Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Reductio Ad Absurdum of Humean Skepticism

Hume accepted that there are laws of nature, or at least that we must believe in them as a matter of habit.  However, he denied that we have any rational basis for demonstrating any law-like behavior in nature.  I argue that Hume's assertion is demonstrably false.

Prove A: There are laws of nature.
Assume ~A: There are no laws of nature.
~A --> B: If there are no laws of nature, then all probabilities are inscrutable.
~B: There are probabilities that are scrutable.
Hence, ~~A: by modus tollens.
Therefore, A: There are laws of nature.

In short, if there are no probabilities that can be applied to the workings found in nature, then there are also no probabilities that can be applied to Hume's skepticism about there being laws of nature.  Hume's skepticism, therefore, is inscrutable and hence, self-defeating.


  1. Mr Benscoter, could you give a layman your opinion on whether Bradley Monton's proposal concerning the spatial infinity of the universe could serve as a defeater for Aquinas' Fifth Way?

  2. Hi Cale,

    I'm not familiar with Monton's argument. Assuming that space is infinite, though, wouldn't imply that there is no uniformity of nature or that nature isn't the result of God's providence.

  3. Here is the paper I was thinking of: http://www.arn.org/docs/monton/Design%20Inferences%20in%20an%20Infinite%20Universe%205.pdf

  4. Thanks, Cale. It seems to me that Monton's argument only explains away biological design. Even assuming that the universe is spatially infinite, which is dubious at best and not plausible as Monton contends, an infinite universe still exhibits order (e.g. the laws of physics). Order, then, is either explained by chance, necessity or design. Since whatever happens over and over again is not the result of chance alone, it follows that the laws of physics are not the result of chance alone. Therefore, it appears that Thomas's fifth way remains in tact.