Synthese:1-22 (forthcoming)

Stefanie Rocknak
Hartwick College
According to Husserl, Hume’s empirical method was deeply flawed—like all empiricists, Hume did not, and could not adequately justify his method, much less his findings. Instead, Hume gives us a “circular” and “irrational” “psychological explanation” of “mediate judgments of fact,” i.e. of inductive inferences. Yet Husserl was certain that he could justify both his own method and his own findings with an appeal to the phenomenological, pre-theoretical, pre-naturalistic “epoché”. However, whether or not Husserl’s notion of an epoché is justified, or even viable, is not our focus here. Rather, our issue is with Hume, particularly: How could Hume have responded? In this paper, I show that in Book I of the Treatise, Hume did—however implicitly—appeal to a “pre-theoretical” notion of belief, which meets Husserl’s demands for a pre-theoretical grounding, i.e. a justificatory grounding. And so, his method is, at least in this respect, justified. But this belief is by no means “prenaturalistic.” Rather, it is a function of empirical data. In particular, it is a product of the “constant and coherent” impressions that seem to naturally obtain of experience. As a result, Hume’s method, which, in agreement with Husserl, we may characterize as psychology, does admit of a certain degree of regularity, but an empirical regularity. And according to Hume, contra Husserl’s complaints, this is the best that we can hope for; regularity will have to suffice, not certainty. However, it must be noted up front that this justification is implicit—Hume is not nearly as forthright as he could have been. Thus, making his position more explicit is the task of this paper. I am not presenting my own position, where I offer my own arguments. Instead, I present textual evidence, contextualized with ample explication. It is my hope that by doing so, Hume may more effectively make his case.
Keywords Hume  Husserl  empiricism  phenomenology  principle of uniformity  early modern  naturalism
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-020-02679-z
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