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Hume Studies

Volume 47, Issue 1, April 2022

Hsueh Qu
Pages 9-38

Skepticism in Hume’s Dialogues

In this paper, I examine the epistemological positions of Philo and Cleanthes in the Dialogues. I find that Philo’s attitude towards skepticism mirrors that of the first Enquiry, most notably in its endorsement of mitigated skepticism, and its treatment of religious reasoning as distinctly discontinuous with science and philosophy. Meanwhile, Cleanthes’s epistemological framework corresponds to that of the Treatise, most notably in its adoption of something like the Title Principle, and its treatment of some forms of religious reasoning as broadly continuous with science and philosophy. It is not merely that the epistemological systems of the Treatise and Enquiry are echoed in Cleanthes’s and Philo’s positions respectively; these frameworks seem to clarify, provide a substantive basis for, and render more complete their somewhat piecemeal statements on this topic in the Dialogues. Thus, Philo’s and Cleanthes’s dispute is not limited to the theological, but extends to the epistemological.