The Surprise Twist in Hume's Treatise

Hume Studies 35 (1&2):103-34 (2009)
A Treatise of Human Nature opens with ambitious hopes for the science of man, but Hume eventually launches into a series of skeptical arguments that culminates in a report of radical skeptical despair. This essay is a preliminary exploration of how to interpret this surprising development. I first distinguish two kinds of surprise twist: those that are incompatible with some preceding portion of the work, and those that are not. This suggests two corresponding pictures of Hume. On one picture, he believed the skeptical development to be at odds with something in early Treatise; on the other, he took these two portions of Book 1 to be perfectly compatible. After defending the claim that Hume endorsed both of these portions, I sketch two promising interpretations—a “perspectivist,” incompatibilist interpretation and a “post-skeptical,” compatibilist interpretation—and offer some reasons to favor the latter view.
Keywords Hume  A Treatise of Human Nature  skepticism  naturalism  surprise twist
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DOI hume2009351/25
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