On the Interpretation of Hume's Epistemology

  • João Paulo Monteiro


At the end of his life, Hume neglected his first work, and declared that he wished his readers to take into account only the later versions of his theories of the understanding, the passions and morals. This poses a special problem of interpretation: is there a difference between a "young Hume" and a "mature Hume", as in the case of Hegel, and several other thinkers? Is there in Hume's work anything comparable with the shift from the pre-critical to the critical Kant? I believe that Hume's case does not fall in any of these categories, but that it still poses problems analogous at least to the first, that is, Hegel’s. This is the hypothesis this essay aims to investigate in the particular case of Hume’s epistemology. I defend the view that a correct interpretation of Hume's epistemology only becomes possible after a careful reading of his more mature works. I illustrate this by discussing Hume’s distinction between association by causation, on the one hand, and causal inference on the other, as well as his concept of experience.