Interview: Dr. Angela Coventry on David Hume

In conjunction with our meet-up on August 20th to discuss the philosopher, David Hume, this is the third post in a series about his philosophy as it relates to empiricism and skepticism.

I interviewed Dr. Angela Coventry, associate professor of Philosophy at Portland State University, and Vice-President & Executive Secretary-Treasurer of The Hume Society.

In our conversation, I ask Dr. Coventry about David Hume’s approach to empiricism and skepticism.

Audio Clip: AASS__Hume1

We also elaborate on Hume’s explanation of ‘The Copy Principle.’

Audio Clip: AASS__Hume2

And we discuss Hume’s critique on the Argument from Design and on the existence of miracles.

Audio Clip: AASS__Hume3

Audio Clip: AASS__Hume4

Lastly, we briefly talk about the organization of which Dr. Coventry belongs, The Hume Society.

Audio Clip: AASS__Hume5

(*) Each clip is about 8 to 10 minutes long, and it may take 5 to 10 seconds for the audio file to play.  I recommend right-clicking the file – and opening it on a new tab.

2 thoughts on “Interview: Dr. Angela Coventry on David Hume

  1. Chris –

    First, thanks for all the heavy lifting you’re doing in preparing neophytes like me for the meet-up! It is much appreciated.

    A couple of questions that came to mind listening to your interview with Angela Coventry. Hopefully they can be cleared up for me at the meet-up.

    (1) In what sense does Hume claim that ideas result from sensory experience (the copy principle)? In a broad sense, it goes without saying that our minds develop on the basis of sensory experience. A baby taken from the womb and somehow allowed to grow to adulthood with no sensory experience would certainly have a mind that would bear no conceivable relationship to ours. So in this broad sense saying that ideas result from sensory experience is stating the obvious. I assume Hume means this in a narrower sense. But what about ideas, say, that a mathematician gets in developing a proof of an abstract concept? Aren’t they legitimate and rigorous, yet not developed from sensory experience (except in the broad, obvious sense)?

    (2) Hume apparently considers ideas that are not grounded in empiricism as less worthy than those that are. I think of some concepts in physics as examples. Niels Bohr resisted attempts to “explain” quantum mechanical results on the basis of some deeper, unobservable principle, resulting in the dictum “Shut up and calculate!” Today string theory and the multiverse have similar problems. But I think today all physicists would readily admit that theories developed without the corroboration of experiment are necessarily speculative and less “worthy”, and this view seems obvious to me. Is this because Hume’s ideas have become so widely accepted today that we don’t think of them as other than obvious?


    P.S. You need to have a (more obvious?) link to your blogs on your website. I got the link through your email, but there is no “blogs” link on the website that I can find, nor a link to them on the meeting description. (You say “there are some blog posts…” but don’t provide a link.)

    • Thanks Craig. Good questions, and while I could take a stab at the first one – I think I’ll hold off, and like you said, have our expert address it on Saturday.

      Thanks for the feedback about the website. The homepage of the website is our blog. And I couldn’t embed a link in the e-mail via the MeetUp website, so I had to figure people would search a bit. I’ll say more about it on Saturday, but the website is going to be a work-in-progress for awhile.

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