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Hume's Scepticism and Realism

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In this article, a novel interpretation of one of the problems of Hume scholarship is defended: his view of Metaphysical Realism or the belief in an external world (that there are ontologically and causally perception-independent, absolutely external and continued, i.e. Real entities). According to this interpretation, Hume's attitude in the domain of philosophy should be distinguished from his view in the domain of everyday life: Hume the philosopher suspends his judgement on Realism, whereas Hume the common man firmly believes in the existence of Real entities. The defended reading is thus a sceptical and Realist interpretation of Hume. As such, it belongs to the class of what can be called no-single-Hume interpretations (Richard H. Popkin, Robert J. Fogelin, Donald L. M. Baxter), by contrast to single-Hume readings, which include Realist (naturalist, New Humean) and the traditional Reid-Green interpretation (i.e. Hume believes that there are no Real entities). Hume's distinction between the domains of philosophy and everyday life, which is argued to be epistemological, is employed in order to reconcile his scepticism with his naturalism and constructive science of human nature. The article pays special attention to the too much neglected second profound argument against the senses in Part 1, Section 12 of Hume's first Enquiry and the corresponding argument in Section 4, Part 4, Book 1 of the Treatise.
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Keywords: David Hume; external world; naturalism; realism; scepticism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Tampere,

Publication date: 01 March 2012

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