I claim evolution through natural selection is inconsistent with Kantian epistemology, because there is nothing about humans or 'the mind' which does not vary, so its inappropriate to base universal laws of nature on how the variable mind might generates experience. I also claim that the apparent self sufficient world presented by natural selection is at least suspiciously inconsistent with Hume's views that it is impossible to see how anything could itself (be sufficient to) produce anything.
S'attachant au Traité de la nature humaine de Hume, l'auteur essaie de montrer comment le concept moderne de naturalisme est un concept ambigu. D'un côté, Hume a ouvert la possibilité d'une science de la nature humaine, qui traite le sujet connaissant comme lui-même objet possible de connaissance. De l'autre côté, prenant en compte cette constitution du sujet connaissant comme pur fait et la réincorporant dans le flux de la vie (comme réalité et comme expérience), il a mis cette science aux (...) prises avec le risque du scepticisme, comme son envers. Dès lors, le naturalisme ne peut jamais être du seul ordre de la science. Focusing on Hume's Treatise of the Human Nature, the author tries to show how the modern concept of naturalism, according to its origin, is a very ambiguous one. On the one side, Hume has opened the possibility of a science of the human nature that deals with the knowing subject as itself a possible object of knowledge. On the other side, taking into account this constitution of the knowing subject as a mere fact and embodying it in the stream of life (as reality and as experience), he has confronted this science with the risk of skepticism, as its own back side. Thus naturalism can never be just science. (shrink)
La philosophie moderne tente souvent de faire du scepticisme un simple instrument ou moment provisoire de la recherche d'une certitude. Au travers surtout de l'étude du Traité de la nature humaine, on montrera ici qu'à l'inverse le scepticisme de Hume est un scepticisme consistant, puisqu'il ne contredit pas le « naturalisme » et n'est pas non plus un simple moyen qui lui serait subordonné. Étant en relation avec lui non seulement de l'extérieur mais par essence, le scepticisme mitigé se maintient (...) au travers de nos croyances mêmes, de sorte que se limitant lui-même il devient la condition de leur réflexion et de leur modération. Il apparaît ainsi à la fois comme une doctrine philosophique consistante et comme une manière de vivre philosophique, modérée et responsable. (shrink)
Hume describes skeptical philosophy as having a variety of desirable effects. It can counteract dogmatism, produce just reasoning, and promote social cohesion. When discussing how skepticism may achieve these effects, Hume typically appeals to its effects on pride. I explain how, for Hume, skeptical philosophy acts on pride and how acting on pride produces the desirable effects. Understanding these mechanisms, I argue, sheds light on how, why, when, and for whom skeptical philosophy can be useful. It also illuminates the value (...) of skeptical philosophy for a humanistic education, giving us a reason to include Hume in curricula. (shrink)
There is little consensus about whether Kant intends his Critique of Pure Reason to change the mind of a skeptical empiricist such as Hume. I challenge a common assumption made by both sides of the debate. This is the thought that Kant can convince a skeptic only if he does not beg the question against her. Surprisingly, I argue, that is not how Kant sees things. On Kant’s view, skeptical empiricism is an inherently unstable and unsatisfying position, which skeptics cannot (...) help wanting to escape. Kant’s Critique, and especially its Transcendental Deduction, offers thinkers like Hume an appealing means of escape, by explaining a possible relation of the mind to the objects of knowledge which skeptics have overlooked. On Kant’s view of the skeptic as inherently dissatisfied with her position, the offer of an explanation can change her mind while neither refuting nor appealing to her skeptical empiricism. (shrink)
Nathan Sasser's ‘purely practical reading of Hume’s response to skepticism’ is so natural and compelling that it is almost surprising that his new monograph, Hume and the Demands of Philosophy, offers its first systematic defence. I praise the book's clarity and concision, and then raise concerns about omitted topics, especially concerning Hume's views on the practical value of sceptical philosophy.
