) laws that mechanisms cannot subsume, one epistemically optimistic and one pessimistic, both broadly Humean. Do note that this piece is not primarily Hume exegesis; it is more of a riff in the key of Hume. (shrink)
Hume’s Science of Human Nature is an investigation of the philosophical commitments underlying Hume's methodology in pursuing what he calls ‘the science of human nature’. It argues that Hume understands scientific explanation as aiming at explaining the inductively-established universal regularities discovered in experience via an appeal to the nature of the substance underlying manifest phenomena. For years, scholars have taken Hume to employ a deliberately shallow and demonstrably untenable notion of scientific explanation. By contrast, Hume’s Science of Human Nature sets (...) out to update our understanding of Hume’s methodology by using a more sophisticated picture of science as a model. (shrink)
Up till this day one cannot find much scholarship which situates Hume in the context of early modern natural philosophy. Tamás Demeter's new book, David Hume and the Culture of Scottish Newtonianism, does a spectacular job in filling this gap. His monograph is the most comprehensive pursuit to understand Hume's place in the Newtonian tradition of natural philosophy. Demeter specifies Hume's place both in the context of Newtonian moral philosophy and Newtonian chemistry and physiology.
Reading Tamás Demeter's recent book, "David Hume and the Culture of Scottish Newtonianism," feels like visiting a curiosity shop. There are some general themes that are meant to harmonize the work, such as the emphasis on the conceptual and methodological unity of natural and moral philosophy. This merging of cultures of inquiry is nicely illustrated with the case study of anger in the period. There is the main thesis: that Hume's science of mind was influenced, not as much by Newton's (...) Principia, as by Newton's Opticks. Newton's Opticks informs the "sciences of quality," such as chemistry and physiology in eighteenth-century Scotland, and then chemical and anatomical thinking makes its way to Hume's science of... (shrink)
In the Introduction to the Treatise Hume very enthusiastically announces his project to provide a secure and solid foundation for the sciences by grounding them on his science of man. And Hume indicates in the Abstract that he carries out this project in the Treatise. But most interpreters do not believe that Hume's project comes to fruition. In this paper, I offer a general reading of what I call Hume's ‘foundational project’ in the Treatise, but I focus especially on Book (...) 1. I argue that in Book 1 much of Hume's logic is put in the service of the other sciences, in particular, mathematics and natural philosophy. I concentrate on Hume's negative thesis that many of the ideas central to the sciences are ideas that we cannot form. For Hume, this negative thesis has implications for the sciences, as many of the texts I discuss make evident. I consider and criticize different proposals for understanding these implications: the Criterion of Meaning and the ‘Inconceivability Principle’. I introduce what I call Hume's ‘No Reason to Believe’ Principle, which I argue captures more adequately the link Hume envisions between his logic, in particular his examination of ideas, and the other sciences. (shrink)
Charles Darwin and C. Lloyd Morgan forward two influential principles of cognitive ethological inference that yield conflicting results about the extent of continuity in the cognitive traits of humans and other animals. While these principles have been interpreted as reflecting commitments to different senses of parsimony, in fact, both principles result from the same vera causa inferential strategy, according to which “We ought to admit no more causes of natural things, than such as are both true and sufficient to explain (...) their appearances”. Instead, the conflict stems from Darwin’s and Morgan’s views about the true causes of human psychology. Darwin holds a thoroughly Humean philosophy of the human mind, from which he infers significant continuity between human and animal minds. In contrast, Morgan argues that Humean cognitive mechanisms cannot account for a class of uniquely human behaviors, and therefore, he concludes that there is a significant discontinuity between human and animal cognition. This historical debate is informative for current controversies in comparative psychology. (shrink)
Purpose. The purpose of the investigation is to outline the main points of Hume’s interpretation of the basic anthropological project of the era based on radical cultural transformations of the early modern age; to represent a modern vision of Hume's anthropology as a response to the demand of the era and necessity to complete its basic project. Methodology. The research was based on phenomenological and hermeneutic approaches. Originality. Contemporary understanding of the position of anthropological project in Hume's philosophy is regarded (...) as unsatisfactory by the author. Development of the basic project as anthropological is rooted in scientific revolution and needs to be continued and completed. Contemporary prevalence of deanthropogical versions of Hume's philosophy is the result of underestimated significance of the concept of nature in the broad sense. According to the philosopher's texts, heuristic potential of Hume's position is emphasized by the author. The modern version of the basic project in the early modern age is criticized and demands significant changes to become anthropological. Findings. Modern perception of Hume’s philosophy as an anthropological project is unsatisfactory in terms of historical and philosophical science and needs detailed analysis. In order to understand the conditions of anthropological project significance, it is advisable to focus on: a) scientific revolution and the necessity to complete it; b) determine the role of the concept of nature in its broad sense. Nowadays the way of Hume's rethinking of the basic project of modern philosophy as insufficiently anthropological is quite heuristic. Empiricism, dogmatism, superstition and skepticism are the manifestations of the latter. For Hume, the era was as an incomplete anthropological project and its legacy as the most complete form of explication. Today the interest in the phenomenon of a human provides a reasonable basis to define that modern period is related to the era of Hume, and therefore, to give some reasoning for his remarkable ideas as New Hume's era. (shrink)
