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Hume Studies

Volume 42, Issue 1/2, April/November 2016

Richard J. Fry
Pages 137-165

Skeptical Influences on Hume’s View of Animal Reasoning

Hume directly addresses animal reasoning and concludes that human causal reasoning must be similar to what he has identified in non-human animals. It would be easy to attribute influence on this issue to skeptical thinkers who influenced other parts of Hume’s philosophy and also addressed non-human animal reasoning, that is, Bayle, Montaigne, and/or Sextus Empiricus. I argue that such claims of direct influence are improbable. First, Hume establishes conclusions about human reasoning on the basis of examining animals; the skeptics establish conclusions about animal reasoning on the basis of their similarities to humans. Second, Hume’s conclusions in these sections differ in scope and function from those of these skeptics. Finally, Hume’s evidence differs markedly from these skeptics’. Hume and these skeptics do make use of the same kind of comparison between humans and animals, but that comparison is also found in other Modern thinkers that Hume read: I show that it is present in Hobbes and Locke.