Is Hume really a reductivist?

M Welbourne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Coady misrepresents Hume as a reductivist about testimony. Hume occasionally writes carelessly as if what goes for beliefs based on induction will also go for beliefs obtained from testimony. But, in fact, he has no theory of testimony at all, though in his more considered remarks he rightly thinks, as does Reid, that the natural response to a bit of testimony is simply to accept the information which it contains. The sense in which we owe the beliefs we get from testimony to experience, according to Hume, is this: we each learn about the business of testimony from being exposed to it, and in particular to cases where what is told is manifestly true. Hume is also interested in the question of how we may be prompted to view some testimonies with suspicion, and how we should then respond to them. It is wrong, however, to take his thoughts about this as embodying an implicit theory of the basic mechanism of testimony. In fact he has a problem accounting for the human propensity to accept extraordinary testimonies within the general framework of his doctrine; the Treatise solution is wisely abandoned in the Enquiry.
Translated title of the contributionIs Hume really a reductivist?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-423
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Publication statusPublished - 2002


Dive into the research topics of 'Is Hume really a reductivist?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this