There seems a potential tension between Hume’s naturalistic project and his normative ambitions. Hume adopts what I call a methodological naturalism: that is, the methodology of providing explanations for various phenomena based on natural properties and causes. This methodology takes the form of introducing ‘the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects’, as stated in the subtitle of the Treatise; this ‘experimental method’ seems a paradigmatically descriptive one, and it remains unclear how Hume derives genuinely normative prescriptions from this methodology. (...) -/- In resolving this problem, I will argue that Hume’s naturalistic methodology – that is, his ‘experimental philosophy’ (THN Intro 7), or what has come to be known as his experimental method – consists of the systematisation of phenomena pertaining to human nature. In applying his experimental method to normative subjects, Hume systematises our normative judgments, deriving general principles of normative justification; he then reflexively applies these principles to the pre-philosophical judgments from which they derive, dismissing and/or correcting those that do not accord with his systematised account. I will argue that Hume’s experimental method, far from being wholly descriptive, is in fact thoroughly infused with normativity; furthermore, the very application of this methodology to our normative judgments reveals Hume’s normative ambitions. (shrink)
I shall argue that when Hume refers to the laws of dynamics, he tacitly assumes a mechanism. Nevertheless, he remains agnostic on whether the hidden micro-constitution of bodies is machinelike. Hence this article comes to the following conclusion. Hume is not a full-blown mechanical philosopher. Still his position on dynamic laws and his concept of causation instantiate a tacitly mechanical understanding of the interactions of bodies.
This article argues that early modern philosophy should be seen as an integrated enterprise of moral and natural philosophy. Consequently, early modern moral and natural philosophy should be taught as intellectual enterprises that developed hand in hand. Further, the article argues that the unity of these two fields can be best introduced through methodological ideas. It illustrates these theses through a case study on Scottish Newtonianism, starting with visions concerning the unity of philosophy and then turning to a discussion of (...) how methodological ideas figure in those visions. Finally, the article argues that methodological considerations can serve as good starting points to introduce and discuss central topics and canonical figures of the early modern period. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Barry Loewer attempts to defend Humeanism about laws of nature from a charge that Humean laws are not adequately explanatory. Central to his defense is a distinction between metaphysical and scientific explanations: even if Humeans cannot offer further metaphysical explanations of particular features of their “mosaic,” that does not preclude them from offering scientific explanations of these features. According to Marc Lange, however, Loewer’s distinction is of no avail. Defending a transitivity principle linking scientific explanantia to (...) their metaphysical grounds, Lange argues that a charge of explanatory inadequacy resurfaces once this intuitive principle is in place. This paper surveys, on behalf of the Humean, three strategies for responding to Lange’s criticism. The ready availability of these strategies suggests that Lange’s argument may not bolster anti-Humean convictions, since the argument rests on premises that those not antecedently sharing these convictions may well reject. The three strategies also correspond to three interesting ways of thinking about relations of grounding linking Humean laws and their instances, all of which are consistent with theses of Humean supervenience, and some of which have been heretofore overlooked. (shrink)
In Opticks, Newton notes that by following the method of analysis and synthesis, ’the bounds of moral philosophy will also be enlarged’. Hume’s Treatise fulfills this vision, albeit with significant caveats. The chapter argues: 1) Hume’s affinity with Newton is primarily methodological, and Hume’s project is closer to the Queries of Opticks than to the Principia. 2) For Hume, moral philosophy is an experimental study of moral beings qua moral beings which results in ‘an anatomy of the mind’ embodying an (...) epistemic ideal closer to Scottish philosophical chemistry than to any kind of mechanical philosophy. 3) Hume primarily inquires into qualitatively different active principles of human nature that explain why humans function as they do. 4) The knowledge that Hume’s project offers can be used normatively. 5) Thus, in Hume’s hands the boundaries of moral philosophy are enlarged. Yet, being entirely secular, it was not what Newton had envisioned. (shrink)
This volume of original papers by a leading team of international scholars explores Isaac Newton's relation to a variety of empiricisms and empiricists. It includes studies of Newton's experimental methods in optics and their roots in Bacon and Boyle; Locke's and Hume's responses to Newton on the nature of matter, time, the structure of the sciences, and the limits of human inquiry. In addition it explores the use of Newtonian ideas in 18th-century pedagogy and the life sciences. Finally, it breaks (...) new ground in analyzing the method of evidential reasoning heralded by the Principia, its nature, strength, and development in the subsequent three centuries of gravitational research. The volume will be of interest to historians of science and philosophy and philosophers interested in the nature of empiricism. (shrink)
