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© Michael Lacewing Hume on causation Michael Lacewing

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1 © Michael Lacewing Hume on causation Michael Lacewing

2 Hume on causation We can’t deduce causal relations from examining one object alone Causation as relation: the effect follows the cause From a single instance of one thing following the other, the effect still seems arbitrary: the sequence of those two events could be accidental Necessity: effect must follow cause

3 Constant conjunction When I repeatedly observe one object following another, I begin to infer, from perceiving just the first object, that the second object will come about. Induction: the future will be like the past

4 Necessity: the effect must follow We don’t get an impression of causation from objects or single causal relation. Repeating the succession of events doesn’t change the objects themselves. So we don’t derive the idea of a necessary connection from looking to the objects. Does the idea of causation come from our experience of willing? No - still just succession of events.

5 Causal necessity It is the experience of our mind leaping from one (cause) to the other (effect), and nothing more, that provides the sense that the effect must follow the cause. We form an expectation - this is the only impression that grounds the idea of causal necessity.

6 Points to note The inference from cause to effect is itself caused by the experience of constant conjunction. The idea of necessity is not derived from expectation, but the feeling of expectation. This feeling is contingent - without it, we might have experienced constant conjunction with no idea of necessary causation. Is causation only a reflection of our minds, not a real relation between objects?

7 Objections Two inconsistent definitions of ‘cause’: –An object, followed by another, and where all the objects similar to the first are followed by objects similar to the second (constant conjunction) –An object followed by another, and whose appearance always conveys the thought to that other (mental connection created) Second definition contains idea of causation (‘conveys’), so is circular

8 Objections How do we distinguish accidental constant conjunctions from true causes (often described as ‘law-like’)? –E.g. man sets alarm for 6am in Manchester; woman in London gets up at 6am. –Night follows day How do we determine ‘similarity’ in causes? Is this mind-dependent?


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