With respect to the topic of “powers and abilities,” most readers will associate David Hume with his multi-pronged critique of traditional attempts to make robust explanatory use of those notions in a philosophical or scientific context. But Hume’s own philosophy is also structured around the attribution to human beings of a variety of basic faculties or mental powers – such as the reason and the imagination, or the various powers involved in Hume’s account of im- pressions of reflection and the (...) passions. Indeed, there is a clear case to be made that, despite his deflationary account of our concept of power, Hume continues to treat certain basic powers or faculties as forming the explanatory bedrock for his new “science of man”. In this essay, I will discuss how this apparent conflict between the “critical” (if not outright skeptical) and “constructive” aspects of Hume’s discussion of powers and abilities is best resolved – with special attention to the question of how this illuminates Hume’s place in the development of early modern conceptions of the proper method for philosophy. (shrink)
This paper argues that Husserl’s method is partially driven by an attempt to avoid certain absurdities inherent in Hume’s epistemology. In this limited respect, we may say that Hume opened the door to phenomenology, but as a sacrificial lamb. However, Hume was well aware of his self-defeating position, and perhaps, in some respects, the need for an alternative. Moreover, Hume’s “mistakes” may have incited Husserl’s discovery of the epoche, and thus, transcendental phenomenology.
In recent years, some philosophers have claimed that we can know a priori that certain external world skeptical hypotheses are false on the basis of a priori knowledge that we are in certain kinds of mental states, and a priori knowledge that those mental states are individuated by contingent environmental factors. Appealing to a distinction between weak and strong a priority, I argue that weakly a priori arguments of this sort would beg the question of whether the skeptical hypothesis under (...) assessment is true, and that the prospect of a sound strongly a priori argument of this sort seems dim. \\\ [David Owens] Contemporary discussion of scepticism focuses on the possibility that most or all of our beliefs might be false. I argue that the hypothesis of massive falsity and the associated 'problem of the external world' are inessential to the scepticisms of Descartes and Hume. What drives Cartesian and Humean scepticism is the demand for certainty: any possibility of error, however local, must be ruled out before we can claim either justified belief or knowledge. Contemporary philosophers have ignored this form of scepticism because they doubt that the demand for certainty can be motivated. But Descartes provides a sound motivation for this demand in the Meditations. (shrink)