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Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

2. Induction

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About this Lecture


In this module, we look more closely at our 'matter of fact' beliefs which are not based on current or past sensory experience (e.g. our belief that the sun will rise tomorrow). For Hume, these beliefs are based on inductive reasoning—i.e. we infer that the sun will rise tomorrow because we have seen it rise thousands of times before—which isn't inherently reliable: just because something has happened many times before, it doesn't necessarily mean that it will happen again. For Hume, this applies even to causation, which we will look at in the following module.


In this course, Professor Helen Beebee (University of Manchester) explores one of the most foundational texts of modern philosophy, David Hume's An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. The course begins by exploring Hume's explanation of how we come to know what (we think) we know, before moving on in the second module to look more specifically at the justification for beliefs that are not based on immediate or past sensory experience (e.g. the belief that the sun will rise tomorrow). In this third module, we apply Hume's 'inductive scepticism' to the idea of causation, before exploring in the fourth module Hume's compatibilist position on free will and determinism. The course concludes with a final module on Hume's position on the believability (or otherwise) of miracles.


Professor Helen Beebee studied at Warwick (BA), Liverpool (MA) and King's College London (PhD). Before coming to Manchester for the second time in 2012, she was a temporary lecturer at Edinburgh (1994-5), St. Andrews (1995-6) and UCL (1996-7), a postdoc at the Australian National University (1997-9), a lecturer/senior lecturer at Manchester (1999-2005), and then a professor at Birmingham (2005-12), where she did stints as Head of Department (2005-8) and Head of School (2011-12).

Helen has been involved in various research projects, including a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2008-10) and a large AHRC project ('Metaphysics of Science', 2006-9), on which she was a co-investigator along with Alexander Bird (Bristol, PI) and Stephen Mumford (Nottingham). More recently, she was co-applicant on a successful application to the Royal Society/British Academy for a Newton International Fellowship with Anthony Fisher, who spent two years at Manchester working on Samuel Alexander.

Helen is one of the co-editors of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research and an associate editor of the Journal of the American Philosophical Association; she is also on the editorial boards of Hume Studies and the Australasian Journal of Philosophy. She is currently President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science and President Elect of the Aristotelian Society, co-chair (with Jenny Saul) of the BPA/Society for Women in Philosophy (UK) Committee for Women in Philosophy, and a member of the Royal Institute of Philosophy's Council and Executive Committee. She was Director of the British Philosophical Assocation from 2007 to 2011 and a member of the AHRC's Advisory Board from 2009 to 2013.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Beebee, H. (2018, August 15). Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding - Induction [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Beebee, H. "Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding – Induction." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,