Humean Humility

History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis 13 (1):17-37 (2010)
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Abstract

This paper sets up and then solves a puzzle for the sceptical realist interpretation of Hume. The puzzle takes off when the sceptical realist attributes to Hume the following metaphysical theses: Causal powers grounding necessary connections in nature exist. Causal powers grounding necessary connections in nature are what make things happen.It then attributes an epistemological thesis to him: We have no knowledge of causal powers in nature nor of the necessary connections in nature which these powers ground.But putting these three theses together seems to yield a problematic result. The epistemological thesis seems to have two corollaries as its upshot. We cannot know that causal powers grounding necessary connections in nature exist. We cannot know that causal powers grounding necessary connections in nature are what make things happen.That is, we cannot know and. New Hume’s position, the sceptical realist interpretation, seems to make Hume out to be arguing for a view that is self-undermining or dialectically unstable by his own empiricist lights. I argue that there is an overlooked externalist dimension to Hume’s epistemology and draw on this to solve the puzzle.

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Aisling Crean
University of St. Andrews

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