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Real Materialismand Other Essays$
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Galen Strawson

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199267422

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199267422.001.0001

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Epistemology, Semantics, Ontology, and David Hume

Epistemology, Semantics, Ontology, and David Hume

(p.439) 19 Epistemology, Semantics, Ontology, and David Hume
Real Materialism

Galen Strawson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Hume is not a ‘Humean’ about causation. His key thesis is epistemological; he claims that all we can know of causation is regular succession. His claim is not ontological; he does not hold that regular succession is (knowably) all that causation is. The ontological claim is dogmatic metaphysics, and is as such wholly incompatible with Hume's scepticism. Sceptics do not claim to know the ultimate nature of (non-mental) reality. Hume does hold that ‘regular succession’ is all we can legitimately and positively contentfully mean by the word ‘causation’ when we use it in philosophy, since this is the only clear and distinct meaning we can give to the word on his empiricist principles, and philosophy is committed to using only clear and distinct ideas. At the same time, he is clear on the point that there is something like natural necessity in the world, as many quotations show, including quotations from his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

Keywords:   Hume, causation, regularity theory, definition, phenomenalism, verificationism, natural necessity, empiricism, realism, constant conjunction

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