Hume’s views concerning the existence of body or external objects are notoriously difficult and intractable. The paper sheds light on the concept of body in Hume’s Treatise by defending three theses. First, that Hume’s fundamental tenet that the only objects that are present to the mind are perceptions must be understood as methodological, rather than metaphysical or epistemological. Second, that Hume considers legitimate the fundamental assumption of natural philosophy that through experience and observation we know body. Third, that many of (...) the contradictions and difficulties that interpreters attribute to Hume’s concept of body should be attributed instead, as Hume does, to every system of philosophy. (shrink)
Hume appeals to different kinds of certainties and necessities in the Treatise. He contrasts the certainty that arises from intuition and demonstrative reasoning with the certainty that arises from causal reasoning. He denies that the causal maxim is absolutely or metaphysically necessary, but he nonetheless takes the causal maxim and ‘proofs’ to be necessary. The focus of this paper is the certainty and necessity involved in Hume’s concept of knowledge. I defend the view that intuitive certainty, in particular, is certainty (...) of the invariability or necessity of relations between ideas. Against David Owen and Helen Beebee, I argue that the certainty involved in intuition depends on the activity of the mind. I argue, further, that understanding this activity helps us understand more clearly one of Hume’s most important theses, namely that experience is the source of a distinct kind of certainty and of necessity. (shrink)
In this paper I try to explain a strange omission in Hume’s methodological descriptions in his first Enquiry. In the course of this explanation I reveal a kind of rationalistic tendency of the latter work. It seems to contrast with “experimental method” of his early Treatise of Human Nature, but, as I show that there is no discrepancy between the actual methods of both works, I make an attempt to explain the change in Hume’s characterization of his own methods. This (...) attempt leads to the question about his interpretation of the science of human nature. I argue that his view on this science was not a constant one and that initially he identified this science with his account of passions. As this presupposes the primacy of Book 2 of his Treatise I try to find new confirmations of the old hypothesis that this Book had been written before the Book 1, dealing with understanding. Finally, I show that this discussion of Hume’s methodology may be of some interest to proponents of conceptual analysis. -/- . (shrink)
The paper addresses two difficulties that arise in Treatise 1.2.5. First, Hume appears to be inconsistent when he denies that we have an idea of a vacuum or empty space yet allows for the idea of an “invisible and intangible distance.” My solution to this difficulty is to develop the overlooked possibility that Hume does not take the invisible and intangible distance to be a distance at all. Second, although Hume denies that we have an idea of a vacuum, some (...) texts in Treatise 1.2.5 are taken by interpreters to suggest that Hume nonetheless believes that there are vacuums in nature. I discuss the relevant texts and defend the view that Hume does not in fact countenance belief in vacuums. I conclude by outlining an interpretation of Hume’s intention in the Treatise that allows us to understand his discussion of ideas as having implications for the sciences. (shrink)
In this article I attempt to reconstruct David Hume's use of the label ?experimental? to characterise his method in the Treatise. Although its meaning may strike the present-day reader as unusual, such a reconstruction is possible from the background of eighteenth-century practices and concepts of natural inquiry. As I argue, Hume's inquiries into human nature are experimental not primarily because of the way the empirical data he uses are produced, but because of the way those data are theoretically processed. He (...) seems to follow a method of analysis and synthesis quite similar to the one advertised in Newton's Opticks, which profoundly influenced eighteenth-century natural and moral philosophy. This method brings him much closer to the methods of qualitative, chemical investigations than to mechanical approaches to both nature and human nature. (shrink)
Abstract In this paper I offer an anti-Humean interpretation of the causal interactions in somatic medicine. I focus on life-threatening pathological states and show how Nancy Cartwright’s capacities can offer a plausible epistemology for medical processes and the singular causal claims advanced in medical diagnoses. I argue that the capacities manifested in the emergence of symptoms and signs could be tracked down if healthy organisms are construed as nomological machines and suggest that the causal reasoning from current medical practice bears (...) a tacit adherence to anti-Humean assumptions. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-28 DOI 10.1007/s12136-011-0141-1 Authors Stefan Dragulinescu, Drumul Taberei 20, Bucharest, Romania Journal Acta Analytica Online ISSN 1874-6349 Print ISSN 0353-5150. (shrink)
