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Hume's Reason$
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David Owen

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199252602

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199252602.001.0001

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The Limits and Warrant of Reason

The Limits and Warrant of Reason

(p.197) 9 The Limits and Warrant of Reason
Hume's Reason

David Owen (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Two large issues dealt with here are the scope of Hume's negative arguments and the warrant of probable reasoning. What Hume means when he says that we are not determined by reason when we make inferences from the observed to the unobserved is expanded and clarified. He is claiming that such inferences cannot be explained as the result of the faculty of reason considered as one that functions only by reasoning from one idea to another via an intermediate idea. Hume's own conception of reason explains reasoning in terms of a subset of properties of the imagination. Similarly, the arguments of scepticism with regard to reason are directed against reason considered as a faculty functioning independently of those properties; it is only because of these properties that beliefs survive in the face of sceptical arguments. Concerning the second issue, a suggestion is made regarding just where in fact Hume does face the issue of warrant and an explanation is given of how he deals with it. Although Hume was not primarily concerned with issues of warrant and justification, he does, in Part 4, begin to face the issue of just why we prefer the results of reason to those of other belief‐forming mechanisms, such as superstition. Although the beginnings of Hume's answer can be found in this part of the Treatise, the answer is much better formulated and more ably presented in the first Enquiry. Hume explains our preference for reason in the same way as he accounts for our preference for virtue: the reasonable person, like the virtuous person, is more useful and pleasing to herself and others.

Keywords:   faculty of reason, Hume, imagination, justification, preference for reason, superstition, virtue, warrant

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