In my dissertation, I investigate David Hume’s account of cognition (i.e. the acts of conception, judgment, and reasoning) and offer a qualified defense of Hume’s account from a number of criticisms and objections. Without a doubt, the critic who plays the most prominent role in my discussion is Thomas Reid. This is because Reid was a) Hume’s contemporary, b) a fierce critic of Hume, and c) an exceptionally sharp thinker. In my view, Reid’s largest shortcoming as an objector (not just to Hume, but to most of his targets) is that he is insufficiently charitable.
Since I am engaged in defending Hume from Reid’s attacks (and thus think of him as the principle antagonist in my dissertation), I was pleasantly surprised to discover, in Reid’s Essays on the Intellectual Powers, a passage that near-perfectly encapsulates my own attitudes towards Hume:
A system of consequences, however absurd, acutely and justly drawn from a few principles, in very abstract matters, is of real utility in science, and may be made subservient to real knowledge. This merit MR HUME’s metaphysical writings have in a great degree. Thomas Reid, EIP II.12
As this is the very outlook that motivates my investigations of Hume’s views, I’ve decided that it will make an appropriate epigraph for my dissertation.