Frederick Schmitt, Hume's Epistemology in the Treatise: A Veritistic Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 448 pp. £55.00 hb. ISBN 9780199683116 [Book Review]

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 13 (2):152-158 (2015)
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In this book, Schmitt claims that Hume, however implicitly, employs a fully-developed epistemology in the Treatise. In particular, Hume employs a “veritistic” epistemology, i.e. one that is grounded in truth, particularly, true beliefs. In some cases, these true beliefs are “certain,” are “infallible” (78) and are justified, as in the case of knowledge, i.e. demonstrations. In other cases, we acquire these beliefs through a reliable method, i.e. when they are produced by causal proofs. Such beliefs are also “certain” (69, 81) and are (defeasibly) justified. Thus, although demonstrative knowledge and beliefs produced by causal proofs are produced by different psychological processes, and so, admit of specific kinds of “certainty,” they are nevertheless, both certain, and so, they share the same “epistemic status” (68-69). As a result, although it is clear that Hume makes a psychological distinction between demonstrations and causally produced beliefs (proofs) it may be argued that Hume does not make an epistemological distinction between knowledge (demonstrations) and causally produced beliefs (proofs). Thus, in regard to epistemic status, the latter are not necessarily inferior to the former. This has larger implications for Hume’s method; if we can say that he employs a method that invokes knowledge, or at least, beliefs that share the same epistemic status as knowledge, then Hume need not be entirely skeptical about the results of his method. Rather, the possession of true belief is Hume's ultimate goal. (380)
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