Reading Questions for
Hume’s Enquiry, §12
Due Date: Mon,
- What does Hume think of Cartesian doubt? In what sense is it
antecedent to inquiry? Is it attainable and worthwhile? Why/Why not? Is
there some form of it which is valuable?
- While discussing skepticism which arises consequent to inquiry, Hume
points out that although natural instinct leads us always to assume an
independent external world, reason shows that the mind has knowledge only
of perceptions and cannot gain any knowledge of external objects. Does Hume
think that reason, having raised this skeptical conclusion, can lead us
back to knowledge of the external world? Will an appeal to God help
according to Hume? How does this relate to Descartes?
How does Hume reject even primary qualities as being dependent on the mind?
What are we left with when we acknowledge the mind-dependence of secondary
and primary qualities?
- In Part II of this section, Hume addresses extreme forms of
skepticism directed not against the senses, but against reason itself.
First he discusses (though not in much detail, for he assumes they are
familiar to his reader) paradoxes of space and time, next he discusses
skepticism regarding reasoning about matters of fact. What is Hume’s
attitude toward the most extreme (Pyrrhonian) skepticism? What effect does
it have? What effect would it have if we were all to accept it? Does he
think we could all accept it? What is the value, if any, that Hume sees in
this sort of skepticism?
- In Part III, Hume describes two forms of mitigated skepticism which
may be seen to result from consideration of Pyrrhonism. What are these two
forms of skepticism and what is their value?
- Hume then concludes that pure reasoning can give us knowledge only
of quantity and number, and that reasoning based on experience can only
give us limited knowledge of cause and effect (in his limited sense of
cause and effect). What do you think Descartes or Plato or Socrates would
think of Hume’s views on knowledge and skepticism?
- Remember to include one or two questions you had while reading.
Include your thoughts on possible answers.