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Hume’s Epistemology in the TreatiseA Veritistic Interpretation$
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Frederick F. Schmitt

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199683116

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199683116.001.0001

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The Justification that Causal Inference is Justifying (1.3.8, 12, and 15)

The Justification that Causal Inference is Justifying (1.3.8, 12, and 15)

(p.172) 6 The Justification that Causal Inference is Justifying (1.3.8, 12, and 15)
Hume’s Epistemology in the Treatise

Frederick F. Schmitt

Oxford University Press

It is an assumption of Hume’s pivotal argument for his associationist psychology in Book 1 Part 3 Section 6 of the Treatise that causal inference is justifying. Hume justifies this assumption in later sections of Part 3. He does so by establishing that causal inference is reliable. This is the conclusion of a causal metainference from a constant conjunction of observations of causal inferences of the right sort (proofs) and the truth of the conclusions of these inferences. From this conclusion that causal inference is reliable, Hume then it infers that it is justifying. The reliability interpretation of justified belief explains this inference. In fact the claim of reliability must be qualified in light of ‘the uncertainty of nature’, i.e. sample bias. This requires weakening the reliability account to require only prospective rather than simple reliability. Against this background, the justificatory status of probabilities of causes is discussed.

Keywords:   causal inference, justified belief, probability of causes, reliability, sample bias

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