Experience and Testimony in Hume's Philosophy

Episteme 7 (1):42-57 (2010)
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The standard interpretation of Hume on testimony takes him to be a reductionist; justification of beliefs from testimony ultimately depends on one's own first-person experience. Yet Hume's main discussions of testimony in the Treatise and first Enquiry suggest a social account. Hume appeals to shared experience and develops norms of belief from testimony that are not reductionist. It is argued that the reductionist interpretation rests on an overly narrow view of Hume's theory of ideas. By attending to such mechanisms of the imagination as abstraction and fictions, it is shown that Hume's theory of ideas does not forestall a non-reductionist social epistemology



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Saul Traiger
Occidental College

References found in this work

A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1958 - Philosophical Quarterly 8 (33):379-380.
Empiricism and the philosophy of mind.Wilfrid Sellars - 1956 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 1:253-329.
Testimony: a philosophical study.C. A. J. Coady - 1992 - New York: Oxford University Press.
An enquiry concerning human understanding.David Hume - 2000 - In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Exploring Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press USA. pp. 112.

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