The reluctant revolutionary: An essay on David Hume's account of necessary connection
Schwerin, Alan Kenneth
Kulstad, Mark A.
Doctor of Philosophy
Through close critical analyses of Hume's texts I have attempted to develop a new interpretative framework that makes Hume's arguments and positions more accessible, if not more plausible. More positively, The Reluctant Revolutionary is an attempt to defend what may be called a subjectivist interpretation of Hume's views on necessary connection. My central thesis is the suggestion that Hume identifies necessary connection or power with a specific psychological disposition of the mind--as he puts it in the Treatise: necessary connection 'is a determination of the mind to carry our thoughts from one object to another.' (T 165) But why would Hume subscribe to this radical thesis, one may wonder? A large part of my discussion is an attempt to answer this vital question. The book consists of four components. In Chapter One (i) I begin with the argument that Hume views his discussion of necessary connection as central to the Treatise--if not as its centerpiece, and (ii) then go on to try to place this discussion in its immediate philosophical context which is the discussion on causality. After further deliberations on these two issues, in Chapter Three I proceed to outline, and critically evaluate the immediate arguments relied on by Hume to establish his view of necessary connection. For the most part, these do not strike me as convincing arguments. Finally, in Chapter Four I broaden my analysis of Hume's view of necessary connection, and try to develop an account of Hume's conception of the problem that motivates his radical view of necessary connection. As I try to point out, Hume is driven by an irrepressible urge for clarity and rigour in metaphysics--an urge that manifests itself, as I attempt to show, both in the radical nature of Hume's proposals, and in his depiction of the problem of necessary connection. For Hume depicts the problem of necessary connection as a dilemma, according to which metaphysicians either (a) concede that the term 'necessary connection' is meaningless (by virtue of the non-existence of a requisite impression) (b) or accept that this term actually refers to a particular subjective psychological disposition, and not, for instance, to some external phenomenon. This chapter closes with a consideration of this dilemma, and its role in Hume's postulation of a radical view of necessary connection. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)