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Hume Studies Volume 33, Number 1, April 2007, pp. 190-192 Angela Coventry. Hume's Theory of Causation: A Quasi-Realist Interpretation. London: Continuum, 2006. Pp. xi + 166. ISBN 0-8264-8635-5, Cloth, $130. In Hume's Theory of Causation, Angela Coventry develops hints dropped by Simon Blackburn regarding Hume's view of causal modalities. Blackburn has long intimated that Hume has been "shamefully abused by his commentators" (Spreading the Word [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984], 221). The abuse consists in the idea that Hume is to be categorized either as a realist or anti-realist. Instead, suggested Blackburn, we should pay more attention to Hume's idea that we project, "spread the mind" and "gild and stain" natural objects with internal sentiments. Hume is best viewed as a "projectivist." Very crudely, a projectivist maintains that our commitment to apparently metaphysically intractable features such as causal modalities can be explained by our "projecting" habits or sentiments onto the world. This view of the nature of modal commitment is then supplemented by the philosophical enterprise of "quasi-realism," the attempt to show that such projecting is entirely legitimate and provides the resources to explain our modal thought and practice without appeal to anything metaphysically heavyweight or suspicious (such as causal powers). The combination of projectivism and quasirealism is supposed to break old oppositions of "realism" and "anti-realism. " Claiming Hume as the "first great projectivist" (Essays in Quasi-Realism [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993], 5), Blackburn supported this reading in two primarily exegetical essays, "Hume and Thick Connexions" (in his Essays in Quasi-Realism and elsewhere), which concerns causal modalities, and "Hume on the Mezzanine Level," in Hume Studies 19.2 (1993): 273-88, which discusses moralizing. Coventry begins the hunt for her quarry—Hume's view of causal modalities —by beating the neighbouring fields. To provide a backdrop to the supposed quasi-realist alternative to the old realist/anti-realist oppositions, she offers a brisk trot through different forms of realism and anti-realism. She then introduces quasi-realism, in order to show how it emerges through a contrast between it and the traditional realist/anti-realist paradigms. Coventry discusses the issues quasirealism raises, including the notorious Frege-Geach problem and the complaint that quasi-realism is not an intermediate position because it either collapses into realism, or its realist clothes are too diaphanous to disguise its truly anti-realist bones. She then enters the field of Hume's account of causation, first by offering a general account of its topography, and, second, by bringing quasi-realism to bear on this ground. In doing the latter, she appeals to a wider range of Hume's writings than those on causation proper, including his account of moral evaluation and "Of the standard of taste." Hume Studies Book Reviews 191 What is the intermediate position? The idea, it seems, is that the subjective reaction, projected onto the objects, is a starting point for modal thought, which is then subject to refinement. Such refinements lead to the construction of a standard of truth for modal claims. This claim is built upon the parallels between Hume's account of causal judgement, on the one hand, and his account of evaluation on the other. Coventry sees four key parallels: (1) that there is the projection of sentiments or something "inner" onto the world (133), (2) we then form Humean abstract ideas on this basis (133), which in turn feed into (3) general rules (134) which can correct (4) mismatches between judgment and actual sentiments (136). The interplay of these factors is supposed then to lead to a standard of truth for modal judgments akin to that developed in "Of the standard of taste." The sense in which this position is not realist lies in the fact that true causal statements, of the relevant kind, are not made true by the instantiation of irreducible causal powers . The sense in which this position is not anti-realist lies in the idea that what emerges are judgments which nevertheless "earn the right" (to use Blackburn's phrase) to truth and falsity. Coventry supports this contention with what is her most original take on the issue. Hume claims...


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