Epistemological Commitment in Hume’s <i>Treatise</i>

Louis E. Loeb

in Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy Volume VI

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199659593
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745218 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy

Epistemological Commitment in Hume’s Treatise

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In Treatise I.iii, Hume self-consciously presupposes that causal inference is justified. Whereas Locke confined association to unreasonable belief, the main project of I.iii is to show that induction can also be explained associationistically. This picture is not unfriendly to the interpretation of I.iii—associated with Garrett and Owen—as an exercise in cognitive psychology. In confirming the psychological theory, however, Hume introduces associationist mechanisms that are psychologically similar to those underpinning legitimate causal inference, though patently unreasonable. The psychological similarities exert pressure on Hume to introduce and endorse a handful of epistemic discriminations, differentiating causal inference from resemblance and contiguity, education, and unphilosophical probability. This project is normative. Taking the I.iii distinctions in conjunction with that in I.iv.4 between two kinds of imaginative principles, Hume advances a system of increasingly specialized epistemic discriminations. The availability of this structure suggests continuity in Hume’s interest in normative epistemology in I.iii and I.iv

Keywords: association; cognitive psychology; education; Garrett; Don; Hume; induction; Locke; normative epistemology; resemblance; probability; unphilosophical

Chapter.  15810 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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