Tamás Demeter

Philosophy as Lax Science: Humean Constraints on Philosophical Rigour

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In this paper, I introduce three constraints on philosophical rigour that arise from Hume’s views on philosophical activity. First, although the experimental method of reasoning, as Hume envisages it, is a productive way to analyse and explain human cognitive, affective, and social functioning, these accounts, while frequently ingenious, are avowedly fallible. The foundation of this inquiry is to be found in the imaginative and affective parts of our psychological endowment, rather than in rationality and reason. Secondly, our reasoning is, partly but crucially, a product of our socialization: it depends on general rules and socially acquired standards of judgments that are inculcated in us due to our education and schooling. This general feature of our cognitive ontogenesis is equally characteristic to our philosophical education and mature philosophical thinking. Thirdly, philosophical activity is not a field of disinterested search for truth. It is motivated by passion and in this crucial respect philosophical activity is like gaming whose primary aim is subjective and interpersonal satisfaction. But not only the motivation to inquire arises from a feeling, but feelings are the engine and foundation of Humean inquiry and judgment in general. These crucial features of Humean inquiry drive away from the ideal of philosophy as rigorous science towards a playful ideal that considers philosophy as a social activity capable to deliver engaging insights and subjective satisfaction.


  • Experimental Method
  • General Rules
  • Sympathy
  • Sentiments


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