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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Metaphysics | Philosophy of Science
Is the world internally connected by a web of necessary connections or is everything loose and independent? Followers of David Hume accept the latter by upholding Hume’s Dictum, according to which there are no necessary connections between distinct existences. Roughly put, anything can coexist with anything else, and anything can fail to coexist with anything else. Hume put it like this: “There is no object which implies the existence of any other if we consider these objects in themselves.”
Since Hume’s day, Hume’s Dictum has played a major role in philosophy, especially in contemporary metaphysics. In ruling out necessary connections, Hume’s Dictum implies that causal relations and the laws of nature are contingent. It makes other demands on our metaphysics of science as well; for example, it places restrictions on our metaphysics of counterfactuals, dispositions, and explanation. The principle has applications in other areas too. Hume’s Dictum places constraints on our theories of abstract objects and moral properties. For example, Hume’s Dictum rules out the view that moral properties are distinct from, but necessarily connected to, non-moral properties.
While Hume’s Dictum is a prominent principle in metaphysics, few Humeans have defended the principle at length. It is assumed more often than it is argued for. As a result, Hume’s Dictum no longer enjoys the reputation it once did. It’s common to hear complaints about the lack of arguments in support of Hume’s Dictum. Moreover, philosophers are increasingly willing to defend views that are at odds with Hume’s Dictum. A striking example of this is the recent explosion of interest in views that take causal relations and the laws of nature to be necessary. Humeans can no longer afford to be complacent. An extended defense of Hume’s Dictum is called for, and that’s what this dissertation aims to offer. This dissertation has three parts. In the first part, I lay out some preliminaries and offer a precise formulation of Hume’s Dictum. In the second part, I develop three arguments in favor of Hume’s Dictum. In the final part, I defend Hume’s Dictum against objections.
Gibbs, Cameron, "A Defense of Hume's Dictum" (2019). Doctoral Dissertations. 1733.
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