That we have practical reasons to believe certain propositions even if sceptical arguments are cogent is nothing new. As Hume puts it, if sceptical principles were steadily accepted, “men would remain in a total lethargy until their miserable lives came to an end through lack of food, drink and shelter.” (Enquiry, 12, 2). This heart-breaking projection fails to move contemporary epistemologists who, for the most part, brush off pragmatist stances on scepticism. In this paper, I argue that the pragmatist stance (...) on scepticism is not necessarily as easily brushed off as some philosophers think. (shrink)
Why does Kant say that a “skeptical satisfaction of pure reason” is “impossible” (A758/B786)? I answer this question by giving a reading of “The Discipline of Pure Reason in Respect of Its Polemic Employment.” I explain that Kant must address skepticism in this context because his warning against developing counterarguments to dogmatic attacks encourages a comparison between the critical and the skeptical methods. I then argue that skepticism fails to “satisfy” [befriedigen] reason insofar as it cannot “pacify” reason’s tendency to (...) go beyond its own boundaries. The skeptical method reveals the past failures of dogmatic metaphysics but cannot rule out future successes. Only critical knowledge of reason’s proper bounds can do this, thereby pacifying our restless reason. I close by arguing that Kant’s discussion implies that a skeptic must feel dissatisfied with her renunciation of metaphysics, and that this dissatisfaction can lead her to take interest in Kant’s critical philosophy. (shrink)
Hume describes his own “open, social, and cheerful humour” as “a turn of mind which it is more happy to possess, than to be born to an estate of ten thousand a year.” Why does he value a cheerful character so highly? I argue that, for Hume, cheerfulness has two aspects—one manifests as mirth in social situations, and the other as steadfastness against life’s misfortunes. This second aspect is of special interest to Hume in that it safeguards the other virtues. (...) And its connection with the first aspect helps explain how it differs from Stoic tranquility. For Hume, I argue, philosophy has a modest role in promoting human happiness by preserving cheerfulness. (shrink)
Response to Don Baxter, Don Garrett and Jennifer Marusic regarding my book Imagined Causes: Hume's Conception of Objects; initially delivered at the 2016 Hume Conference in Sydney, Australia as part of the Author Meets Critics session.
I offer reasons against reading Hume as a Pyrrhonian sceptic. I argue that Hume's scepticism is motivated differently, that his sceptical strategies are not analogous to Pyrrhonism's, and that it is profitable to read Hume as a critic of Pyrrhonism. I hold that the most informative point of comparison between Hume and Sextus Empiricus is a point of difference, namely, their stands on the connection between suspension of judgement (epochê) and tranquillity (ataraxia). For Sextus, tranquillity flows naturally from suspending judgement (...) on all opinions. Hume, by contrast, consistently treats radical suspension of judgement as resulting in despair and social detachment. I take a firmer stance than past commentators on this issue by affirming that Hume and Sextus do not merely disagree on this issue, but that Hume's view is more plausible. Reading Hume's sceptical crisis, I propose, reveals an insightful criticism of Pyrrhonism, one that sheds light on human nature's response to radical doubt. (shrink)
I argue that Kant thought his Transcendental Deduction of the Pure Concepts could reach skeptical empiricists like Hume by providing an overlooked explanation of the mind's a priori relation to the objects of experience. And he thought empiricists may be motivated to listen to this explanation because of an instability and dissatisfaction inherent to empiricism.
