Hume's Epistemology in the Treatise: A Veritistic Interpretation by Frederick F. SchmittHume's Epistemology in the Treatise: A Veritistic Interpretation by Frederick F. Schmitt

Hume's Epistemology in the Treatise: A Veritistic Interpretation

byFrederick F. Schmitt

Hardcover | February 28, 2014

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Frederick F. Schmitt offers a systematic interpretation of David Hume's epistemology, as it is presented in the indispensable A Treatise of Human Nature. Hume's text alternately manifests scepticism, empiricism, and naturalism in epistemology. Interpretations of his epistemology have tended toemphasise one of these apparently conflicting positions over the others. But Schmitt argues that the positions can be reconciled by tracing them to a single underlying epistemology of knowledge and probability quietly at work in the text, an epistemology according to which truth is the chiefcognitive merit of a belief, and knowledge and probable belief are species of reliable belief. Hume adopts Locke's dichotomy between knowledge and probability and reassigns causal inference from its traditional place in knowledge to the domain of probability - his most significant departure from earlier accounts of cognition. This shift of causal inference to an associative and imaginativeoperation raises doubts about the merit of causal inference, suggesting the counterintuitive consequence that causal inference is wholly inferior to knowledge-producing demonstration. To defend his associationist psychology of causal inference from this suggestion, Hume must favourably comparecausal inference with demonstration in a manner compatible with associationism. He does this by finding an epistemic status shared by demonstrative knowledge and causally inferred beliefs - the status of justified belief. On the interpretation developed here, he identifies knowledge with infalliblebelief and justified belief with reliable belief, i.e., belief produced by truth-conducive belief-forming operations. Since infallibility implies reliable belief, knowledge implies justified belief. He then argues that causally inferred beliefs are reliable, so share this status with knowledge.Indeed Hume assumes that causally inferred beliefs enjoy this status in his very argument for associationism. On the reliability interpretation, Hume's accounts of knowledge and justified belief are part of a broader veritistic epistemology making true belief the chief epistemic value and goal of science. The veritistic interpretation advanced here contrasts with interpretations on which the chief epistemicvalue of belief is its empirical adequacy, stability, or fulfilment of a natural function, as well as with the suggestion that the chief value of belief is its utility for common life. Veritistic interpretations are offered of the natural function of belief, the rules of causal inference, scepticismabout body and matter, and the criteria of justification. As Schmitt shows, there is much attention to Hume's sources in Locke and to the complexities of his epistemic vocabulary.
Frederick F. Schmitt is Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University. He specialises in epistemology, metaphysics, and the history of those subjects, especially British empiricism. He has worked on reliability and naturalistic epistemology, as well as internalism and externalism about justified belief; social epistemology, especially...
Title:Hume's Epistemology in the Treatise: A Veritistic InterpretationFormat:HardcoverDimensions:448 pagesPublished:February 28, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199683115

ISBN - 13:9780199683116

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Table of Contents

Detailed List of ContentsAcknowledgementsNote on References1. The Epistemological FrameworkPreview of the DivisionsDIVISION I. Knowledge, Belief, and JustificationPreview of Division I2. Knowledge (1.3.1)3. The Natural Function of Beliefs (1.3.10)4. Justified BeliefSummary of Division IDIVISION II. Causal InferencePreview of Division II5. Causal Inference (1.3.2, 4, and 6)6. The Justification that Causal Inference Is Justifying (1.3.8, 12, and 15)7. Criticising Causal Inferences and a Criterion of Justifying Causal Inference (1.3.13)8. Epistemic CircularitySummary of Division IIDIVISION III. Scepticism about External ExistencesPreview of Division III9. Scepticism about Body (1.4.2)10. The Criterion of Justification and Scepticism about Matter (1.4.4)Summary of Division IIIDIVISION IV. Scepticism about ReasonPreview of Division IV11. The Reduction of Reason (1.4.1)12. Scepticism and Reason in the Conclusion (1.4.7)13. The Goal of PhilosophySummary of Division IVSummary of this BookBibliographyIndex