Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
James H. Noxon
Sceptical passages in Hume's writing tend to lead readers to assume that he opposes theories of evidence and methods for judging the truth and falsehood of our claims. But interpretations such as this overlook passages where Hume insists that we have methods of judging the truth of our claims about a priori relations of ideas and matters of fact and real existence. My intention is to make sense of theses passages, taking them literally, and thereby avoiding both the skeptical and skeptically based naturalistic interpretations. I do not oppose the view that Hume is skeptical about metaphysical claims, such as our knowledge of the existence of impression-causing objects, but I argue that he is not skeptical of scientific claims in the sense that we have no reasonable basis for judging their truth or falsehood. The point us made by formulating Hume's theory of scientific judgment.
The focus of this interpretation is on Hume's conception of philosophical relations, which provides the basis for predication and judgment. Prediction arises by the comparison of ideas; a priori judgement is the "agreement or disagreement" of an idea with other ideas, while empirical judgment is the correspondence of an idea with an existing object (impression).
The bulk of the dissertation formulates the scope and content if each of the seven philosophical relations as they are divided into those judges a priori, those judges by an immediate sense impression, and those judged by empirical reasoning in terms of cause and effect. In each case we find that Hume is neither skeptical of our methods for judging truth, nor is any method grounded in a presuppositional "natural" belief.
Thomas, Max M., "Hume's Theory of Scientific Judgement" (1984). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 564.