Hume's Epistemic Sentimentalism

  • Author / Creator
    Okamura, Taro
  • Hume's epistemology in A Treatise of Human Nature has generated a great deal of research. In particular, in the section titled "Conclusion of this Book" at the end of Book One of the Treatise, it is ambiguous exactly what Hume's epistemological position is. While Hume arrives at a radical scepticism that gives no authority to reason at all, he remains committed to the use of reason in spite of that scepticism. The sceptical interpretations claim that Hume has given up on epistemic justification for the use of reason, while the naturalistic interpretations hold that Hume justifies certain kinds of reasoning by appealing to some natural psychological properties with reasoning.
    I find the naturalistic interpretations persuasive in that they capture Hume's stable and continuous commitment to reason. However, some serious problems have been directed at the naturalistic interpretations: the problem of normativity (it is unclear why we should follow certain naturalistic standards) and the problem of truth-insensitivity (the psychological properties that the naturalistic interpretations focus on are truth-insensitive.). In this dissertation, I aim to develop Hume's naturalistic epistemology in such a way that it can respond to these problems. In particular, I would like to focus on Hume's theory of passions, which has not been mentioned much in the study of his epistemology. I argue that Hume’s account of the “indirect passions” provide a response to the problem of normativity, and his account of the “calm passions” offers a reply to the problem of truth-insensitivity. In this way, my aim is to elaborate Hume's naturalistic epistemology into what I call “epistemic sentimentalisim” that some passions play crucial roles in epistemic justification. I also argue that my interpretation and the "virtue theoretic interpretation" that has been so influential in recent years complement each other in significant ways.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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  • License
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