This paper will make the case that we can find in Kant’s Second Analogy a substantive response to Hume’s argument on induction. This response is substantive insofar as it does not merely consist in independently arguing for the opposite conclusion, but rather, it identifies and exploits a gap in this argument. More specifically, Hume misses the possibility of justifying the uniformity of nature as a synthetic a priori proposition, which Kant looks to establish in the Second Analogy. Note that the (...) focus on the paper is on Kant’s identification of the form that a solution to Hume’s inductive scepticism must take. In making this point, my paper will look to establish two lemmas: Kant identifies synthetic a priori judgments as a means of justifying metaphysical knowledge in a way that circumvents Hume’s dichotomy between matters of fact and relations of ideas; the Second Analogy looks to establish the uniformity of nature of as a synthetic a priori proposition. However, my paper generally abstains from the question of the tenability of Kant’s argument in the Second Analogy. Doing justice to this latter discussion would require more space than I am able to offer here. My paper therefore has a conditional bearing on the philosophical issue of inductive scepticism. If one believes Kant’s Second Analogy to be philosophically cogent, then Kant offers a successful justification of induction against Hume’s scepticism. If not, then at least one can still admire Kant’s identification of the gap in Hume’s argument, which, to a degree, can be exploited independently of Kant’s system. (shrink)
David Hume was clearly a critic of religion. It is still debated, however, whether or not he was an atheist who denied the existence of God. According to some interpretations he was a theist of some kind and others claim he was an agnostic who simply suspends any belief on this issue. This essay argues that Hume’s theory of belief tells against any theistic interpretation – including the weaker, “attenuated” accounts. It then turns to the case for the view that (...) Hume’s criticisms of theism were limited to the “soft” skeptical (agnostic) aim of discrediting theist arguments, and shows that he is committed to a “harder” skeptical view that denies the theist hypothesis (in all its forms). Hume’s atheistic commitments are, the paper concludes, entirely consistent with his mitigated skeptical principles. (shrink)
This essay provides an interpretation of Hume’s “two definitions” of causation. It argues that the two definitions of causation must be interpreted in terms of Hume’s fundamental ontological distinction between perceptions and (material) objects. Central to Hume’s position on this subject is the claim that, while there is a natural tendency to suppose that there exist (metaphysical) causal powers in objects themselves, this is a product of our failure to distinguish perceptions and objects. Properly understood, our idea of causation involves (...) no suggestion that there is anything more to causation among objects themselves than constant conjunction. A new appendix is added, discussing the relevance of this interpretation to the recent debate concerning Hume’s “causal realism.” -/- [The original of this article was published in HUME STUDIES 10 (1984), 1 - 25, with corrections added separately in the following issue.]. (shrink)
The focus of this chapter will be Kant’s understanding of Hume, and its impact on Kant’s critical philosophy. Contrary to the traditional reading of this relationship, which focuses on Kant’s (admittedly real) dissatisfaction with Hume’s account of causation, my discussion will focus on broader issues of philosophical methodology. Following a number of recent interpreters, I will argue that Kant sees Hume as raising, in a particularly forceful fashion, a ‘demarcation challenge’ concerning how to distinguish the legitimate use of reason in (...) (say) natural scientific contexts from the illegitimate use of it in (say) dogmatic metaphysics. I will then go on to argue that Kant sees Hume’s tendency to slide into more radical forms of skepticism as a symptom of his failure to provide a systematic or principled account of this distinction. This failure, I argue, can be traced (according to Kant) to Hume’s impoverished, non-hylomorphic account of our faculties – which both robs Hume of the materials necessary to construct a genuinely systematic philosophy as Kant understands this, and makes it impossible for Hume to clearly conceive of what Kant calls ‘Formal Idealism.’ In this way, the failings of Hume’s account of causation are (for Kant) symptoms of more fundamental limitations within Hume’s philosophy. I close by briefly discussing the similarities between Hume and Kant’s understanding of the relationship between, first, philosophical methodology and, second, the nature of our faculties. (shrink)
We argue that, in all probability, the universe will become less predictable. This assertion means that induction, which some scientists conceive of as a tool for predicting the future, will become less useful. Our argument claims that the universe will increasingly come under intentional control, and objects that are under intentional control are typically less predictable than those that are not. We contrast this form of skepticism about induction, "Skeptical-Dogmatism," with David Hume's Pyrrhonian skepticism about induction.
