Beyond our Senses: Recasting Book I, Part III of Hume's Treatise

Hume Studies 20 20 (2):241-259 (1994)
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Abstract

The early sections of Book I, Part III of A Treatise of Human Nature are widely studied, and with good reason.(2) They contain Hume's skeptical arguments about what we now call inductive inference or what Hume called reasoning from experience. Very little attention, however, has been paid to Hume's extensive treatment of the social context of belief formation and correction which dominates sections iv-xiii of Part III. When these sections are noticed at all, they are seen as, at best, embellishments and digressions, at worst, as unfortunate muddles. Purified of sections iv-xiii, Part III is simpler (and shorter) than the actual Part III; its arguments are well understood and their influence on Kant and the subsequent history of philosophy is well documented.(3) I will purposefully dirty the waters by attempting to account for the rich examples and the explicit treatment of the social component of belief in these neglected sections. While there are excellent reasons for stressing the importance of Hume's skeptical arguments, the text shows that Hume's had a second major concern, namely to account for the formation and regulation of beliefs as they typically arise in social contexts.

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Saul Traiger
Occidental College

Citations of this work

Humeanism and the epistemology of testimony.Dan O’Brien - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):2647-2669.
Descartes on Will and Suspension of Judgment: Affectivity of the Reasons for Doubt.Jan Forsman - 2017 - In Gábor Boros, Judit Szalai & Oliver Istvan Toth (eds.), The Concept of Affectivity in Early Modern Philosophy. Budapest, Hungary: pp. 38-58.
Naturalism, Experience, and Hume’s ‘Science of Human Nature’.Benedict Smith - 2016 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24 (3):310-323.
The Concept of Affectivity in Early Modern Philosophy.Gábor Boros, Judit Szalai & Oliver Toth (eds.) - 2017 - Budapest, Hungary: Eötvös Loránd University Press.

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