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87 THE UNITY OF HUME'S THOUGHT 1. Introduction: Hume Today Hume's works continue to fascinate historians of both philosophy and of the social sciences. The literature on him is expanding and invites some overview , some guidelines. In particular, certain rules of interpretation have to be laid down, certain achievements have to be listed and not allowed to get lost because of negligence, certain trends in reading Hume have to be established, and leading problems put high on the agenda. Of course, each item on such a list has to be open to revision, but consensus nonetheless may be reached, however tentative. The starting point may well be the works of Fr. Vindig Kruse (1939) and Norman Kemp Smith (1941). The former analyzed Hume's regret at having published his early Treatise. Hume's expressed regret made some authors ignore his Treatise, and others confine their attention to it, ignoring his other works, as the product of — in his own words — the "lowly love of literary fame." Kruse found that Hume regretted his impetuous presentation, not the content of the book. This leaves much scope for setting out changes in Hume's views as they unfold, but no author who ignores Kruse's argument deserves serious consideration. Since by and large Kruse's argument was accepted, the problem is this: How is Hume's philosophy in the strict sense related to his other writings — psychological, political, economic, historical, and aesthetic? Without the work of Kruse the problem would not arise, and without the problem we would not have Kemp Smith's study, the basis of all later interpretations, all variations on his work. This is not surprising, since Kemp Smith was the first to reject the view of Hume's philosophy as a phenomenalism and an extreme 88 skepticism, the logical continuation of purely epistemological considerations in the tradition of the austere philosophic thought (allegedly) set out by Locke and Berkeley. Kemp Smith ascribed to David Hume a variant of a much more reasonable philosophy, a sort of realism or, to use his own label, 'naturalism.' The label of naturalism is ambiguous on two counts. First, since it is not the same as materialism or realism, it leaves some room for phenomenalist aspects of Hume's view. what, then, exactly is naturalism and how does it fit with Hume's critique of the claims that substances and causes exist? Secondly, naturalists may endorse either a common sense view of the world, or they endorse a scientific image of the world. But the common sense view of the world seems to conflict with the scientific one. Kemp Smith mentions both Newton's and Hutcheson's influences on Hume. Hume is thus open to two readings — the British, common sense reading, exemplified by A.H. Basson (1958) and A.J. Ayer (1982), and the scientific reading, exemplified by John Passmore (1952) and James Noxon (1973). The scientific reading has one advantage over the common sense reading: it ascribes to Hume a view of science which, since the Einsteinian revolution, has not been widely held by commentators — as a consequence, those commentators have a greater distance from the view they ascribe to Hume than the common sense interpreters do. On this interpretation it is easier to reconcile Hume's skepticism with his scientism — since both may be erroneous, there is no need to endorse all of Hume's central points as the common sense interpreters try to do. The common sense reading of Hume is meant to present his arguments, in certain modern modifications, as overcoming his own skepticism. Whether this can be done is a matter of 89 open philosophical dispute. The common sense school is less historicallyminded . Indeed, it identifies its own common sense with that of Hume's. It thus endorses Hume's distinction between the vulgar and the philosophical and with Kemp Smith declares that Hume's sympathy and social writings go with the vulgar and that his skeptical critique is the core of his philosophical ideas. Since the vulgar endorse causation (yet as Hume philosophically proves, with no rationale but out of habit), the claim that Hume sides with the vulgar despite his unanswerable critique of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 87-109
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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