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Grand Theories and Everyday BeliefsScience, Philosophy, and their Histories$
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Wallace Matson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199812691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812691.001.0001

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The Strange Case of David Hume

The Strange Case of David Hume

(p.170) Chapter 22 The Strange Case of David Hume
Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs

Wallace Matson

Oxford University Press

Hume's account of human understanding begins with acceptance of the Cartesian approach: we must start with our “perceptions” and build knowledge on their “foundation.” Can reason validate inferences from the observed to the unobserved? No. The argument “All As have been followed by Bs, therefore the next A will be followed by another B” needs to be supplemented by the premise that the course of nature will continue with regularity. But reason cannot prove this, for a change in the course of nature is conceivable, and nothing conceivable can be “absolutely impossible.” So there is no reason to believe that the future will resemble the past. Once this move is recognized as just another application of the medieval Contingency of the World principle, the alleged 'Problem of Induction' dissolves. In his consideration of Morals, however, Hume reasons justly to a theory of judgments rightly based on feelings.

Keywords:   perception, foundation, reason, logical impossibility, inconceivability, induction, Descartes, feeling, contingency

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