C. Howson’s probabilistic logic as a comprehensive methodological account of scientific inference, which avoids Hume’s inductive skepticism, is discussed against the background of the latter’s quantitative theory of money. Hume’s theory leads to two causal accounts that may appear to be contradictory. As the more general one suggests neutrality of money, while the more descriptive attributes causal influence to specie-flow mechanism of money. The former is grounded by a counterfactual reasoning. The discussion of recent examples of bayesian counterfactual models leads (...) to the conclusion that despite the possibility of a uniform account of Hume’s theory of money, it seems beyond the scope of the Bayesian probabilistic logic offered by Howson. (shrink)
In this paper I reconstruct the birth, blossoming and decline of an eighteenth century program, namely “Moral Newtonianism”. I reconstruct the interaction, or co-existence, of different levels: positive theories, methodology, worldviews and trace the presence of scattered items of the various levels in the work of Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Dugald Stewart. I highlight how Mirowski’s reconstruction of the interaction between physics and economics may be extended to the eighteenth century in an interesting way once the outdated reconstruction of (...) Adam Smith that has been adopted by Mirowski is updated. I show how general methodological ideas, such as the distinction between ultimate causes or essences and intermediate principles, that originated in a context where the issue was the interaction between natural science and theology, proved useful when transferred to social theory in encouraging a kind of “experimental” approach to social phenomena. I discuss finally the genesis of frozen metaphors such as equilibrium, circulation, and value, arguing that Canguilhem’s lesson – namely that scientific change is produced not only by similarity but also by opposition – may be applied also to the history of economic thought. I take as an example Adam Smith’s ‘discovery’ of social mechanisms vis-à-vis his sceptical mistrust of neo-Stoic and Platonic views of a world-order. (shrink)
The ‘New Hume’ interpretation, which sees Hume as a realist about ‘thick’ Causal powers, has been largely motivated by his evident commitment to causal language and causal science. In this, however, it is fundamentally misguided, failing to recognise how Hume exploits his anti-realist conclusions about (upper-case) Causation precisely to support (lower-case) causal science. When critically examined, none of the standard New Humean arguments — familiar from the work of Wright, Craig, Strawson, Buckle, Kail, and others — retains any significant force (...) against the plain evidence of Hume's; texts. But the most devastating objection comes from Hume's own applications of his analysis of causation, to the questions of ‘the immateriality of the soul’ and ‘liberty and necessity’. These show that the New Hume interpretation has misunderstood the entire purpose of his ‘Chief Argument’, and presented him as advocating some of the very positions he is arguing most strongly against. (shrink)
Hume follows Newton in replacing the mechanical philosophy’s demonstrative ideal of science by the Principia’s ideal of inductive proof ; in this respect, Hume differs sharply from Locke. Hume is also guided by Newton’s own criticisms of the mechanical philosophers’ hypotheses. The first stage of Hume’s skeptical argument concerning causation targets central tenets of the mechanical philosophers’ conception of causation, all of which rely on the a priori postulation of a hidden configuration of primary qualities. The skeptical argument concerning the (...) causal inductive inference then raises doubts about what Hume himself regards as our very best inductive method. Hume’s own “Rules” further substantiate his reliance on Newton. Finally, Locke’s distinction between “Knowledge” and “Probability” does not leave room for Hume’s Newtonian notion of inductive proof. (shrink)
In recounting his discovery of special relativity, Einstein recalled a debt to the philosophical writings of Hume and Mach. I review the path Einstein took to special relativity and urge that, at a critical juncture, he was aided decisively not by any specific doctrine of space and time, but by a general account of concepts that Einstein found in Hume and Mach’s writings. That account required that concepts, used to represent the physical, must be properly grounded in experience. In so (...) far as they extended beyond that grounding, they were fictional and to be abjured (Mach) or at best tolerated (Hume). Einstein drew a different moral. These fictional concepts revealed an arbitrariness in our physical theorizing and may still be introduced through freely chosen definitions, as long as these definitions do not commit us to false presumptions. After years of failed efforts to conform electrodynamics to the principle of relativity and with his frustration mounting, Einstein applied this account to the concept of simultaneity. The resulting definition of simultaneity provided the reconceptualization that solved the problem in electrodynamics and led directly to the special theory of relativity. (shrink)
This comprehensive textbook provides a clear nontechnical introduction to the philosophy of science. Through asking whether science can provide us with objective knowledge of the world, the book provides a thorough and accessible guide to the key thinkers and debates that define the field. George Couvalis surveys traditional themes around theory and observation, induction, probability, falsification and rationality as well as more recent challenges to objectivity including relativistic, feminist and sociological readings. This provides a helpful framework in which to locate (...) the key intellectual contributions to these debates, ranging from those of Mill and Hume, through Popper and Kuhn to Laudan, Bloor and Garfinkel among. (shrink)
I argue that, while Hume’s approach to Newton is sometimes critical and sometimes not, Hume’s position with regard to newtonian method is coherent overall. Rather than speaking of two Humes (one a newtonian, the other not), from an humean perspective we should rather speak of two Newtons: the positivist and the theologian.
