Intuition, Certainty, and Demonstrative Reasoning

David Owen

in Hume's Reason

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780199252602
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598159 | DOI:
Intuition, Certainty, and Demonstrative Reasoning

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In general, intuition and demonstration are explained in terms of the class of relations of ideas that remain the same as long as the ideas remain the same. The main negative point is that our concept of a deductively valid argument, even one with necessarily true premises, has little to do with Hume's conception of demonstration. Following Descartes and Locke, the emphasis is on content and certainty, not necessity and formal validity. Two ideas are intuitively related if the relation between them is immediately conceived. Two ideas are demonstratively related if the relation between them is conceived, not immediately, but via other intermediate ideas. The link between each pair of adjacent ideas in the resulting chain must be intuitive. With this background, some of Hume's more infamous claims are explained: we know in advance that two ideas cannot be demonstratively related if we can conceive one without the other; the causal maxim is neither intuitively nor demonstratively known; the only relation capable of sustaining demonstrations is that of quantity and number.

Keywords: causal maxim; chain of ideas; conceivability; content; deduction; demonstration; formal validity; Hume; intuition; reason; reasoning

Chapter.  15034 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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