To account for conception and belief in the existence of conscious states as well as external objects we require original capacities that are inborn and that are realized as we mature, Reid argued. The experience of impressions alone would not suffice because their existence does not explain our capacity to conceive of them or believe that they exist. Reid’s empirical hypothesis is that our conception and belief in the existence of conscious states as well as external objects is the result of principles of the faculties of our mind—i.e., of consciousness, perception, memory and reason-to form some original conceptions of objects and their qualities. We are not justified, Reid acknowledged, in accepting the hypothesis simply because it fills a gap in Hume’s theory, however tempting that would be. Hume and Reid were committed to the empiricism of Newton, which meant that experience must be the basis for accepting general principles (Lehrer ). The criteria Reid employed to determine the existence of the inborn character of capacities and faculties have become standard. The operations of the faculties, if inborn, must appear before they can be acquired from tutelage and they must be universal. Reid added that they must be irresistible, and he thought that they were revealed in the character of all languages. The main point was that a theory of inborn capacities-i.e., faculties—could not be rationally justified simply because it avoided skepticism about the external world. It could only be justified empirically.
That’s why I think what Hume finds most problematic about extreme skepticism is its attitude towards inquiry. He asserts that if the skeptics’ principles were to be accepted then all life would cease to exist. Nonetheless, for we, and also the skeptics, are still alive – and not by chance or force, by “willing” to stay alive – then there is no reason to go on with such argumentation, or we should accept the defeat and impossibility right away and die.
Descartes, Hume and Skepticism Essays - …
Descartes is responsible for the skepticism that has been labeled Cartesian doubt. Hume critiques this skepticism in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. After his discussion of Cartesian doubt, he offers a different type of skepticism that he considers as being more effective philosophically. Is Hume right in his characterization of Cartesian doubt and is the skepticism he offers better?
Here, Hume seems to have causal inference supported by instinct rather than reason. The causal skeptic will interpret this as descriptive rather than normative, but others are not so sure. It is not clear that Hume views this instinctual tendency as doxastically inappropriate in any way. Therefore, another interpretation of this “solution” is that Hume thinks we can be justified in making causal inferences. However, it is not reason that justifies us, but rather instinct (and reason, in fact, is a subspecies of instinct for Hume, implying that at least some instinctual faculties are fit for doxastic assent). This will be discussed more fully below.A more serious challenge for the skeptical interpretation of Hume is that it ignores the proceeding Part of the Enquiry, in which Hume immediately provides what he calls a “solution” to the Problem of Induction. Hume states that, even though they are not supported by reason, causal inferences are “essential to the subsistence of all creatures,” and that:In this way, the causal skeptic interpretation takes the “traditional interpretation” of the Problem of induction seriously and definitively, defending that Hume never solved it. Since we never directly experience power, all causal claims certainly appear susceptible to the Problem of Induction. The attempted justification of causal inference would lead to the vicious regress explained above in lieu of finding a proper grounding. The supporters of Humean causal skepticism can then be seen as ascribing to him what seems to be a reasonable position, which is, the conclusion that we have no knowledge of such causal claims, as they would necessarily lack proper justification. The family of interpretations that have Hume’s ultimate position as that of a causal skeptic therefore maintain that we have no knowledge of inductive causal claims, as they would necessarily lack proper justification. We can never claim knowledge of category (B) D. M. Armstrong reads Hume this way, seeing Hume’s reductivist account of necessity and its implications for laws of nature as ultimately leading him to skepticism. (Armstrong 1983: 53) Other Hume scholars that defend a skeptical interpretation of causation include Martin Bell, (Rupert and Richman 2007: 129) and Michael Levine, who maintains that Hume’s causal skepticism ultimately undermines his own Enquiry argument against miracles.