Scepticism with regard to Reason

Until recently, philosophical scholarship has not been kind to Hume’s arguments in “Of scepticism with regard to reason” (A Treatise of Human Nature, 1.4.1). [1] Reid gives the negative arguments a pretty rough ride, though in the end he agrees with Hume’s conclusion that reason cannot be defended by reason.[2] Stove’s comment that the argument is “not merely defective, but one of the worst arguments ever to impose itself on a man of genius” (Stove 1973), while extreme, is not untypical. Many important books on Hume (e.g. Stroud 1977) simply ignore it, though this may be because it is difficult to find any trace of the arguments in the Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding.[3] Furthermore, when attention was paid to the arguments, it was devoted mainly to the second of the two negative arguments Hume puts forward, and that argument was held to contain an elementary mistake concerning beliefs about beliefs (McNabb 1951)
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