Chapter

The Strange Case of David Hume

Wallace Matson

in Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199812691
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919420 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812691.003.0022
The Strange Case of David Hume

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Hume's account of human understanding begins with acceptance of the Cartesian approach: we must start with our “perceptions” and build knowledge on their “foundation.” Can reason validate inferences from the observed to the unobserved? No. The argument “All As have been followed by Bs, therefore the next A will be followed by another B” needs to be supplemented by the premise that the course of nature will continue with regularity. But reason cannot prove this, for a change in the course of nature is conceivable, and nothing conceivable can be “absolutely impossible.” So there is no reason to believe that the future will resemble the past. Once this move is recognized as just another application of the medieval Contingency of the World principle, the alleged 'Problem of Induction' dissolves. In his consideration of Morals, however, Hume reasons justly to a theory of judgments rightly based on feelings.

Keywords: perception; foundation; reason; logical impossibility; inconceivability; induction; Descartes; feeling; contingency

Chapter.  3394 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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