In this paper, we argue that revisionary theories about the nature and extent of Hume's scepticism are mistaken. We claim that the source of Hume's pervasive scepticism is his empiricism. As earlier readings of Hume's Treatise claim, Hume was a sceptic – and a radical one. Our position faces one enormous problem. How is it possible to square Hume's claims about normative reasoning with his radical scepticism? Despite the fact that Hume thinks that causal reasoning is irrational, he explicitly claims (...) that one can and should make normative claims about beliefs being ‘reasonable’. We show that even though Hume thinks that our causal beliefs are rationally unjustified, there is nonetheless a ‘relative’ sense of justification available to Hume and that he relies on this ‘relative’ sense in those places where he makes normative claims about what we ought to believe. (shrink)
Peter Fosl's new monograph offers a bold reading of Hume as a "radical," "coherent," and "hybrid" skeptic, who draws influence from both the Pyrrhonian and Academic skeptical traditions. I press some concerns about whether Fosl's reading of Hume can accommodate his scientific ambitions.
In the conclusion to the first book of the Treatise, Hume's skeptical reflections have plunged him into melancholy. He then proceeds through a complex series of stages, resulting in renewed interest in philosophy. Interpreters have struggled to explain the connection between the stages. I argue that Hume's repeated invocation of the four humors of ancient and medieval medicine explains the succession, and sheds a new light on the significance of skepticism. The humoral context not only reveals that Hume conceives of (...) skepticism primarily as a temperament, not a philosophical view or system. It also resolves a puzzle about how Hume can view skepticism as both an illness and a cure. The skeptical temperament can, depending on its degree of predominance, either contribute to or upset the balance of temperaments required for proper mental functioning. (shrink)
The relation between Hume’s constructive and skeptical aims has been a central concern for Hume interpreters. Hume’s two definitions of ‘cause’ in the Treatise and first Enquiry apparently represent an important constructive achievement, but this paper argues that the definitions must be understood in terms of Hume’s skepticism. The puzzle I address is simply that Hume gives two definitions rather than one. I use Don Garrett’s interpretation as a foil to develop my alternative skeptical interpretation. Garrett claims the definitions exhibit (...) a general susceptibility to two kinds of definition that all “sense-based concepts” share. Against Garrett, I argue that the definitions express an imperfection Hume finds only in our concept of causation. That imperfection is absent from other sense-based concepts, and prompts skeptical sentiments in Hume’s conclusion to the Treatise’s Book 1. I close by comparing my interpretation with those of Helen Beebee, Stephen Buckle, Galen Strawson and Paul Russell. (shrink)
Interpreters of Hume on causation consider that an advantage of the ‘quasi-realist’ reading is that it does not commit him to scepticism or to an error theory about causal reasoning. It is unique to quasi-realism that it maintains this positive epistemic result together with a rejection of metaphysical realism about causation: the quasi-realist supplies an appropriate semantic theory in order to justify the practice of talking ‘as if’ there were causal powers in the world. In this paper, I problematise the (...) quasi-realist reading of Hume on causation by showing how quasi-realism does not speak to inductive scepticism. I also offer evidence that Hume takes inductive scepticism to result from his theory of causation, and that his scepticism is tied to his rejection of metaphysical causal realism. (shrink)
This paper explains what’s wrong with a Hume-inspired argument for skepticism about induction. Hume’s argument takes as a premise that inductive reasoning presupposes that the future will resemble the past. I explain why that claim is not plausible. The most plausible premise in the vicinity is that inductive reasoning from E to H presupposes that if E then H. I formulate and then refute a skeptical argument based on that premise. Central to my response is a psychological explanation for how (...) people judge that if E then H without realizing that they thereby settled the matter rationally. (shrink)
