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Hume’s Academic Scepticism in Its French Context

  • Plínio Junqueira SmithEmail author
Chapter
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 221)

Abstract

My main goal is to show how Hume’s mitigated scepticism fits within French scepticism in the early modern period. I argue that Hume wasn’t very familiar with ancient sources on scepticism, not even Cicero’s Academica. Instead, Hume could rely only on modern sources, mostly French ones, like Montaigne, La Mothe Le Vayer, Descartes, Pascal, Foucher, Huet, and Bayle. Faced with religious, scientific, and philosophical novelties, scepticism had to adapt itself to a new context and evolved in unpredictable ways. Though many modern sceptics (like Montaigne, Huet and Bayle) and philosophers (like Bacon, Malebranche and Pascal) didn’t think there was an important difference between Academics and Pyrrhonists, Hume (like Foucher) took the distinction very seriously, and drew a sharp distinction between them. Despite Hume’s assertion that there were no real sceptics, I suggest that Hume had particular thinkers in mind when he discussed these two kinds of scepticism. Next, I move to explain why Hume preferred to associate his own scepticism with Academic scepticism, despite his initial leaning towards Pyrrhonism. In this respect, Foucher’s Academic scepticism appears to be more important for Hume than usually assumed. Finally, I go on to show how Hume’s arguments against Pyrrhonism and in favour of a mitigated, Academic scepticism were based on his readings of Montaigne, Descartes and Pascal.

Keywords

Apraxía Belief Cartesianism Despair Doubt Equipollence External world Immaterialism Libertine Method Nature Ordinary life Probability Reason Suspension of judgment Tranquillity 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidade Federal de São PauloGuarulhosBrazil

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