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Reviewed by:
  • The Cambridge Companion to Hume
  • John Bricke
David Fate Norton and Jacqueline Taylor, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Hume, 2nd edition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. xx + 554. ISBN 978-0-521-67734-9, Paper, $32.99. ISBN 978-0-521-85986-8, Cloth, $95.00.

The second edition of The Cambridge Companion to Humereplaces Norton's 1993 edition. In addition to Norton's synoptic introductory essay the new edition contains fourteen essays, four more than its predecessor, that fall into one of three groups: those concerned with Hume's metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind (hereafter metaphysics); those concerned with his moral philosophy; and those concerned with politics, economics, aesthetics, history, and religion. Nine of the original ten essays make a second appearance, six in an essentially unrevised form. Importantly, the second edition contains four new essays in metaphysics and one in moral philosophy. Given limitations of space and the likelihood that many readers are already familiar with the unrevised essays, I shall focus my remarks on those that are new or revised.

In "Hume's New Science of the Mind" (revised), John Biro provides a crisp representation of Hume's associationist psychology and of his efforts to provide an account of the genesis of beliefs that eschews purported philosophical justifications. In doing so, Biro suggests important links both to Quinean naturalized epistemology and to contemporary (non-connectionist) cognitive psychology.

The first of the four new essays in metaphysics is David Owen's "Hume and the Mechanics of Mind." In Owen's words, the essay "is a study of how Hume's theory of impressions and ideas and his principles of association feature in the empirical methodology he uses to establish some of his most important positions" (102) in Books 1 and 2 of the Treatiseand in the first Enquiry. It is these that do "all the real work of the mind" (103). Owen's painstaking delineation of the terms, and so the entities, in Hume's mechanical theory of mind imposes very strong interpretive constraints and generates some striking results: that sense impressions are not mere sense data but judgments; that having a passion (an impression of reflection) is not akin to making a judgment; that when passions are considered in their relational context their alternative form of intentionality becomes apparent. This is a bracing, hard-nosed, very impressive piece of work.

In "Hume's Theory of Space and Time in its Skeptical Context," Donald Baxter identifies two seemingly problematic dimensions of Treatise1.2: its purported results appear not to comport with mathematics and physics; and Hume's method of arguing, applying features of our mere ideas of space and time to space and time themselves, seems philosophically inept. But, he argues, Treatise1.2 displays central features of the skeptical approach Hume develops in the rest of Book 1. Those [End Page 118]features taken into account, the force of Hume's arguments concerning space and time can be appreciated and much influential criticism of those arguments can be seen to miss the mark. Hume's system concerning space and time is a consequence of his Pyrrhonian Empiricism, which is to say his exclusive concern with views forced on him by appearances. Baxter's detailed elaboration of Hume's route from Pyrrhonian Empiricism to his views about space and time is an interpretive tour de force: it makes what can seem a baffling stretch of the Treatiseintelligible, and it contributes substantially, by treating the hardest of hard cases, to the characterization of Hume's skepticism.

Martin Bell's "Hume on Causation" is notable not so much for interpretive novelty as for the deftness with which it manages so many distinct questions about the interpretation of Hume's views. For Bell, Hume's investigation of causality is an attempt to answer two main questions: How do human beings come to have the idea of causation? and How do they come to be able to infer effects from causes and causes from effects? Hume's answer to the first question depends, he suggests, on his answer to the second. Hume's is "a causal explanation of the ability to make causal...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 118-122
Launched on MUSE
2011-06-05
Open Access
No
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