He’s also thought of as a great Enlightenment figure, but the caricature of the Enlightenment is that it put all the weight on human reason: reason is the light that is shone into the darkness.
Yes, it’s a very back-handed compliment to Hume, because he was very doubtful about the powers of human reason. One’s got to be careful here, reasonable is a term of praise, and Hume uses it as such. He doesn’t doubt that there are better and worse ways of conducting our intellectual lives or conducting our scientific enquiries. He’s firmly on the side of the better ways of doing that. But he’s an opponent of the scholastic, quasi-mathematical, logical powers of the mind. Those powers he diminishes. What comes in to take their place is the doctrine of natural belief, of the way our psychologies will end up distributing confidence in things.
Shhhh. Simon Blackburn and Nigel Warburton are having an interesting conversation on one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume. Let’s eavesdrop on them and see what kinds of fun stuff we learn: