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Cognition and Commitment in Hume's Philosophy 1st Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195159592
ISBN-10: 0195159594
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Editorial Reviews


"A significant contribution to Hume studies."--Jonathan Bennett, Syracuse University

"I know of no other writer on Hume who has been this assiduous in finding interpretive difficulties in the text and then taking them head on....Beautifully written."--Robert J. Fogelin, Dartmouth College

"Garrett's Cognition and Commitment is a first-rate interpretive study, one that unties a great many interpretive knots."--Ethics

"Garrett seeks mainly to show that Hume's position is internally consistent and to build a portrait of Hume as essentially a cognitive psychologist."--The Review of Metaphysics

From the Back Cover

There exists alongside the celebration of Hume's work for its philosophical brilliance and elegance of style considerable disagreement over the meaning of Hume's most famous doctrines, the precise nature of his philosophical greatness, and the value of his contributions for contemporary philosophy. A series of interpretive difficulties has led some to accuse the work of contradiction and disunity. In this vigorous new study, Don Garrett takes up the charges against Hume, demonstrates their weakness, and solves a number of well-known interpretive puzzles that have long stood in the way of a complete understanding and accurate assessment of Hume's philosophy. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195159594
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195159592
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,520,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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If only all philosophers wrote with such lucidity, clarity, and concision! This is a most articulate and descriptive analysis of Hume's thought in context of those who preceded him and detractors who have followed. Garrett is a first-rate apologist, not of the philosopher, but of the cognitive psychologist, David Hume. From the outset, Garrett regards Hume's significant contributions to cognitive psychology as first rate and unparalleled in history. What Garrett shows on this interpretation is that Hume uses the philosophical method to explicate his cognitive psychology.

Garrett first contextualizes Hume in the empirical school of philosophy vis-a-vis the rationalists; experience sola is normative, everything else speculation. But Hume's philosophy is less pronounced than his psychology, which dominates all his thought. Hume intends not to speculate, but observe, and make generalizations about his observations in regards to human understanding, passions, and sentiments - i.e., human nature. Seen in this light, many of the irreconcilable problems philosophers have raised concerning Hume seem to dissipate, and a new appreciation for his cognitive insights become more pronounced.

Garrett's heuristic approach is very Thomistic in tenor and form. Similar to Aquinas, he posits Hume's theories in a brief synopsis, outlines the controversies it has provoked, provides a logical framework to provide answers, and then answers the critics. The first chapter, in addition to a historical context, also established the essential frameworks that Hume works within: (1) Imagination vs. Intellect; (2) the Copy Principle; (3) Evidentiary Inferences; (4) the Five Kinds of Empiricism; (5) the Separability Principle; (6) the Philosophical Method of Cognitive Psychology; and (7) Reason vs. Induction.
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Format: Paperback
`Cognition and Commitment in Hume's Philosophy' by Don Garrett is a combination of new and previously published material by the author.

In examining the work of important historic thinkers there are two common errors to which commentators often succumb; on the one hand, there is the tendency to remove these works from their historic context and present them an easily refuted strawmen, while, on the other hand there is the overly apologetic approach which attempts to paper over any and all oversights, inconsistencies or errors, and transform the works into timeless inerrant pieces of philosophical scripture.

While Garrett makes some token efforts to recognize the limitations of Hume's work, he is well within the camp of commentators seeking to canonize Hume and his writing. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of Hume and believe him to be a significant contributor to early modern philosophy. I do, however, think there are well documented gaps and inconsistencies in his writing. Indeed, when looking back at his Treatise (written while still in his twenties), even Hume seems to recognize some of its shortcomings.

As with much contemporary philosophy, Garret's work is part of an internecine discussion amongst academics, and as such, is probably only of interest to devotees of Hume. That said, having recently re-read the Treatise and the Enquiries I found Garrett's discussion, if not completely convincing, at least interesting in parts. For example, the chapter on miracles is worth a read. Hume's comments regarding miracles are amongst his most famous and most criticized. Garrett lays out many of the criticisms of Hume's argument and then attempts to reconstruct the miracle argument in a more compelling and coherent manner.
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