Agora Speaker Series 2021 - Associate Professor Anik Waldow

How not to be an uncouth monster? Hume on reflective pleasures.

In this paper I argue that for Hume the acceptance of the other as a cognitive equal stands at the beginning of a process of reflection that generates a specific form of epistemic pleasure. This pleasure neutralises the experience of monstrous deformity Hume encounters at the end of Book I of the Treatise of Human Nature as a result of his sceptical doubts. It does so by placing the subject of experience into a community of like-minded creatures, and through this makes a rational engagement with the world possible. To substantiate this interpretation, I examine Claude Buffier, a French Jesuit writer whose works on common sense were available and widely read during the time Hume wrote his Treatise at La Flèche. I demonstrate that Hume’s account of reflective judgement in Book III resonates with central aspects of Buffier’s conception of agreement and concord, thereby inspiring a new understanding of the epistemic function of the feeling of humanity.