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Hume- EHU 6.pdf

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Peter King

HUME: SCEPTICISM AND PHILOSOPHY [1] In Enquiry 12, Hume takes up the scope and limits of human knowledge, which he takes to be the fundamental issue posed by scepticism. [2] Hume rejects Descartes’s approach to philosophy, in general and in its details. Skepticism, he argues, is better if not hyperbolic but instead grounded on something “consequent to science and enquiry.” Indeed, it is the only sensible response to Descartes’s proposal to doubt the veracity of our own faculties, which Hume thinks is complete and unanswerable (think of Descartes’s insanity hypothesis). Besides, Hume holds, some version of circularity would be involved under Descartes’s approach. [3] The proper conclusion to draw from Descartes’s examples, Hume maintains, is a proper skepticism about the senses. Hume argues that the examples and doubts lead to a ‘representative theory’ of perception. But we can take two attitudes towards it. First, we could have a kind of naive faith that things in the world are as we represent them to be. But this is mere dogmatism. Second, once we reflect on the situation philosophically, we realize that objects (whatever they may be) are independent of our perceptions of them, and there is no way to ever know whether they are like our perceptions or
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