The Riddle

Paul Russell

in The Riddle of Hume's Treatise

Published in print March 2008 | ISBN: 9780195110333
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199872084 | DOI:
The Riddle

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This chapter begins with a review of the classical (Reid‐Beattie) skeptical interpretation of Hume's Treatise followed by an account of Norman Kemp Smith's influential naturalistic interpretation of Hume's fundamental intentions. Other more recent interpretations, falling on either side of the skeptical/naturalist divide, are also described, including several interpretations that have paid more careful attention to the historical context in which the Treatise was composed and published. This account of the various alternative interpretations provides a framework for explaining the fundamental “riddle” of the Treatise: namely, that Hume's (radical) skeptical commitments appear to undermine and discredit his effort to make a contribution to “the science of man.”

Keywords: common sense; empiricism; Humesproblem; naturalism; Newtonianism (methodology); Norman Kemp Smith; Pyrrhonism; science of man; skepticism; Treatise of Human Nature

Chapter.  4447 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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