In his Treatise, Hume confronted the tensions between his project of uncovering the causal operations of the human mind and the extreme skeptical tendencies of his system. Louis Loeb argues that Hume overreaches, and he advances a controversial interpretation of Hume's epistemological framework that shows how Hume could have avoided the more destructive positions in his work.
Hume's claim that a state is a belief is often intertwined—though without his remarking on this fact—with epistemic approval of the state. This requires explanation. Beliefs, in Hume's view, are steady dispositions (not lively ideas), nature's provision for a steady influence on the will and action. Hume's epistemic distinctions call attention to circumstances in which the presence of conflicting beliefs undermine a belief's influence and thereby its natural function. On one version of this interpretation, to say that a belief is (...) justified, ceteris paribus, is to say that for all that has been shown the belief would be steady in its influence under suitable reflection. On a second version, it is to say that prima facie justification is an intrinsic property of the state, in virtue of its steadiness. These versions generate different understandings of the relationship between Parts iii and iv of Book I of the Treatise. (shrink)