The Ockham Society (Thursday - Week 7, HT22)

Ockham Society

Hume’s naturalism and skepticism make unlikely bedfellows, at least in their doctrinal incarnations of his Treatise of Human Nature. So tense is the relationship between the two that, in the final section of the first book of the Treatise, after triumphantly making a number of discoveries about the nature of human behavior and thought, Hume, chafed by ‘desponding reflections’ upon skepticism, finds himself ‘ready to reject all belief and reasoning’ and unable to look upon any ‘opinion even as more probable or likely than another.’ (T This is not to say that Hume does reject his discoveries as faulty or recommend discarding them. Just after these desponding reflections, Hume declares “...I must yield to the current of nature, in submitting to my senses and understanding; and in this blind submission I shew most perfectly my sceptical disposition and principles.’ (T Pinning down Hume’s final position regarding skepticism in the Treatise is tricky, and determining whether that final position is consistent with his positive discoveries a matter of controversy.

This paper concerns whether Hume’s skepticism undercuts his naturalism in the Treatise. This requires getting clear on what Hume’s naturalism amounts to, and what Hume’s skepticism amounts to. I argue that Hume’s ambitions can be characterized as naturalist in, at least, the following three senses: he is an explanatory naturalist, an anti-supernaturalist, and an epistemic naturalist. I argue that, although Hume’s epistemic naturalism in undermined by his skepticism in the Treatise, the other aspects of his naturalism remain largely unscathed, and Hume is, for the most part, consistent.

Ockham Society Convenors: Lara Scheibli and Kimon Sourlas - Kotzamanis | Ockham Society Website