Hume's Skeptical Crisis: A Textual Study

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In Hume's Skeptical Crisis Robert Fogelin provides a textual study of the changes in perspective that emerged as Hume pursued his attempt to introduce the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects—the subtitle of the Treatise of Human of Nature. In the process of giving an account of the operations of the human mind, Hume discovered that the mechanisms that create and sustain our beliefs are deeply unreliable and, in fact, capricious in their operations. Hume's crisis emerged when he recognized that ...

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Overview

In Hume's Skeptical Crisis Robert Fogelin provides a textual study of the changes in perspective that emerged as Hume pursued his attempt to introduce the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects—the subtitle of the Treatise of Human of Nature. In the process of giving an account of the operations of the human mind, Hume discovered that the mechanisms that create and sustain our beliefs are deeply unreliable and, in fact, capricious in their operations. Hume's crisis emerged when he recognized that the weaknesses that he ascribed to the operations of the human mind apply with equal force to the operations of his own mind. How, he asked himself, could he justify pursuing profoundly difficult investigations employing mental faculties that were manifestly not up to the task? His response was to trim back the ambitious program announced at the start of the Treatise.

Hume returned to this topic in the opening section of the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, where, in a more circumspect mood, he weighed the reasons for and against pursuing what he calls abstruse philosophy. Given our limited capacities and the complexities of the subject, what, he asked, are the chances of success in pursing abstruse philosophical investigations? Hume answered that we could expect at least modest success by adopting the stance of a mitigated skeptic, where one cautiously examines only those topics suitable to our limited mental capacities. Hume held that this standpoint could be attained by counter-balancing radical Pyrrhonian doubt on one side with our non-rational instincts to believe on the other side. As a result, Hume's initial attempt to produce a "compleat system of the sciences" was transformed into "reflections of common life, methodized and corrected."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195387391
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/3/2009
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert J. Fogelin if Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Dartmouth College.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Texts and Citations
Introduction. The Interpretive Problem
Chapter 1. Of Knowledge and Probability: A Quick Tour of Part 3, Book 1
Section 1. Of knowledge
Section 2. Of probability; and of the idea of cause and effect
Section 3. Why a cause is always necessary?
Section 4. Of the component parts of our reasonings concerning causes and Effects
Section 5. Of the impressions of the senses and memory
Section 6. Of the inference from the impression to the idea
Section 7. Of the nature of the idea, or belief
Section 8. Of the causes of belief
Section 9. Of the effects of other relations, and other habits
Section 10. Of the influence of belief
Section 11. Of the probability of chances
Section 12. Of the probability of causes
Section 13. Of unphilosophical probability
Section 14. Of the idea of necessary connexion
Section 15. Rules by which to judge of causes and effects
Section 16. Of the reason of animals
Chapter 2. Hume on Unphilosophical Probabilities
Unphilosophical as opposed to philosophical probabilities
Sources of unphilosophical probabilities
The effect of the remoteness of the event
The effect of the remoteness of the observation
Reiterative diminution
Prejudice based on general rules
Conflicts within the imagination and skepticism
Chapter 3. Hume's Skepticism with Regard to Reason
The turn to skepticism
The basic argument
Reducing knowledge to probability
The regression argument
The principle of reiterative diminution
Hume's response to his skepticalå argument
Peritrope
Chapter 4. Of Skepticism with Regard to the Senses
Hume's turnabout with regard to the senses
The organization of section 2
The causes of our belief in the existence of bodies
The senses not the source of this belief
Reason not the source of this belief
The operations of the imagination in forming this belief
Hume's informal statement of his position
Hume's systematic statement of his position
The principle of identity
Gap filling
The idea of continued existence
The belief in continued existence
The philosopher's double-existence theory of perception
The Pyrrhonian moment
A concluding note
Chapter 5. Of the Ancient and Modern Philosophy
Reasons for examining ancient and modern philosophical systems
Of the ancient philosophy (section 3)
The false belief in the continued identity of changing objects
The fiction of underlying substance, or original first matter
The false belief in the simplicity of objects
The fiction of a unifying substance
The incomprehensibility of the peripatetic system
Skeptical implications
Of the modern philosophy (section 4)
Against the distinction between primary and secondary qualities
Another Pyrrhonian moment
Chapter 6. The Soul and the Self
Of the immateriality of the soul (section 5)
Setting the dialectical stage
The soul as substance
The problem of local conjunction
Soul-body interaction
On proofs of immortality
Of personal identity (section 6)
Basic criticisms
Account of the fiction of personal identity
Disputes about identity as merely verbal
The reservations in the appendix
Hume's picture of the mind
Hume's declaration of failure
Chapter 7. The Conclusion of Book 1
A gloomy summation of skeptical results
What is to be done?
Being a philosopher on skeptical principles
Chapter 8. Two Openings and Two Closings
The Treatise and the Enquiry on skepticism
The opening of the Treatise
The opening of the Enquiry
The response to skepticism in the Enquiry
The science of human nature in the Enquiry
The role of skeptical arguments in the Enquiry
Skepticism concerning the senses
Skepticism concerning reason
Skepticism concerning moral reasoning
Pyrrhonism and mitigated skepticism

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