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Hume and liberal naturalism

Smith, Benedict (2022) 'Hume and liberal naturalism.', in The Routledge Handbook of Liberal Naturalism. London: Routledge.


The work of David Hume (1711–1776) is regarded as one of the most influential articulations of a naturalistic approach in philosophy, interpreted by many as a key inspiration for naturalist projects in a range of areas. Hume's ambition was to investigate the foundations of our thought and practice with the aim of explaining our beliefs, ideas, emotions and behavior in ways that rendered them intelligible by science. Interpretations of Hume have often presented him as articulating a clearly recognisable form of scientific naturalism. A reintegration into ordinary life from a period of detached spectatorial reflection enables people to re-inhabit, so to speak, our ordinary natural beliefs providing a form of antidote to scepticism. “Liberal naturalism” has been characterised in a number of ways, emphasising different forms that the process of liberalisation could take. The label “liberal naturalism” was first used by John McDowell in 1999 to articulate a form of naturalism that contrasted with what he called “restrictive naturalism”.

Item Type:Book chapter
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 15 September 2023.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in The Routledge Handbook of Liberal Naturalism on 15 March 2022, available online:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:15 December 2020
Date of first online publication:15 March 2022
Date first made open access:15 September 2023

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