"Till at last there remain nothing": Hume's Treatise 1.4.1 in contemporary perspective

David Atkinson*, Jeanne Peijnenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

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In A Treatise of Human Nature, David Hume presents an argument according to which all knowledge reduces to probability, and all probability reduces to nothing. Many have criticized this argument, while others find nothing wrong with it. In this paper we explain that the argument is invalid as it stands, but for different reasons than have been hitherto acknowledged. Once the argument is repaired, it becomes clear that there is indeed something that reduces to nothing, but it is something other than what, according to many, Hume had in mind. Thus two views emerge of what exactly it is that reduces. We surmise that Hume failed to distinguish the two, because he lacked the formal means to differentiate between a rendering of his argument that is in accordance with the probability calculus, and one that is not.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3305-3323
Number of pages19
Issue number8
Early online date24-Jul-2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2020


  • Hume
  • Treatise
  • Regress
  • Probability
  • Diminution
  • HUME

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