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Blackburn on Hume Fall 2012 Dr. David Frost Instructor of Philosophy University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

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1 Blackburn on Hume Fall 2012 Dr. David Frost Instructor of Philosophy University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point

2 Blackburn on Hume Fall 2012 Dr. David Frost Instructor of Philosophy University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point

3 Introduction “Here we are, cozily occupying a tiny corner of the vast reaches of Time. Everything’s been going along pretty nicely up to now – but it might all fall apart! Anything could happen! After all, what’s stopping it? Stuff happens. So far, stuff has been kind enough to happen in nice, regular, predictable ways, by and large. But maybe the regularity of the Universe thus far has just been a matter of cosmic luck, and maybe next year or next week or in the next ten minutes, our luck will run out and chaos will descend – or maybe the Universe will start behaving in other regular but far less friendly ways.” - Helen Beebee

4 Introduction Simon Blackburn calls this worry, “inductive vertigo,” (1993, 98). Beebee continues: What the vertigo-sufferer needs is a metaphysician; for only a metaphysician is in a position to tell the afflicted that, in fact, it can’t all fall apart…. What kind of metaphysician is in a position to offer a cure? Broadly speaking, it will be someone who holds that there is something in the world that makes it regular: something that constrains how things can happen in such a way that they are guaranteed not to fall apart. In other words, the vertigo-sufferers best bet is to consult a necessitarian of some sort.

5 A Straightjacket Against Vertigo In other words, we want there to be “a straightjacket” to ward off inductive vertigo. A straightjacket would be the “ultimate springs” of the universe in virtue of which regularities are regular in the way that they are. Hume says there is no such thing. Or does he say, there is such a thing but we can’t know or understand it?

6 The Interpretative Dilemma The “skeptical realist” says that there are necessary connections or straightjackets; it’s just that we cannot come to know them. The “anti-realist” says it is fundamentally unintelligible even to say that there exists necessary connections or a straightjacketing fact. The interpretative dilemma is: which is correct as a reading of Hume?

7 Some Hume Basics Hume has a “radical empiricist” theory of ideas Perceptions come in two kinds: ideas and impressions Ideas are less “lively” copies (in some way) of impressions Hume’s method is to trace suspicious philosophical ideas back to their source in an original impression. If one can’t be found then that philosophical term is fundamentally meaningless and unintelligible empirically- speaking.

8 Some Hume Basics Hume’s theory of causation is contested but I can try to set the scene as non-tendentiously as possible According to Hume we come to know what causal relations there are through experience and not through our rational faculties. Consider example of Adam In other words, causal relations are matters of fact not relations among ideas. Explain.

9 Blackburn’s Article In 1993, when this article was written, the long-standing “positivist” reading of Hume was being challenged by a so- called “skeptical realist” reading. The positivist reading is due to the Logical Positivists and their desire to be what they considered proper Humeans. They were going to do without necessity anywhere in their theory or in the world. They called Hume “the great denier of necessity.”

10 Positivism Positivism is a movement inspired by and sometimes named after Hume (when it is called Humeanism). But it is less an interpretative reading of the historical Hume, than it is a test of ideological purity. They called themselves Humean but they are very much over-simplifying what Hume actually said. Necessity is part of the idea of causation, Hume seems to say. See p. 95.

11 Thick or Necessary Connections Blackburn introduces the terminology of a “thick” connection by which he means a necessary connection between causally related events of the kind denied by the positivists. A thick connection is a regularity that is more than just regular, it is necessarily so. This is what the fight is over: are there such things? Possibilities: There are not; there are, but we can’t know them.

12 Skeptical Realism Skeptical realism holds that Hume said There are thick necessary connections We can suppose but not conceive them We can form only a relative idea of them Whether this or another reading is correct of Hume depends on the text and your interpretative framework

13 Skeptical Realism Blackburn thinks skeptical realism is wrong or at least “an error of taste” i.e., putting the emphasis in the wrong place “Skeptical realism seems to demand that we understand what it would be for one event to depend on another, even if we are ignorant of the nature of this relation,” (95) Blackburn says the above believing that the demand cannot be met

14 An Inconsistent Triad (1)We have no ideas except those that are preceded by suitably related impressions. (2)There are no impressions that are suitably related to the idea of a thick necessary connection between distinct events. (3)We have an idea of a thick necessary connection between distinct events.

15 An Inconsistent Triad Positivism denies proposition (3). Skeptical realism adds the notion of a “relative” idea to make (2) and (3) consistent. i.e., you can “suppose” but not “conceive” a relative idea of thick necessary connections Blackburn objects that these terms (“suppose,” “conceive,” and “relative idea”) are used in reference to “external objects,” never causation. See page 97.

16 Causal Nexus and Straightjacket We want there to be a nexus/straightjacketing fact that makes events happen in the regular way that they do happen Nexus versus straightjacketing A nexus/straightjacket is a fact that alleviates inductive vertigo.

17 Causal Nexus and Straightjacket A nexus/straightjacket would be “a very peculiar fact” God’s will Armstrong’s “timeless, gridlock of universals” Strawson’s powers inherent to matter.

18 Causal Nexus and Straightjacket None of those theories of straightjacketing facts works To apprehend a straightjacket would “be apprehending the impossibility of things ever being otherwise,” (100). We just don’t have empirical impressions of unactualized possibilities and impossibilities As far as logical necessity goes any straightjacketing fact could become otherwise at any moment Any straightjacketing fact itself needs a straightjacket

19 Causal Nexus and Straightjacket “Hume’s main interest in causation is to destroy the idea that we could ever apprehend a straightjacketing fact,” (101). Science does not seek straightjacketing facts; it systematizes Might we allow the skeptical realist a “relative” idea of a straightjacketing fact? “a something-we-know-not-what that governs/brings about/explains the continuing order of nature” But we don’t understand “governing” or “bringing about”

20 Causal Nexus and Straightjacket Hume is “contemptuous of any kind of theorizing conducted in terms of” a straightjacket, Blackburn says. Just as he is of “occult qualities” or “substance” Anything we say here “will be of little consequence to the world” And our philosophical understanding of the notions we use “must sail on in complete indifference to any fact transcending our ideas,” (102).

21 For Anti-Realism We do in fact use causal language. But the use is anti-realist, which means causal language does not refer to what we pre-theoretically think it refers. See p. 103 Discuss “moralizing” and “causalizing” Projection and expression

22 For Anti-Realism “Finally, the contradiction I identified at the beginning of this essay is sidestepped by distinguishing a representative idea of a connection, which we do not have, from a capacity to make legitimate use of a term whose function is given nonrepresentatively, which we can have,” (105).

23 Thank you

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