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Durham University

Department of Philosophy

Staff

Publication details for Dr Benedict Smith

Smith, Benedict (2016). Naturalism, Experience, and Hume’s ‘Science of Human Nature’. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24(3): 310-323.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

A standard interpretation of Hume’s naturalism is that it paved the way for a scientistic and ‘disenchanted’ conception of the world. My aim in this paper is to show that this is a restrictive reading of Hume, and it obscures a different and profitable interpretation of what Humean naturalism amounts to. The standard interpretation implies that Hume’s ‘science of human nature’ was a reductive investigation into our psychology. But, as Hume explains, the subject matter of this science is not restricted to introspectively accessible mental content and incorporates our social nature and interpersonal experience. Illuminating the science of human nature has implications for how we understand what Hume means by ‘experience’ and thus how we understand the context of his epistemological investigations. I examine these in turn and argue overall that Hume’s naturalism and his science of man do not simply anticipate a disenchanted conception of the world.