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Naturalism, experience, and Hume’s ‘science of human nature’.

Smith, Benedict (2016) 'Naturalism, experience, and Hume’s ‘science of human nature’.', International journal of philosophical studies., 24 (3). pp. 310-323.


A standard interpretation of Hume’s naturalism is that it paved the way for a scientistic and ‘disenchanted’ conception of the world. My aim in this paper is to show that this is a restrictive reading of Hume, and it obscures a different and profitable interpretation of what Humean naturalism amounts to. The standard interpretation implies that Hume’s ‘science of human nature’ was a reductive investigation into our psychology. But, as Hume explains, the subject matter of this science is not restricted to introspectively accessible mental content and incorporates our social nature and interpersonal experience. Illuminating the science of human nature has implications for how we understand what Hume means by ‘experience’ and thus how we understand the context of his epistemological investigations. I examine these in turn and argue overall that Hume’s naturalism and his science of man do not simply anticipate a disenchanted conception of the world.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in International Journal of Philosophical Studies on 20/05/2016, available online at:
Date accepted:25 April 2016
Date deposited:26 April 2016
Date of first online publication:20 May 2016
Date first made open access:20 November 2017

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