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Hume Studies

Volume 43, Issue 2, November 2017

Nathan I. Sasser
Pages 3-28

Hume’s Purely Practical Response to Philosophical Skepticism

In this paper, I argue that Hume’s response to his skeptical problem is purely practical. First, I argue that Hume’s terminology of “philosophy” is the textual key to identifying his evaluations of beliefs from that standpoint which is normative for the sciences. Second, I reexamine the crisis of Treatise 1.4.7 (SBN 263–274) in the light of “philosophy.” Hume faces a “life-or-philosophy” dilemma: due to his skeptical arguments, practically indispensable core be­liefs of common life and science are not philosophically acceptable. The Title Principle is not a philosophical norm but rather subordinates philosophical norms to practical interests. Third, I explain Hume’s practical justification for a moderate pursuit of philosophy. He has purely practical reasons for ignoring the skeptical demands of philosophy, and purely practical reasons for follow­ing philosophy in his constructive scientific research.

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