Hume’s Problem, Occam’s Razor, and Wittgenstein’s Standpoint of Common Sense

August Fenk


Wittgenstein was a critic of scepticism and wanted to teach us (§464) “to turn a
piece of unclear nonsense into clear nonsense”. Is Hume’s problem such a piece
of unclear nonsense? Hume argues that a hitherto ever so regular course of
nature alone, “without some new argument or inference”, does not prove that “it
will continue so”. Two counter-arguments: (a) Epistemologically relevant changes
in the “course of nature” are an elusive idea, and any respective inference
would presuppose the validity of the very same inductive principles questioned
by Hume. (b) The following “reversal” of Hume’s argument can be justi-fied by
using Occam’s razor: Without some new argument or inference it is vain to
speculate that the course of nature would not continue
so. Both counter-arguments are related to other pragmatic dissolutions of Hume’s
problem, to Wittgenstein’s standpoint of common sense, and to the evolution of
knowledge systems in general.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; epistemology; pragmatics; heuristics; redundancy; parsimony; prediction; knowledge; skepticism; inductive reference; learning

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