Chapter

Reason, Belief, and Scepticism

David Owen

in Hume's Reason

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780199252602
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598159 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199252602.003.0008
Reason, Belief, and Scepticism

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Hume's treatment of scepticism with regard to reason is analogous to his account of probable reasoning. In neither case is Hume concerned with the justification of beliefs or the warrant of reason as much as with the explanation of the presence of beliefs. In his account of probable reasoning, the issue was the origin of beliefs; in his account of scepticism with regard to reason, the issue is the retention of beliefs in the face of sceptical arguments. The sceptical arguments threaten to lessen the degree of force and vivacity characteristic of our beliefs to the extent that they are in danger of becoming mere ideas and not beliefs at all. We know, as a matter of fact, that this result does not obtain, and Hume attempts to explain this by an appeal to a feature of his account of reasoning: lengthy chains of abstruse reasoning have little effect on us. Hume considers his ability to respond to these sceptical arguments to be a vindication of his theory of belief.

Keywords: belief; explanation; Hume; justification; reasoning; sceptical argument; scepticism

Chapter.  11070 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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