Volume 41, Issue 2, November 2015
Is Hume an Inductivist?
De Pierris has argued that Hume is what she calls an inductivist about the proper method of scientific inquiry: science proceeds by formulating inductively-established empirical generalizations that subsume an increasing number of observable phenomena in their scope. De Pierris thus limits Hume’s understanding of scientific inquiry, including his own science of human nature, to observable phenomena. By contrast, I argue that Hume’s conception of science allows for the positing of, and belief in, unobservable theoretical entities on purely explanatory grounds. I present the details of De Pierris’s interpretation of Hume, and the reasons and means for rejecting it. I then consider Hume’s explicit statements on his science of human nature to show that all of these are compatible with Hume’s accepting a more expansive understanding of scientific explanation. Finally, I briefly consider some examples from the Treatise of Hume’s employing just such a methodology.