Philosophy Professor Publishes Article in Journal Devoted to the Thought of David Hume

Georges Dicker (Department of Philosophy) published an article, “Hume and Induction: Merely Cognitive Science?” in Hume Studies, Volume 48, Number 1 (April 2023), pp. 79-116.

David Hume argued that inference from past experience (“induction”) can’t be justified, because it depends on the principle that the future will resemble the past (the “principle of induction”), but that principle can’t be justified deductively, nor can it be justified inductively on pain of arguing in a circle.

Some Hume scholars argue that Hume’s only purpose was to show that we accept the principle of induction because our past experience has conditioned us to do so, so that Hume was was only doing “cognitive psychology.” They’re right that part of Hume’s project was psychological. But Dicker’s thesis is that Hume’s purpose was also to show that induction can’t be justified. For his most famous point is that any attempt to justify the principle of induction inductively would be circular. One may retort that an inductive argument can’t be circular, for a circular argument is necessarily deductive.

Dicker argues that there’s nevertheless a sense in which an inductive argument for the principle of induction is circular: it uses induction for the purpose of justifying induction. Therefore, the “only-cognitive-psychology” interpretation can’t be right. For if the argument for the principle of induction that Hume faults is circular only if its purpose is to justify induction, and Hume has shown that it’s circular (as most philosophers think), then the purpose of that argument must be to justify induction.

Back to Brockport Today


Georges Dicker (

Posted: May 01, 2023