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Hume Studies

Volume 41, Issue 1, April 2015

Lisa Ievers
Pages 3-32

The Method in Hume’s “Madness”

Hume’s response to his dramatic encounter with skepticism in the Treatise is well known: his skepticism dissipates when he socializes with others in the comparatively amusing sphere of common life. As many commentators have noted, however, this “response” to skepticism is really no response at all. In this paper, I show that the charge that Hume provides a non-response to skepticism at T (SBN 269) is misplaced, for what is standardly interpreted as Hume’s skepticism in the preceding paragraph is not skepticism. Instead, I argue, it is the condition of “madness,” a disordered mental state in which “every loose fiction” enjoys the same status as a “serious conviction” (T; SBN 123). Hume’s alleged response to skepticism at T (SBN 269) would indeed be unsatisfying, if he were responding to skepticism. As a response to madness, it is perfectly adequate.

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