Karl Popper explicitly discusses two problems in David Hume’s epistemology. He praises Hume for his critique of induction, specifically for his claim that inductive inferences are logically invalid. He rejects Hume’s psychological account of induction, specifically his theory of belief formation by repetition. Thus, Popper famously concludes that Hume buried the logical gems in the psychological mud and endorsed an irrationalist epistemology. The logical problem of induction gives Popper the impetus for spelling out his new, negative concept of reason, one (...) which is incompatible with justification; however, Popper’s approach does not adequately deal with all the relevant themes related to Hume’s psychological problem of induction: our instinctive yearning for justification. Yet Popper and Hume have more in common than Popper explicitly acknowledges. (shrink)
Teaching Kant’s metaphysics to undergraduates in a survey course can be quite challenging. Specifically, it can be daunting to motivate interest in Kant’s project and present his system in an accessible way in a short amount of time. Furthermore, comprehending some of the important features of his requires some understanding of Hume’s skepticism. Unfortunately, students often misunderstand the extent and relevance of Hume’s skepticism. Here, I offer three strategies for presenting Kant’s metaphysics as a response to Hume. First, I describe (...) an exercise for presenting the problem of induction in a way that resonates with many students. Next, I provide a way of generating interest in Kant’s project so students are motivated to understand his position. Finally, I explain a game I use to bolster interest in Kant’s project and explain some of the more challenging aspects of the First Analogy. (shrink)
U ovom radu istražujem kako su se Hjumova gledišta o odnosu između skepticizma i filozofije razvijala i kako su sazrevala tokom njegovog filozofskog rada. Hjumovo prvo delo, Rasprava o ljudskoj prirodi, ostavlja otvoreno pitanje zašto bi se iko bavio filozofijom u svetlu otkrića da su skeptički argumenti neoborivi. Cilj mi je da pokažem da, iako se Hjumov stav o skepticizmu i njegova skeptička pozicija nisu suštinski menjali tokom godina, Istraživanje o ljudskom razumu i Dijalozi o prirodnoj religiji, kao i nekoliko (...) njegovih kraćih spisa sadrže interesantne promene, dodatke i poboljšanja kada je reč o njegovom shvatanju toga na koji način skepticizam može da utiče na filozofiju. Tek u svom poslednjem delu Hjum nedvosmisleno tvrdi da skepticizam ostvaruje trajan i pozitivan uticaj na naše bavljenje filozofijom, a ovaj uticaj se pre svega ogleda u intelektualnoj skromnosti i ograničavanju predmeta filozofskog istraživanja. (shrink)
This thesis investigates Hume’s philosophy of external existence in relation to, and within the context of, his philosophy of scepticism. In his two main works on metaphysics – A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40) and the first Enquiry (first ed. 1748) – Hume encounters a predicament pertaining to the unreflective, ‘vulgar’ attribution of external existence to mental perceptions and the ‘philosophical’ distinction between perceptions and objects. I argue that we should understand this predicament as follows: the vulgar opinion is our (...) natural and default belief for Hume, but causal reasoning reveals it to be false, and the philosophical alternative is a confabulation that we cannot permanently believe and is devoid of justification. Hume uses the fact that we cannot have a satisfactory account of belief in external existence as a sceptical consideration to motivate his wider philosophical scepticism. Hume’s response to his predicament about external existence is found in the context of his confrontation with other sceptical worries (Treatise 1.4.7 and Enquiry 12), in which Hume also reflects generally on the nature and implications of scepticism. I argue that we should characterise Hume’s position as residually sceptical. This means that, while Hume accepts the unanswerability of some sceptical problems, he denies that it is possible to eradicate all belief as a result (and denies that it is practically useful to even try) and instead uses sceptical problems as a motivation to adopt a moderately sceptical position. While we inevitably return to entertaining the vulgar belief, there is no solution to the sceptical predicament; Hume does not endorse the vulgar belief, or the philosophical system, or indeed any alternative system of the external world that might extinguish the predicament. Sceptical doubt, for Hume, does not derail intellectual pursuits, but rather modifies our attitudes in those very pursuits. (shrink)
