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The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 7, 2000

Modern Philosophy

João Paulo Monteiro
Pages 139-149

Hume’s Empiricism and the Rationality of Induction

Radical skepticism, irrationalism, psychologism, and epistemological despair are popular interpretations of Hume. The theory of causal inference has been supposed to stand at the very heart of Humean skepticism, mainly because of its ‘associationism’. However, the myth of a skeptical Hume—more radical than he really is in his own admitted ‘mitigated skepticism’—has been discredited in recent years. Hume certainly was an associationist about the passions, and moral sentiments, and the rules of justice in society, and many other aspects of human life, as different as literary taste and superstition. There is plenty of evidence of this in Books II and III of the Treatise, in the second Enquiry, in the Dissertation on the Passions and in the Essays. But my main point here is that association of ideas has no cognitive role in his philosophy, beyond serving as “the cement of complex ideas.” Custom or habit do have such a cognitive role, as is well known, and shall be discussed below.

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