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What causes them to orbit the earth. What causes the high and the changes of the seasons the changing positions of the planets in the sky. What causes material bodies to fall or gases to expand or the blood to circulate throughout the body. These causal questions had been asked and answered by Copernicus Kepler Galileo Boyle Harvie and Newton. But we are asked what causes cancer what causes schizophrenia what causes the wars that we have what causes the degenerative process of physical aging the degradation of American cities what causes inflation or unemployment what causes the siting of flying saucers. These are causal questions which plague us in our time. Do you agree with that. All our thinking about matters of fact is causal and that whenever we are concerned about matters of fact we think about what causes a given effect. HUME claims that the relation of cause and effect is the crucial concept in
all our thinking about factual matters. But if a causal relationship plays so dominant a role in everyday life in science philosophy theology and morals then surely says HUME We must some questions about it too trying to understand it rather than assume we already know what it means. First of all he asks the typically Humean question the question that Hume always OSC from What impression does the idea of cause come. We already know what Hume is up to. He is using the devastating principle he has already established that every idea has a corresponding impression from which it arises. An idea you remember is nothing but an image of the impression from which it has arisen. Your idea of your own mother is nothing but the images of the direct sensory impressions of seeing her hearing her touching her that you have had
without these impressions you would have no idea of your mother where there was no impression there was no Idea where there was no impression. Anyone who claims to have an idea is talking nonsense. His idea is meaningless. For HUME A word is meaningful only if it refers to an impression or to an idea which copies that impression Hume's Principle no impression no idea no impression the idea is meaningless is nonsense is a fraud. So this principle is as we have seen is most powerful and pure assist wrecking ball. And so Hugh mosques the seemingly harmless question from what impression if any does the idea of cause arise. It must be the case that the idea of causation arises in the mind from the way in which objects are related to each other rather than from an individual objects. And so Hume asks from what
impressions are relations between objects. Does the idea of cause arise. What are these relations. Now the popular every day idea of causalities as Hume arises from our impressions of two kinds of relations between objects. First is the relation of contiguity or contact. We ordinarily consider that first something to be the cause of something else it must touch it be specially connected to it as when we see one billiard ball may contact with another. When we see the second billiard ball move we are likely to say that the first billiard ball caused it to move. Another relation between objects which is essential to our every day idea of causality is that to the effect namely the movement of the second billiard ball should immediately follow the cause. In other words that the cause should be prior in time to the effect we consider a billiard ball one because of the motion of
billiard ball to when we have two impressions of the relations between them. That billiard ball one is specially contiguous with in spatial contact with billiard ball do and that is also temporally prior to it. These two relations taken together the cause being spatially contiguous with the effect and temporally prior to it. HUME calls their conjunction but a third kind of relationship must also take place in our everyday idea of cause and effect. The third relationship Hume says is that of necessary connection. And he adds that relation necessary connection is of much greater importance than any of the other two. By necessary connection is meant the relation between cause and effect in which the cause necessarily produce is the effect.
For example the impact of billiard ball one on billiard ball 2 is the cause which necessarily produces the effect of the motion of billiard ball 2. But from what impression RHASIS do we derive the idea of necessary connection between cause and effect. This is no easy matter so we must beat about in neighboring fields just see if we can flush out the answer first. Why do we believe in the causal principle at all. Why do we believe that everything that occurs has some cause that necessarily produces it. This principle that everything must have a cause that nothing is uncaused. That something cannot come from nothing was regarded by Descartes and by the scholastic philosophers before him and by the rationalistic philosophers after him as a self-evident truth that proves itself directly to reason. But human waste no time in destroying the rationalists defense of the
causal principle that everything has some cause but necessarily produced it. The rationalists have not shown he says that the causal principle is absolutely certain self-evident to reason and needs no more proof than those two plus two equals four. HUME concludes that there is no rational proof whatsoever of a causal principle. If we believe in the causal principle he says it is only through a habit or custom that we do so. There is no rational basis for it. But no human moves on to a second question on which he is going to concentrate his greatest energies. Why do we think that a particularly cause must necessarily have a particularly effect. We cannot know this by reason. We cannot make a rational analysis of the essence of fire to show that fire produces the necessary effect of burning the human skin. As we will see argues that reason can tell us nothing about factual matters
like fire. Reason he restricts to the areas of mathematics and logic. In this way he makes nonsense of all of the efforts of Plato to offer a rational analysis of the pure forms or of Descartes to offer a clear and distinct rational ideas of substances. But suppose we look for the necessary impression of necessary connection between a particular cause and effect. For example between a burning match in my hand and the sensation of heat which it produces on my fingers. But I can find no impression here of necessary connection. I see a flame and I feel a burning sensation. The flame is spatially contiguous to and temporally prior to the sensation of heat in my fingers. These are the first two relations that are required for the every day idea of causality. But the third
the impression of necessary connection. I do not have nor can I have it since it is already clear that all that I can have impressions of are separate sensations. But if neither reason nor sensory impressions give us the right to say so why do we say that a particular cause necessarily has a particularly but he finally comes up with the answer he thinks we have the idea of a necessary connection between a particular cause and effect after we experience their conjunction repeatedly. He calls this constant conjunction. If we experience repeatedly fire as spatially contiguous to and temporally prior to my fingers having the sensation of heat then without any further ceremony says whom we call the one cause and the
other effect. But the repetition of impressions of constant conjunction spatially and temporally of the flaming match and the burning sensation in the fingers still does not provide an impression of necessary connection. Repeated instances of fire burning. Do not give us an impression of necessary connection between the flame and the burning sensation. The necessary connection between the two is not something that can be observed. One can see the point. Another impression spatially adjoining it is the impression of a burning sensation. But where can one observe a necessary connection. Where can one have any impression of necessary connection between the two. Such that the effect must occur. That is the necessary result of the cause. But if the idea of necessary connection has no corresponding impression. If we