Much has been written about Kemp Smith's famous problem regarding the tension between Hume's naturalism and his scepticism. However, most commentators have focused their attention on the Treatise; those who address the Enquiry often take it to express essentially the same message as the Treatise. When Hume's scepticism in the Enquiry has been investigated in its own right, commentators have tended to focus on Hume's inductive scepticism in Sections 4 and 5. All in all, it seems that Section 12 has (...) been unduly neglected. This paper seeks to address Kemp Smith's problem from the standpoint of Hume's treatment of scepticism in EHU 12, and finds an interesting internalist account that makes sense both of Hume's discussion in EHU 12, and his aims in the Enquiry as a whole. Moreover, it is one that is of substantive philosophical interest, having intriguing parallels to contemporary epistemological accounts. (shrink)
At a crucial point in the final section 12 of Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding he refers to "the whimsical condition of mankind".1 This occurs in his concluding remarks about the untenability of what he calls "Pyrrhonism, or excessive scepticism" that set the stage for "mitigated scepticism, or ACADEMICAL philosophy", which then culminates in the famous agitated final paragraph of the first Enquiry that advocates "havoc" and committing certain kinds of books "to the flames".I wish to examine the content, context, (...) and significance of Hume's characterization of the human condition as whimsical because I believe that it sheds light on the... (shrink)
There is a tradition perhaps as old as philosophy itself which sees the rationality of man – and in particular, the rationality of the philosopher - as both his essential and his redeeming characteristic; it can not unfairly be said that the discipline of philosophy at least is characterised by its dependence on reason. In this context, the philosophy of David Hume presents something of a stark challenge: Although interpretations vary as to the extent and nature of his scepticism, one (...) of the themes of his work is the limits and imperfections of human reason and the sceptical concerns this engenders. On Hume's system, reason is not the overlord of the imagination but at least in part subordinate to it, and can discover little or nothing without recourse to experience. -/- My aim here is to pinpoint the true nature of Hume's scepticism regarding reason, drawing chiefly on the Treatise but also to a lesser extent the Enquiry. After a brief overview of his project in the Treatise in section 1, I go on to give an account of Hume's conception of reason or the understanding, and the epistemological distinction between demonstrative and probable reasoning, in section 2. In section 3 I examine Hume's famous argument concerning induction, arguing that to read Hume as a sceptic regarding inference is a mistake and that to say induction is grounded in principles of the imagination is not to say that it is therefore irrational. In section 4 I examine the argument of Treatise 1.4.1, 'Of scepticism with regard to reason', and in section 5 the 'dangerous dilemma' to which it leads Hume in 1.4.7, arguing that whilst his treatment of the issues it raises is somewhat unsatisfactory in this section of the Treatise a better solution can be fashioned by appealing to a distinction between the general and the trivial properties of the imagination drawn elsewhere in both the Treatise and the Enquiry. Then in section 6 I conclude by offering my own attempt at characterising the extent of Hume's scepticism regarding reason, arguing that his “mitigated” scepticism is a scepticism about knowledge but not about belief, and that its chief aim is to ensure that we philosophise only on those subjects which are suitable for enquiry given the limits and frailties of our faculties; the “reflections of common life, methodized and corrected” (Enquiry 12.25, p.208) rather than “divinity” or “school metaphysics” (Enquiry 12.34, p.211). (shrink)
No Tratado da natureza humana, David Hume dedica uma longa seção à problemática sobre a possibilidade da existência do mundo externo intitulada “Do ceticismo quanto aos sentidos”. A seção traz idas e vindas do autor no que diz respeito à resposta para o problema. Inicialmente, Hume dá como certa a existência externa dos corpos, i.e., independente das percepções, e avisa que sua investigação se limitará, apenas, às causas que levam a crer nisso. Sua pretensão inicial não é cumprida e logo (...) dá espaço a uma rede de complexos argumentos céticos, os quais colocam em dúvida as realidades independentes das percepções. No último parágrafo, porém, Hume parece retroceder em sua posição e parece tomar como certa a existência independente dos corpos, mais uma vez, tal como fez no começo da