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Introduction Remarkably it is possible to sum up David Humes vital assumptions about reasoning in a single proposition Reason does NOTHING except locate the presence or absence of contradictions This paper will attempt three tasks first to show the textual support for my interpretation second to explain how Humes scepticism about induction depends on this assumption and third to briefly argue that Humes basic assumption is wrong Textual Support Whenever Hume wants to show that reasoning cannot support something he uses the same argument the alternative is not a contradiction The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible because it can never imply a contradiction and is conceived by the mind with the same facility and distinctness as if ever so conformable to reality We should in vain therefore attempt to demonstrate its falsehood Were it demonstratively false it would imply a contradiction and could never be distinctly conceived by the mind1 Suppose that we try to use reason to establish any matter of fact Hume says that our effort is futile because the alternative is conceivable But if the alternative is conceivable then it is not a contradiction because contradictions are inconceivable But reason can refute something only if it is a contradiction Hence reason can never establish any matter of fact Hume liberally repeats this argument throughout his works on epistemology When he denies that reason justifies the law of cause-and-effect he says That there are no demonstrative arguments in this case seems evident since it implies no contradiction that the course of nature may change2 The argument is the same as above An alternative is conceivable contradictions are not conceivable and reason can only demonstrate that something is false if it is a contradiction Hence reason cannot establish the law of cause-and-effect Hume uses the same argument in A Treatise of Human Nature There is no object which implies the existence of any other if
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