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Hume Studies Volume 29, Number 1, April 2003, pp. 150-154 PAUL STANISTREET. Hume's Scepticism and the Science of Human Nature. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2002. Pp. xi + 226. ISBN 0-7546-04845 , cloth, $69.95. Paul Stanistreet's Hume's Scepticism and the Science of Human Nature seeks to address its subject matter at a level somewhere between that of an introductory text and an original, scholarly contribution to Hume scholarship. Stanistreet states that the book is written "with the general reader or beginning student of Hume in mind" (ix). At the same time, he says I have not attempted to avoid or ignore the key issues at stake in modern scholarship. I engage critically with much that I think mistaken in contemporary thinking about Hume, offering, along the way, my own contributions to the debate, (ix) These self-descriptions, as it turns out, are accurate. Stanistreet's book is clearly enough written for a good beginning student to follow along and it does outline and make a case for a broadly sensible reading of Hume's thought— for the most part, as it appears in Book 1 of the Treatise. It is, in a number of respects, a well-executed work. I have three general misgivings about this book. First, the pace of the book is slower than it ideally should be given its intentions and its intended audience. A number of Stanistreet's discussions could and, I think, should have been streamlined and more clearly focused. Too often his discussions proceed slowly, bogging down in repetitiveness and, on many occasions, providing more in the way of tangential material than context requires. Second, while the views Stanistreet contends for are, by and large, sensible ones that are well supported, they do not collectively constitute an overall view of Hume that is, in any important way, new. This is not, given the book's admittedly modest intentions, as serious a matter. Finally, I find it disappointing that nowhere in the book does Stanistreet directly discuss Hume's concept of a skeptical solution. Given the subjects he takes up and the audience he seeks to reach, a discussion of this very basic and centrally relevant subject would appear to be a requirement. It is puzzling and disappointing that there is none. Stanistreet's main contentions have to do with Hume's sceptical arguments in Book 1 of the Treatise. Throughout the book he combats both the notion that Hume is essentially a skeptical philosopher and, I think more Hume Studies Book Reviews 151 important, the contention that his skeptical arguments undermine his positive philosophical program. There is nothing new in this, and Stanistreet is straightforward in admitting it and assigning to his work a modest, though certainly not unimportant task: A growing number of specialists now see Hume not as an unmitigatedly destructive sceptic, but as a constructive thinker, with a positive philosophical agenda, which deserves critical attention. Yet most of the literature which has contributed, and which continues to contribute , to this dramatic reversal in Hume's philosophical fortunes remains unknown or, at best, obscure, to all but a small circle of scholars . No book I am aware of has adequately surveyed these developments for the general reader. ... It is hoped that this work will go some way towards bridging this gap. (x) Stanistreet's Hume is no skeptic eager to show that classical empiricist assumptions undermine themselves, but rather, the founder of a science of human nature that is inspired by Newton's methods. What then of Hume's sceptical arguments? Stanistreet explains his plan to deal with them: The difficulty of reconciling Hume's endorsement of sceptical arguments with his positive Newtonian project of founding a science of human nature is the central interpretive puzzle of A Treatise of Human Nature.... In my view, Hume's scepticism is to be seen not as an unmitigatedly destructive force, but as an important part of the preparatory investigation upon which Hume intends to found what he calls "a compleat system of the sciences" (T.xvi).... Hume's adaptation of this extreme form of scepticism is part of a complicated, systematic dialectic, which, he brings to a head in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 150-154
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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