seção. O objetivo desse trabalho foi, pois, evidenciar que há dois pontos bem diferentes que caracterizam sua argumentação sobre esse assunto: I) A existência do mundo externo; II) a possibilidade de conhecê-lo. Ao primeiro, a resposta de Hume será positiva, ao segundo ponto, negativa. O ceticismo, portanto, sempre decorreria de qualquer tentativa em conhecer tais realidades independentes, pois, através da argumentação filosófica, da razão, sempre se esbarraria na impossibilidade de sua existência. Ao mesmo tempo, sua realidade ontológica parece se impor pela própria natureza e, com isso, desativa os argumentos céticos, os quais sempre demonstram a impossibilidade de conhecê-lo, i.e., acessá-lo pela razão. Assim, o que se tem sobre o mundo externo são, apenas, impressões geradas através da experiência para com o mesmo. Em vista dos fins supracitados, foram utilizados, além do Tratado, a Investigação sobre o entendimento humano e outros textos do filósofo escocês. (shrink)
The Title Principle is seen by a number of commentators as crucial to Hume’s resolution of skeptical doubts in THN 1.4.7, thus providing an answer to Kemp Smith’s (1941) famous worry regarding the tension between Hume’s skepticism and his naturalism. However, I will argue that in the Enquiry, Hume rejects both the Title Principle and the role of the passions in his epistemology. Those who think that neither the Title Principle nor the passions play a significant role in THN 1.4.7 (...) will likely take this as grist for their mills. But for those who endorse such interpretations, my argument presents an interpretive burden to provide some explanation as to why Hume might have become dissatisfied with this epistemic framework, abandoning it in his later work. Having raised this interpretive burden, my paper also seeks to bear it by providing such an explanation. (shrink)
This chapter outlines an alternative interpretation of Hume’s philosophy, one that aims, among other things, to explain some of the most perplexing puzzles concerning the relationship between Hume’s skepticism and his naturalism. The key to solving these puzzles, it is argued, rests with recognizing Hume’s fundamental irreligious aims and objectives, beginning with his first and greatest work, A Treatise of Human Nature. The irreligious interpretation not only reconfigures our understanding of the unity and structure of Hume’s thought, it also provides (...) a radically different picture of the way in which Hume’s philosophy is rooted in its historical context. By altering our understanding of the fundamentals of Hume’s philosophy in this way, the irreligious interpretation also challenges the adequacy of the familiar and entrenched framework of “British Empiricism.”. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that in the sense of greatest epistemological concern for Kant, empirical cognition is “rational sensory discrimination”: the identification or differentiation of sensory objects from each other, occurring through a capacity to become aware of and express judgments. With this account of empirical cognition, I show how the transcendental deduction of the first Critique is most plausibly read as having as its fundamental assumption the thesis that we have empirical cognition, and I provide evidence that Kant (...) understood Hume as granting this assumption. (shrink)
The author argues that the core of Hume’s Academic skepticism lies in his commitment to an external world and objective causal powers that are cognitively opaque to human understanding. Three central topics of Hume’s theory of the understanding are discussed —the existence of absolute space, the existence of a world external to our senses, and the existence of objective causal powers. In each case, Hume draws a Pyrrhonian opposition between judgments based on his “Copy Principle” and the “fictions” or “illusions” (...) formed through association of ideas. While he suspends judgment concerning the existence of absolute space, he argues that the association-based beliefs in an external world and objective causal powers are necessary for human life and indispensible in science. In adopting such beliefs about external reality, while at the same time denying their intelligibility, Hume was following ancient Academic skepticism. (shrink)
David Hume is famous as a sceptical philosopher but the nature of his scepticism is difficult to pin down. Hume's True Scepticism provides the first sustained interpretation of Part 4 of Book 1 of Hume's Treatise: his deepest engagement with sceptical arguments, in which he notes that, while reason shows that we ought not to believe the verdicts of reason or the senses, we do so nonetheless. Donald C. Ainslie addresses Hume's theory of representation; his criticisms of Locke, Descartes, and (...) other predecessors; his account of the imagination; his understanding of perceptions and sensory belief; and his bundle theory of the mind and his later rejection of it. (shrink)
