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History of Philosophy Group Talk (Jonathan Cottrell, Edinburgh)

Friday November 18, 2022, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

The History of Philosophy Group is pleased to welcome guest speaker Jonathan Cottrell, a lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Cottrell’s research focuses on early modern philosophy, especially Hume’s work. His current project focuses on Hume’s view of reasoning.

Talk Title

Reasoning and Rule-Following in Hume’s Sceptical Doubts and Solution

Talk Abstract

In Sections 4 and 5 of the first Enquiry, Hume argues for a “sceptical” view of inductive reasoning. And yet, by the end of the Enquiry, he takes himself to have vindicated this kind of reasoning as a method for conducting empirical science, including his own “science of human nature”. Accordingly, in the Enquiry and his other mature works, he presents inductive reasoning in support of his own beliefs about the unobserved, and he endorses inductive reasoning as preferable to other ways of forming such beliefs, especially ways involving the influence of religious passions. How might we reconcile (i) Hume’s “sceptical” view of induction with (ii) his own commitment to inductive science, without diminishing or denying either? In this talk, I hope to make some progress with this puzzle by examining the conception of reasoning at work in Hume’s “Sceptical Doubts” and “Sceptical Solution”. I argue that reasoning involves rule-following and that Hume’s “Sceptical Doubts” concern our justification to follow the rules of inductive reasoning. More specifically, they aim to show that this justification does not derive from any prior knowledge or justified belief that inductive rules are likely to preserve truth. These arguments help us to see the task for a “Sceptical Solution”: namely, to explain what, if anything, does provide us with justification to follow inductive rules. Hume provides only a sketch of this explanation. I try to fill in the details on his behalf. Lastly, I try to explain how this “Sceptical Solution” puts Hume in a position to recommend inductive reasoning as the proper tool for empirical science.

One of six departmental Research Interest Groups, the History of Philosophy Group explores topics in ancient and/or medieval philosophy, the period from Descartes to Kant, and Jewish philosophy from the medieval period to the 20th century.



Friday November 18, 2022
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
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History of Philosophy Research Interest Group
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