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Hume’s Causal Epistemology: How Pre-Established Harmony, Custom and General Rules Confer Justification

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dc.contributor.author Wilk, Thomas M.
dc.creator Wilk, Thomas M.
dc.date 2009-04-28
dc.date.accessioned 2009-07-25T17:00:01Z
dc.date.available NO_RESTRICTION en
dc.date.available 2009-07-25T17:00:01Z
dc.date.issued 2009-07-25T17:00:01Z
dc.identifier.uri https://hdl.handle.net/1920/4569
dc.description.abstract Hume has often been read as a sort of global skeptic. In this thesis, I argue that he should be understood instead as a causal epistemologist with the hope that this reading can provide new insights into Hume’s project as well as shed light on some of the difficult questions of contemporary naturalistic epistemology. The common practice of approaching Hume’s negative arguments in T 1.3.6 and T 1.4.1 in search of an account of the normativity of belief has led many to read him as a thoroughgoing skeptic, but coming to them with an understanding of the explanatory nature of Hume’s project opens the possibility of reading these arguments as descriptive accounts of belief formation and reason and preserves possibilities for finding accounts of the warrant of reason and the justification of beliefs elsewhere in his works. Approaching these arguments in this light, I turn to an excerpt from Section V of the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding that has received little attention in which Hume argues that the source of the truth of our beliefs is the “pre-established harmony between the course of nature [which is not directly known to us] and the succession of our ideas,” which is actuated by custom or habit. This discussion of the harmony between causation in the objects and causation in human minds serves as Hume’s account of warrant and marks him as a prototypical causal epistemologist of the likes of Alvin Goldman. When this account of warrant is paired with Hume’s account of the rationality achieved by the application of general rules, he can be read as offering a full-fledged externalist causal epistemology with an internalist epistemic norms that guide rational belief formation. These two levels of normativity jointly confer justification on our correctly formed beliefs.
dc.language.iso en_US en
dc.subject skepticism en_US
dc.subject reason en_US
dc.subject Treatise on Human Nature en_US
dc.subject Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding en_US
dc.subject Owen en_US
dc.subject Goldman en_US
dc.title Hume’s Causal Epistemology: How Pre-Established Harmony, Custom and General Rules Confer Justification en
dc.type Thesis en
thesis.degree.name Master of Arts in Philosophy en
thesis.degree.level Master's en
thesis.degree.discipline Philosophy en
thesis.degree.grantor George Mason University en


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