In this book, Schmitt claims that Hume, however implicitly, employs a fully-developed epistemology in the Treatise. In particular, Hume employs a “veritistic” epistemology, i.e. one that is grounded in truth, particularly, true beliefs. In some cases, these true beliefs are “certain,” are “infallible” (78) and are justified, as in the case of knowledge, i.e. demonstrations. In other cases, we acquire these beliefs through a reliable method, i.e. when they are produced by causal proofs. Such beliefs are also “certain” (69, 81) (...) and are (defeasibly) justified. Thus, although demonstrative knowledge and beliefs produced by causal proofs are produced by different psychological processes, and so, admit of specific kinds of “certainty,” they are nevertheless, both certain, and so, they share the same “epistemic status” (68-69). As a result, although it is clear that Hume makes a psychological distinction between demonstrations and causally produced beliefs (proofs) it may be argued that Hume does not make an epistemological distinction between knowledge (demonstrations) and causally produced beliefs (proofs). Thus, in regard to epistemic status, the latter are not necessarily inferior to the former. This has larger implications for Hume’s method; if we can say that he employs a method that invokes knowledge, or at least, beliefs that share the same epistemic status as knowledge, then Hume need not be entirely skeptical about the results of his method. Rather, the possession of true belief is Hume's ultimate goal. (380). (shrink)
Section III of part IV of Book I of Hume's Treatise entitled “Of the ancient philosophy” has been virtually ignored by most Hume scholars. Although philosophers seem to concentrate on sections II and VI of part IV and pay little or no attention to section III, the latter section is paramount in showing how serious Hume's skepticism is, and how Hume's philosophy, contrary to his intention, is far removed from "the sentiments of the vulgar". In this paper I shall first (...) explore Hume's view on ancient philosophy as it is presented in section III, and I shall particularly focus on his discussion of identity and simplicity of bodies. Second, I shall argue that Hume's account of identity and simplicity in terms of qualities is at best unsatisfactory. Finally, I shall try to show that Hume's advice to hold a "moderate" skepticism cannot be taken seriously. On the contrary, Hume seems to hold an "extravagant" skepticism, since he claims that there is a contradiction between our most fundamental natural beliefs, as well as between our natural beliefs and philosophical reasoning. (shrink)
The inoffensive title of Section 1.4.7 of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature, ‘Conclusion of this Book’, belies the convoluted treatment of scepticism contained within. It is notoriously difficult to decipher Hume’s considered response to scepticism in this section, or whether he even has one. In recent years, however, one line of interpretation has gained popularity in the literature. The ‘usefulness and agreeableness reading’ (henceforth U&A) interprets Hume as arguing in THN 1.4.7 that our beliefs and/or epistemic policies are justified via (...) their usefulness and agreeableness to the self and others; proponents include Ardal (in Livingston & King (eds.) Hume: a re-evaluation, 1976), Kail (in: Frasca-Spada & Kail (eds.) Impressions of Hume, 2005), McCormick (Hume Stud 31:1, 2005), Owen (Hume’s reason, 1999), and Ridge (Hume Stud 29:2, 2003), while Schafer (Philosophers, forthcoming) also defends an interpretation along these lines. In this paper, I will argue that although U&A has textual merit, it struggles to maintain a substantive distinction between epistemic and moral justification—a distinction that Hume insists on. I then attempt to carve out the logical space for there being a distinctly epistemic notion of justification founded on usefulness and agreeableness. However, I find that such an account is problematic for two reasons: first, it cannot take advantage of the textual support for U&A; secondly, it is incompatible with other features of the text. (shrink)
Discusses Hume's considered view of what "good" belief-formation consists in. In doing so, attributes to Hume a sentimentalist picture of epistemic virtue in which the passion of curiosity plays a foundational role.