In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

HUME ON THE LOGIC OF DESIGN (i) Respectable Inductive Thinking Readers seeking to understand Hume's views concerning inductive reasoning often turn just to the obviously relevant sections of the Treatise and the 2 first Enquiry. In this paper I want to suggest that a broader approach is desirable, and specifically that the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion shed additional significant light on Hume's views about induction. In those well known passages of the Treatise and the first Enquiry Hume presents his critique of the idea of necessary connection; central to this critique is his point that thinking which goes beyond its premises in order to arrive at non-trivial factual conclusions cannot be demonstrative reasoning. Does this lead Hume into a radical scepticism concerning factual knowledge? A majority of interpreters do regard him as holding that because this kind of thinking is not demonstrative reasoning it cannot have any justification for the conclusions it reaches. In this connection, Hume is said to be committed to "deductivism" — the assumption that only demonstrative (deductive) reasoning can succeed in justifying conclusions. Interpreted in this way, Hume holds that demonstrative reasoning cannot establish non-trivial factual conclusions and that non-demonstrative thinking cannot establish them either; Hume is therefore committed to the view that non-trivial factual claims cannot be established, and so cannot be known. Thus, Hume is a radical sceptic who denies that we can attain any knowledge of non-trivial factual conclusions. Of course Hume does not stop with this negative result, but proceeds to affirm that our human nature impels us to derive conclusions about matters of fact even when it is not rational to do so. This occurs in accordance with the innate propensity by which the imagination operates, so that we cannot help but 2. engage in a specific style of non-rational thinking about these matters. This style may be characterized roughly as that of expecting to have future experiences which resemble our past experiences. This way of interpreting Hume which I have just sketched has been quite widely accepted, and I think it represents the way of understanding Hume which most readers are likely to arrive at if they simply read those well known passages of the Treatise and first Enquiry. It does seem to me to be essentially correct as a reading of those passages. To be sure, this interpretation has been challenged by several writers, and recently it has been denounced with especial vigor by Beauchamp and 4 Rosenberg in their stimulating book. Beauchamp and Rosenberg maintain that nowhere in the Treatise or Enquiry does Hume voice any general scepticism about the drawing of conclusions concerning matters of fact. On their reading , Hume is merely rejecting the view that factual conclusions can be proved demonstratively; he is not at all suggesting that the drawing of such conclusions is in general unjustified. They see him as a staunch and consistent advocate of inductive reasoning. I shall not take time here to try to thresh out the complex details of this controversy. For present purposes I shall merely indicate where I stand. I believe that Beauchamp and Rosenberg have read the Treatise and the Enquiry too much in the light of what they think Hume ought to be saying in order for him to have a consistent and plausible position. I think they water down too much his acid remarks about the lack of rationality of thinking which reaches non-trivial factual conclusions, and I think they attach too little weight to the manner in which Hume aligns himself with ancient scepticism. Unlike Beauchamp and Rosenberg, I consider that Hume is not a highly consistent writer, I think he sometimes has not thought through the implications of what he says in one place so 3. as to reconcile it with what he says in some other places. (To say this is not to denigrate the value of his work; much of the excitement of his thought stems from his willingness to press his opinions to inconsistent extremes.) Therefore, I think it best in reading Hume to be alert for possibly conflicting lines of thought which are present in the texts and which should not be...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 1-18
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.