A Pyrrhonian Interpretation of Hume on Assent

In Diego E. Machuca & Baron Reed (eds.), Skepticism: From Antiquity to the Present. New York, NY, USA: pp. 380-394 (2018)
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How is it possible for David Hume to be both withering skeptic and constructive theorist? I recommend an answer like the Pyrrhonian answer to the question how it is possible to suspend all judgment yet engage in active daily life. Sextus Empiricus distinguishes two kinds of assent: one suspended across the board and one involved with daily living. The first is an act of will based on appreciation of reasons; the second is a causal effect of appearances. Hume makes the same distinction, only he extends the sort of assent involved in daily life to theoretical matters as well. He is a skeptic both in finding no reason to grant the first sort of assent and in being subject to the second.

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Donald L. M. Baxter
University of Connecticut


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