Waiting for Hume

In Marina Frasca-Spada & P. J. E. Kail (eds.), Impressions of Hume. Oxford University Press. pp. 59 (2005)
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It was David Hume’s great sceptical argument about non-demonstrative reasoning—the problem of induction—that hooked me on philosophy. I am still wriggling, but in the present essay I will not consider how the Humean challenge to justify our inductive practices might be met; rather, I ask why we had to wait until Hume for the challenge to be raised. The question is a natural one to ask, given the intense interest in scepticism before Hume for as far back as we can see in the history of philosophy, and given that Hume’s sceptical argument is so simple and so fundamental. It is not so easy to answer. I am no historian of philosophy, and given the pull that the problem of induction exerts on my own philosophical thinking, I know there is a considerable risk that the historical speculations I consider here will turn out to be worthlessly anachronistic. But I hope not.



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