The Humors in Hume's Skepticism

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 7:789–824 (2020)
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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.



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Charles Goldhaber
Haverford College

Citations of this work

Hume's Real Riches.Charles Goldhaber - 2022 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 39 (1):45–57.

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References found in this work

Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40).David Hume - 1978 - Oxford University Press.
A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1958 - Philosophical Quarterly 8 (33):379-380.

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