Hume and the Demands of Philosophy: Science, Skepticism, and Moderation offers a comprehensive interpretation of the relationship between Hume’s scientific project and his skepticism. Nathan I. Sasser argues that Hume is a radical epistemic skeptic who has purely practical reasons for retaining the beliefs that are essential for ordinary life and scientific research. On Sasser’s reading, the key to Hume’s epistemology is his conception of philosophy as a normative method of inquiry governing the special sciences. Philosophy approves of the mental faculties that produce reasoning and sensory beliefs. But sensory beliefs and the products of reason themselves face insuperable rational defeater arguments, and because they do, philosophy demands that we suspend these beliefs. Hume’s solution to this skeptical dilemma is to point out the fatal practical consequences of doing so. He advises us not to submit to the demands of philosophy when doing so is neither agreeable nor useful to ourselves or others. Hume’s moderate approach to philosophy recognizes that if the human mind is not created by a beneficent deity, then we must learn to live with the divergence between the epistemic demands of philosophy and the practical demands of life.
Nathan I. Sasser is assistant professor of philosophy and head of the humanities department at Greenville Technical College.
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: The Problem of Hume’s Skepticism
About the Author
"Hume and the Demands of Philosophy is a careful and serious treatment of Hume's scepticism. Sasser adroitly draws an overarching narrative of Hume’s epistemology, offering Hume’s thought a pleasing unity not just within a given text, but across his different works. The book is faithful to the texts; competently and fairly engages and critiques the secondary literature; and offers a strong defense of a novel position. It is a fine contribution to the literature."
"Anyone who is curious about the naturalistic and skeptical strands of Hume’s philosophy will welcome Sasser’s book. Its careful attention to Hume’s texts and thoughtful engagement with secondary literature make it a valuable resource on this material, and its 'purely practical reading' of Hume’s response to skepticism advances a line of interpretation that Hume scholars have neglected and will need to consider."