Certainty, Necessity, and Knowledge in Hume's Treatise

In Stanley Tweyman (ed.), David Hume, A Tercentenary Tribute [the version in PhilPapers is the accurate, final version of the paper] (2013)
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Abstract
Hume appeals to different kinds of certainties and necessities in the Treatise. He contrasts the certainty that arises from intuition and demonstrative reasoning with the certainty that arises from causal reasoning. He denies that the causal maxim is absolutely or metaphysically necessary, but he nonetheless takes the causal maxim and ‘proofs’ to be necessary. The focus of this paper is the certainty and necessity involved in Hume’s concept of knowledge. I defend the view that intuitive certainty, in particular, is certainty of the invariability or necessity of relations between ideas. Against David Owen and Helen Beebee, I argue that the certainty involved in intuition depends on the activity of the mind. I argue, further, that understanding this activity helps us understand more clearly one of Hume’s most important theses, namely that experience is the source of a distinct kind of certainty and of necessity.
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First archival date: 2013-09-04
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