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Hume on Cartesian Doubt

Hume on Cartesian Doubt

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Published by: hgildin on May 20, 2012
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337 558395103
©2012 Interpretation, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of the contents may bereproduced in any form without written permission of the publisher.ISSN 0020-9635
Volume 39
Issue 1
Winter 2012
Leslie G. Rubin
Aristotle’s Politics on the Hoof:Sparta, Crete, and Carthage
Steven Berg 
Dante’s Statius:The Comedy of Conversion
 Marco Andreacchio
Dante’s Statius and Christianity:A Reading of 
XXI andXXII in Their Poetic Context
Hilail Gildin
David Hume’s Two Interpretationsof Cartesian Doubt
David Leibowitz 
Reply to Levy:Socrates’s Post-Delphic Refutations
Book Review:
Cameron O’Bannon Art in Public: Politics, Economics,and a Democratic Culture
by Lambert Zuidervaart
Editor-in-Chief Hilail Gildin, Dept. of Philosophy, Queens CollegeAssociate Editor Nicholas StarrGeneral Editors Charles E. Butterworth Hilail GildinGeneral Editors (Late) Howard B. White (d. 1974) • Robert Horwitz (d. 1987)Seth G. Benardete (d. 2001) • Leonard Grey (d. 2009)Consulting Editors Christopher Bruell • Joseph Cropsey Harry V. Ja
a •David Lowenthal • Harvey C. Mans
eld • Ellis Sandoz •Kenneth W.
ompsonConsulting Editors (Late) Leo Strauss (d. 1973) • Arnaldo Momigliano (d. 1987) Michael Oakeshott (d. 1990) • John Hallowell (d. 1992) •Ernest L. Fortin (d. 2002) • Muhsin Mahdi (d. 2007)International Editors Terence E. Marshall Heinrich MeierEditors Wayne Ambler • Maurice Auerbach Robert Bartlett •Fred Baumann • Eric Buzzetti • Susan Collins • Patrick Coby • Elizabeth C’de Baca Eastman • Erik Dempsey • Edward J. Erler • Maureen Feder-Marcus • L. JosephHebert • Pamela K. Jensen • Ken Masugi • Carol L.McNamara • Will Morrisey • Amy Nendza • Susan Orr• Michael Palmer • Charles T. Rubin • Leslie G. Rubin •
omas Schneider • Susan Meld Shell • Devin Stau
er •Bradford P. Wilson • Cameron Wybrow • Martin D. Ya
e• Michael P. Zuckert • Catherine H. ZuckertCopy Editor Les HarrisDesigner Wendy Coy Production Designer Sarah TeutschelInquiries Mary Contos, Assistant to the Editor
 Queens College, Flushing, NY 11367-1597, U.S.A.(718) 997-5542 Fax: (718) 997-5565email interp@nyc.rr.com
83David Hume’s Two Interpretations of Cartesian Doubt 
© 2012 Interpretation, Inc.
David Hume’s Two Interpretationsof Cartesian Doubt
Hume presents his observations regarding Cartesian doubtwhile explaining the kind of skepticism he considers necessary to prepare onefor the philosophic pursuit of truth (“antecedent skepticism”). He expressescon
icting assessments of Descartes’s recommendations concerning suchskepticism. Hume condemns extreme Cartesian doubt as absurd, but assertsmoderate Cartesian doubt to be indispensable. Both ways of understanding“antecedent skepticism” can be found in famous writings of Descartes.According to Hume, radical Cartesian doubt recommends“an universal doubt, not only of all our former opinions and principles, butalso of our very faculties; of whose veracity, say they [the Cartesians], wemust assure ourselves, by a chain of reasoning deduced from some originalprinciple, which cannot possibly be fallacious or deceitful.” Hume emphati-cally rejects this. “But neither is there any such original principle, which has aprerogative above others, that are self-evident and convincing:
or if there were,could we advance a step beyond it, but by the use of those very faculties, of whichwe are already di
e Cartesian doubt, therefore, were it ever possibleto be attained by any human creature (as it plainly is not) would be completely incurable; and no reasoning could ever bring us to a state of assurance andconviction upon any subject” (Hume 1902, 149–50; emphasis added).One can appreciate the force of Hume’s objection by con-trasting Descartes’s doubts of the validity of clearly and distinctly understoodrational inferences, doubts to which Descartes succumbs toward the end of Meditation 1, with the way Descartes purports to overcome these doubts:proofs consisting of a connected chain of such rational inferences, proofs that

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