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Hume and Reid (Spring ’07)

hume2  reid3

Phil. 405/605: Hume and Reid

Spring 2007

Thursdays, 1:30-3:20, LC204

Keith DeRose,
office hours: Wednesdays, 12:15-1:45; C410

A study of the philosophies of the eighteenth-century Scottish philosophers David
Hume and Thomas Reid, focusing on their work in metaphysics and epistemology, with
special emphasis on their responses to skepticism and the different roles each gave to
the use of common sense in philosophy.

Enrollment: Here at Yale, you can never know how many students are coming to a class until it meets.  (And sometimes not even then!)  If there are too many students for the class to function effectively as a seminar, I will have to limit enrollment.  I will do this by having every student fill out a card with their vital information at the first meeting, and then posting the next day a list of those who are admitted into the seminar.  (Students who were denied admission to my Problem of Evil seminar in the Fall will be given priority here.)  UPDATE: All students who came to the first meeting and filled out a card will be admitted.

The following are required books, and should become available in paperback at Labyrinth Books, 290 York Street, before the start of the semester:

  • David Hume, Treatise on Human Nature; ed., D. Norton, et al.; Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: With Hume’s Abstract of a Treatise of Human Nature and a Letter from a Gentleman to His Friend in Edinburgh; ed., E. Steinberg; Hackett Publishing, 1993.
  • David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion and the Natural History of Religion; ed., R. Popkin; Hacket Publishing, 1998.
  • Thomas Reid, An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense; ed., D. Brookes; Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.

Written Work will consist of a 1-2 page paper proposal, due on Monday, April 9 [note: this due date was originally listed on the syllabus as April 2, but has now been pushed back by one week; students who want to can still turn in their proposals earlier than April 9, and I won’t wait until the 9th to respond], by 4:00 PM; and a 12-15 page (typed, double-spaced) course paper, due at the start of class on April 26 (the last meeting of our seminar).  Please check that these dates are possible for you given the rest of your schedule before signing up for this class.
Expanded description of written work:  Course papers must directly and substantially critically engage with one or more of the assigned readings for our course.  Successful papers will clearly explain the issues involved and the key argumentative moves made in the readings and/or discussed in class and sections, and will also advance the discussion/argument in significant ways with new considerations or lines of argument of your own.  A 1-2 page paper proposal is due on Monday, April 9, by 4:00 PM.  This proposal should be turned in by e-mail attachment.  It will not be given a letter grade, though the quality of the proposal will be taken into account in determining your course grade, and the course cannot be passed without completing the proposal on time.  Its purpose, in addition to prodding some to start work on their papers, is to give me a chance to check whether your proposed topic is sufficiently relevant to our course, and in some cases to suggest additional reading you might want to consult in writing your paper.  The course paper is to be 12-15 pages (typed, double-spaced).  It must be submitted on paper, not by e-mail.  It is due at the start of the last meeting of our seminar on April 26, and should be turned in to me there.  If for some reason you can’t be at the last seminar meeting and must instead turn the paper in before then, e-mail me to make arrangements for getting it to me.  Please use a staple — no paper clips or loose pages — and number your pages.

Grading: Attendance at seminar meetings is mandatory; unexcused absences are grounds for failing the course, even if one’s written work is good.  Supposing that atendance is not a problem, grades will be based primarily on the above written work, but participation in seminar discussions will also be taken into account.


For the second meeting of the seminar, and the next couple of meetings after that, read the following:

  • Sections 4 and 5 of Hume’s Enquiry.
  • Chapter 6, section 24 of Reid’s Inquiry, especially pp. 195.9-200.1.
  • K. DeRose, “Reid’s Anti-Sensationalism and His Realism” [JSTOR link]

For the next meetings, read the following:

  • Don Garrett, Cognition and Committment in Hume’s Philosophy (Oxford UP, 1997), Chapters 4, 10.* <–Update 1/27: now at Resources
  • Peter Millican, “Hume on Reason and Induction: Epistemology or Cognitive Science?”, Hume Studies 24 (1999): 141-159.*
  • Don Garrett, Reply to Millican, Hume Studies 24 (1999): 177-188.*
  • Kenneth Winkler, “Hume’s Inductive Skepticism,” in M. Atherton, ed., The Empiricists (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999): 183-212.*
  • Louis E. Loeb, “Psychology, Epistemology, and Skepticism in Hume’s Argument from Induction,” Sythese 152 (2006): 321-338.*

*at Resources

Our readings for the semester will include:

  • All of Hume’s Enquiry, concentrating on sections 1-5, 7, and 12
  • All of Reid’s Inquiry, concentrating on:
    • Dedication
    • Chapter 1, sects. 7-8
    • Chapter 2, sects. 3-7
    • Chapter 4, sect. 2
    • Chapter 5
    • Chapter 6, sects. 1-9 and sects. 19 (beginning with “We have now finished…”)-24
    • Chapter 7
  • N. Wolterstorff, “Hume and Reid”*
  • K. Winkler, “The New Hume” [JSTOR link]
  • portions of Hume’s Treatise and Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, TBA
  • other, more recent secondary literature, TBA


  • handout on sections IV, V of Hume’s Enquiry: word.
  • 1/25 handout: Reid outline: word.
  • handout on section XII of Hume’s Enquiry: word.
  • handout on sections II, VII of Hume’s Enquiry: word.
  • Reid on Hume’s “diminishing” argument: pdf.
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