Hume describes his own “open, social, and cheerful humour” as “a turn of mind which it is more happy to possess, than to be born to an estate of ten thousand a year.” Why does he value a cheerful character so highly? I argue that, for Hume, cheerfulness has two aspects—one manifests as mirth in social situations, and the other as steadfastness against life’s misfortunes. This second aspect is of special interest to Hume in that it safeguards the other virtues. (...) And its connection with the first aspect helps explain how it differs from Stoic tranquility. For Hume, I argue, philosophy has a modest role in promoting human happiness by preserving cheerfulness. (shrink)
Hume describes skeptical philosophy as having a variety of desirable effects. It can counteract dogmatism, produce just reasoning, and promote social cohesion. When discussing how skepticism may achieve these effects, Hume typically appeals to its effects on pride. I explain how, for Hume, skeptical philosophy acts on pride and how acting on pride produces the desirable effects. Understanding these mechanisms, I argue, sheds light on how, why, when, and for whom skeptical philosophy can be useful. It also illuminates the value (...) of skeptical philosophy for a humanistic education, giving us a reason to include Hume in curricula. (shrink)
Nathan Sasser's ‘purely practical reading of Hume’s response to skepticism’ is so natural and compelling that it is almost surprising that his new monograph, Hume and the Demands of Philosophy, offers its first systematic defence. I praise the book's clarity and concision, and then raise concerns about omitted topics, especially concerning Hume's views on the practical value of sceptical philosophy.
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. (shrink)
Disjunctivist views in the theory of perception hold that genuine perceptions differ in some relevant kind from misperceptions, such as illusions and hallucinations. In recent papers, Tyler Burge has argued that such views conflict with the basic tenets of perceptual psychology. According to him, perceptual psychology is committed to the view that genuine perceptions and misperceptions produced by the same proximal stimuli must be or involve perceptual states of the same kind. This, he argues, conflicts with disjunctivism. In this paper, (...) I defend epistemological disjunctivism from Burge’s inconsistency charge. To this end, I survey the perceptual psychological literature, and reveal that the perceptual kinds they tend to employ differ from and imply nothing about the kinds at issue for the epistemological disjunctivist. I then argue that Burge’s concerns with epistemological disjunctivism are best interpreted as motivated not by his commitment to empirical science, but instead by his views in epistemology and about human rationality. (shrink)
Michael Bergmann's Radical Skepticism and Epistemic Intuition develops a response to radical skepticism inspired by commonsense philosophers, such as Reid and Moore. Bergmann argues against radical skepticism on the grounds of its conflicting with strongly-held "epistemic intuitions" about the "epistemic value or goodness” of our particular perceptual, recollective, introspective and a priori beliefs. I press concerns about whether Bergmann's "intuitionist particularist" response can diagnose the source of skepticism, and argue that his methodology turns out to itself be strikingly skeptical.
Why does Kant say that a “skeptical satisfaction of pure reason” is “impossible” (A758/B786)? I answer this question by giving a reading of “The Discipline of Pure Reason in Respect of Its Polemic Employment.” I explain that Kant must address skepticism in this context because his warning against developing counterarguments to dogmatic attacks encourages a comparison between the critical and the skeptical methods. I then argue that skepticism fails to “satisfy” [befriedigen] reason insofar as it cannot “pacify” reason’s tendency to (...) go beyond its own boundaries. The skeptical method reveals the past failures of dogmatic metaphysics but cannot rule out future successes. Only critical knowledge of reason’s proper bounds can do this, thereby pacifying our restless reason. I close by arguing that Kant’s discussion implies that a skeptic must feel dissatisfied with her renunciation of metaphysics, and that this dissatisfaction can lead her to take interest in Kant’s critical philosophy. (shrink)
Peter Fosl's new monograph offers a bold reading of Hume as a "radical," "coherent," and "hybrid" skeptic, who draws influence from both the Pyrrhonian and Academic skeptical traditions. I press some concerns about whether Fosl's reading of Hume can accommodate his scientific ambitions.
I argue that Kant thought his Transcendental Deduction of the Pure Concepts could reach skeptical empiricists like Hume by providing an overlooked explanation of the mind's a priori relation to the objects of experience. And he thought empiricists may be motivated to listen to this explanation because of an instability and dissatisfaction inherent to empiricism.
There is little consensus about whether Kant intends his Critique of Pure Reason to change the mind of a skeptical empiricist such as Hume. I challenge a common assumption made by both sides of the debate. This is the thought that Kant can convince a skeptic only if he does not beg the question against her. Surprisingly, I argue, that is not how Kant sees things. On Kant’s view, skeptical empiricism is an inherently unstable and unsatisfying position, which skeptics cannot (...) help wanting to escape. Kant’s Critique, and especially its Transcendental Deduction, offers thinkers like Hume an appealing means of escape, by explaining a possible relation of the mind to the objects of knowledge which skeptics have overlooked. On Kant’s view of the skeptic as inherently dissatisfied with her position, the offer of an explanation can change her mind while neither refuting nor appealing to her skeptical empiricism. (shrink)