chapter  7
53 Pages

SCEPTICAL REALISM

The claim that it is incoherent, or at best highly undesirable, to think that the world contains natural necessity, powers, essences, irreducible dispositions and the like went pretty much uncontested amongst analytic philosophers for quite a long period in the twentieth century. Perhaps that is why the sceptical realist interpretation of Hume on causation offered in Norman Kemp Smith’s The Philosophy of David Hume (1941) was for a long time mostly either quickly dispatched (see, for example, Robinson 1962: 168-9) or else ignored completely. Even Stroud, who acknowledges a debt to Kemp Smith and praises him for identifying ‘Hume’s philosophical naturalism’ (Stroud 1977: x-xi), ignores the realist element in Kemp Smith’s interpretation: the claim that Hume ‘is convinced that [causal agency] is a form of connexion, and further that it is a connexion which is necessary, and that it is this necessity which is its essential differentia’ (Kemp Smith 1941: 369).