Belief and the Development of Hume's Account of Probable Reasoning

David Owen

in Hume's Reason

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780199252602
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598159 | DOI:
Belief and the Development of Hume's Account of Probable Reasoning

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After rejecting traditional accounts in terms of reason, Hume presents his own explanation of how we are led from a present impression directly to an idea of something unobserved by the association of ideas set up by past experience. It is this that explains our most basic probable inferences. Hume also has to explain why and how the results of such inferences are believed. What distinguishes belief from mere conception is the very same thing as that which distinguishes impressions from ideas, and ideas of memory from ideas of the imagination: force and vivacity. Once he has an account of these basic inferences and beliefs, he is able to explain how we manage to engage in more complex, reflective reasonings. Such reasonings make use of the uniformity principle and the causal maxim, and Hume is even able to explain how we get the idea of necessary connection. At the end of the story, we have an account of how we manage to perform really difficult and complex feats of reasoning. But this account requires his explanation of the simplest cases of probable reasoning as merely associative, and his account of belief as belonging more to the sensitive than the cogitative part of our natures.

Keywords: belief; force; Hume; inference; probable inference; probable reasoning; reason; reasoning; vivacity

Chapter.  13991 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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