Hume pp 61-74 | Cite as


  • Terence Penelhum
Part of the Philosophers in Perspective book series (PHPE)


In his account of causal inference Hume has tried to show how our natural belief carries us beyond the knowledge we derive from present impressions and memories; how the concept of a cause itself reflects the manner in which human nature generates such belief; and how philosophers, through overlooking its psychological mechanisms, have misrepresented the nature of our concept of causation and have managed to deceive themselves into claiming a priori knowledge of the physical world that is unavailable to us. A parallel pattern can be seen in his discussion of our perception of the external world. But there is one major difference. He believes in both cases that human nature provides its own antidote to scepticism and that his psychological investigations can show us what that antidote is. But in the case of causal inference, it is Hume himself who first clearly saw the sceptical danger for which the antidote is necessary. In the case of perception, his predecessors had been very forcibly shown this danger by Descartes, and their theories had been explicitly offered as intellectual defences against it. Hume is concerned to show their inadequacies, and to reveal the intellectual processes that lie behind them. Both here and in his discussion of personal identity he takes great pleasure in unravelling the confusions of those who refuse to accept that scepticism is, in its own terms, unanswerable. His prime philosophical target is the theory of representative perception, and its attendant doctrines of primary and secondary qualities, as these are known from the writings of Locke.


External Object Philosophical Theory Continue Existence Perceptual Belief Secondary Quality 
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© Terence Penelhum 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terence Penelhum
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CalgaryCanada

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