Hsueh Qu
National University of Singapore
In this paper, I offer a novel interpretation of THN 1.4.7, which sees his sceptical problem and solution in THN 1.4.7 as taking a broadly deontological structure. Briefly, I read the ‘Dangerous Dilemma’ (THN as embodying a false dichotomy between two deontological extremes concerning reflection, that is, thinking carefully about our mental states and faculties. The two horns of the Dangerous Dilemma are as follows: either embracing an absolute duty to constantly and incessantly reflect (leading to excessive scepticism); or maintaining that it is not the case that we have any duty to reflect to any degree (leading to credulity). Hume thus seeks to straddle these two horns and find a deontological middle path. The resolution to this dilemma turns on Hume’s realising that we have a duty to reflect only up to a point. Beyond this threshold, there is a level of reflection that is not required of us, but which is nevertheless good; in other words, such reflection is supererogatory. However, this seems to render excessive scepticism supererogatory. This unintuitive outcome can be avoided by appealing to a suitable account of value beyond the deontological threshold that is founded on usefulness and agreeableness. In the end, Hume manages to tread a path between scepticism and credulity, while nevertheless rejecting superstition and endorsing science and philosophy.
Keywords Hume  Scepticism  Deontology  Naturalism
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DOI 10.3998/ergo.12405314.0006.027
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