Can We Know Whether Scepticism Is Right or Wrong? Reid’s Criticism and Hume’s Answer

  • Claire Etchegaray
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 210)


In this article, our aim is to evaluate the relevance of Reid’s critique of scepticism and the defence of Hume’s arguments. As it was often noted, arguing that natural beliefs are not suppressed by philosophical distrust is not sufficient to refute scepticism. Conversely it is not enough to denounce that this distrust stems from the attack of the reason against itself, because this is a contradiction of the reason, not a contradiction of the scepticism. Therefore we might suspect that we cannot know if scepticism is right or wrong. This is the core of Cavell’s attack against scepticism and refutation of scepticism. Notwithstanding, we shall show that Reid’s strategy is not to demonstrate that scepticism is wrong, but only to suggest to the sceptic that he himself acknowledges the evidence that he claims to reject. Reid’s argumentation is altogether an exhortation and admonition. As for Hume, he develops a sceptical theory of understanding which is neither idealist neither realistic, and consequently accounts for our feeling of the presence of reality. We shall point out how it can resists to Reid’s consistent argument. In the conclusion we shall address Cavell’s problem in arguing that Hume and Reid offers helpful means to understand how we can acknowledge the presence of things, although we cannot know their existence, from an epistemological point of view.


Sceptical Theory Practical Life Providentialist Evolutionism Epistemological Point Epistemic Circularity 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversité de Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense (Paris 10)ParisFrance

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