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:166 HUME'S INTEREST IN NEWTON AND SCIENCE Many writers have been forced to examine — in their treatments of Hume's knowledge of and acquaintance with scientific theories of his day — the related questions of Hume's knowledge of and acquaintance with Isaac Newton and of the nature and extent of Newtonian influences upon Hume's thinking. Most have concluded that — in some sense — Hume was acquainted with and (...) influenced by Newton's thought in particular and scientific thought in general. The genesis of this paper is the recent point of view put forward by Peter Jones which challenges the many permutations of this almost ritualistic standard line by removing Hume entirely from the Newtonian and the scientific scenes of thought. Jones argues that Hume knew less about Newton and science, and needed to know less about Newton and 2 science, than he believes is required by the above interpretation. Indeed, Jones argues that Hume's fundamental assumptions, which, according to Jones, derive ultimately from a form of Ciceronian humanism, drive a "wedge" between Newton's thought and that of 3 Hume. Even Hume's introductory remarks in the Treatise about his universal "science of man" are, for Jones, a declaration of independence from the materialistic trend (as Jones sees it) of Newtonian 4 science and not, as so many commentators have maintained — however tenuously or strongly evidence for linkage of Hume's project with Newtonian or scientific thought. Jones baldly argues that Hume totally lacked interest in science in general and in Newton and Newtonian science in particular. Following J. H. Burton's observation that Hume's work is surprisingly free from the "opinions" of contemporary scientists, 167 Jones states there is no evidence that Hume ever studied science at the University of Edinburgh or that he "pursued" scientific studies of any formal sort. Regarding Newtonian scientific thought, he emphasizes the paucity of specifically Newtonian scientific textbooks in the early eighteenth century 7 which might have been available for Hume to study and argues that nowhere in Hume's writings is there evidence of precise and detailed knowledge of Newton's science beyond what is available in Q Chamber's Cyclopaedia. Jones acknowledges that, in the Introduction to the Treatise, Hume utilizes a "general version" of Newton's "Regulae Philosophandi" from the beginning of Book III of Newton's Principia. Nevertheless, in Jones' view, Hume's fundamentally humanistic orientation separates him completely from g any Newtonian influence. Finally, according to Jones, Hume does not betray the least bit of knowledge of Newton's mathematics and its role in Newton's experimental methodology. On this evidence Jones grounds his central claim of Hume's "total lack of interest in contemporary science." What references there are to Newton and to science in Hume's works Jones finds "traceable to essentially literary predecessors such as Fontenelle or Montesquieu, or to standard works of theologians ] 2 or free-thinkers." The absence of clearly direct references to what Jones feels are scientific works results both from Hume's "total lack of interest in science" and from his commitment to a form of Ciceronian humanism which is "inimical" to what Jones finds to be the obvious materialistic tendencies of 13 science in the early modern period. Jones' account of the Ciceronian and French contexts of Hume's thought is excellent. But his claim that Hume had no interest whatsoever in science 168 is simply too strong and finally forces us to view science in Hume's day as equivalent to science in our own time, a manifestly anachronistic point of view. Throughout this paper, my argument will be conditioned by my view that Hume's interest in science cannot be separated from his epistemology or his religious scepticism. Hume's interest in science was precisely that of a man of letters of the eighteenth century vitally engaged in determining the proper use of scientific methodology in establishing the limits of the secular science of man once it has 14 been freed from the fetters of theology. Hume's interest in theological and epistemological issues inevitably gave rise to a strong interest on his part in the science of his day and in Newton's contributions... (shrink)