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The Riddle of Hume's TreatiseSkepticism, Naturalism, and Irreligion$
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Paul Russell

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195110333

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195110333.001.0001

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The Riddle

The Riddle

(p.3) 1 The Riddle
The Riddle of Hume's Treatise

Paul Russell (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with a review of the classical (Reid‐Beattie) skeptical interpretation of Hume's Treatise followed by an account of Norman Kemp Smith's influential naturalistic interpretation of Hume's fundamental intentions. Other more recent interpretations, falling on either side of the skeptical/naturalist divide, are also described, including several interpretations that have paid more careful attention to the historical context in which the Treatise was composed and published. This account of the various alternative interpretations provides a framework for explaining the fundamental “riddle” of the Treatise: namely, that Hume's (radical) skeptical commitments appear to undermine and discredit his effort to make a contribution to “the science of man.”

Keywords:   common sense, empiricism, Humesproblem, naturalism, Newtonianism (methodology), Norman Kemp Smith, Pyrrhonism, science of man, skepticism, Treatise of Human Nature

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