cannot derive the idea from observation of repeated and constant conjunction then on human's own principle no impression no idea the idea of necessary connection between causes and effects becomes meaningless. A fraud and nonsense. But Hume hangs on because the causal relation is so important to analyze. He asks Where then does the idea come from this crucial and powerful idea since it does not come from reason and it does not come from a sensory impression. What the then is its source. It must then be subjective. It must come from the mind and specifically it must come from the psychological laws of association of ideas. The idea of necessary connection between causes and effects is not in the objects we observe but only in the mind he concludes
for up there we have observed but constant conjunction of fire and the sensation of burning in our fingers we feel a necessity of the mind to associate fire with burning. After we have experienced a followed by B repeatedly by the association of ideas we come to expect to be to occur after a occurs. We have formed a habit of anticipating that B will occur after a but even more we feel compelled. We have a feeling of compulsion or propulsion. We have a gentle force. Propelling us to expect to be. It is this compulsion or necessity of the mind by the law of association of ideas to associate a would be the plane with the burning sensation. It is this that is the internal and purely psychological source of our idea of necessary
causal connection. Thus the idea of necessary connection between particular causes and effects is derives not from rational self evidence and not from any empirical sense impression but only from the Psychological Association of our ideas humans. Point is that we cannot perceive any cause producing necessarily any effect. The idea of necessary causality is therefore on his own principle worthless false and a fraud. When any A and B the flame and the burning sensation are in constant conjunction then when a occurs we expect to be to occur. We have the habit of anticipating B. We feel the necessity a compulsion to expect to be. We have now followed the main lines of Hume's very lengthy analysis of causality
as an extreme radical empiricist he has demolished the claims of science to have discovered it necessary calls the laws of nature such as the laws of mechanics. The law of gravity. The law of the circulation of the blood. Hume has shown that causal necessity is not an object of relationship between objects which scientists can observe but is only a subjective compulsion to relate objects by the psychological laws of association causal necessity has no source in sense impressions. But its source is only in the laws of our own psychology. There are no necessary connections between objects no necessary connection between the moon and the Rise and Fall of the tides. There was only the psychological necessity of our associating ideas with one another. As Hume himself says. Objects have no discoverable connection to gether nor
is it from any other principle but custom that we draw any inference from one to the other. Do you think that scientific laws establish necessary causal connections. Do you think that every time an electric spark passes through a mixture of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen that the necessary result will be that the gases will disappear and that water will begin to form. But Hume says all you can know is what you have observed. How do you know that the next time you pass the electric Spock through the mixture of gases that water will form onto you assuming that the electric spark in the mixture of gases is the necessary cause of the formation of water as its necessary effect. But humungous try to show you that you have no right to talk of necessary connections Hume's point is that the idea of necessary connection between cause and effect is something that experience
can never give us each impression that we have an experience is a separate experience. What impression will follow another. What will happen when the spark touches the mixture of gases. This we can only learn by experience. But experience cannot guarantee that this effect is necessary. Experience cannot even guarantee that it will ever happen again even though it has happened repeatedly in the past. But when we have impressions of the constant conjunction of the mixture of gases ignited by the spark and we see the water forming we come to feel compelled to expect that this will happen in the future and we mistakenly think that there is a necessary causal connection between the two. And so HUME Now redefines the idea of of the cause effect relation. A cause is an object
in constant spatial and temporal conjunction with an other. So that the experience of the one compels the mind to expect the other. This is all that we can mean by the cause effect relationship. What impact does Hume's empiricism demolition of necessary causal laws have upon the sciences. For no scientific law is it possible according to human to claim that it establishes a necessary connection between x and y between the gravitational pull of the moon and the Rise and Fall of the tides. There was no necessary connection between the injection of penicillin and the killing of organisms that have invaded the body. These are only observed constant conjunctions together with our own psychological compulsion to relate the one with the other. But could we not try to
save the idea of necessary connection in scientific laws by relying on the uniformity of nature. Conscious we know that causal relations in constant conjunction in the past will continue to hold in the future because nature is after all uniform. If nature is uniform then the same regularities are constantly uniformly repeated. Then can we not know that the future will be like the past that the same constant conjunctions will always be observable. But he'll more not let you save the idea of necessary connection by calling upon the principle of the uniformity of nature immediately. How do you know that nature is uniform. This you cannot prove by reason. This you cannot prove by experience and thus the outcome of Hume's driving consistent empiricism which requires that the only basis for
our knowledge be in sensory impressions the outcome leads to the conclusion that we have no knowledge. We cannot know that any scientific law will be true in the future no matter how often it has been confirmed in the past. The whole edifice of scientific laws collapses under the wrecking ball of Hume's empiricism. Perhaps at this point you will try to think of some way out of Hume's attack upon the validity of scientific causal knowledge. You may remember from Descartes the importance of mathematics as the very model of absolute self-evident truth has Hume forgotten mathematics as a source for truth not at all one of his greatest influences on 20th century thought is his view of mathematics and logic. The two types of reasoning which for Descartes were the only source of certainty in our knowledge and were the model for the new sciences.
Says he. We have been talking about one kind of knowledge namely knowledge of matters of fact. This as we have seen according to human consists only in our impressions and ideas. There is no necessity that any particularly impression will follow any other impression. The contrary of what usually occurs in the observer of the constant conjunction of things is possible. How do you know mosques that the sun will rise tomorrow. No necessary cause a law guarantees it. It is just as intelligible and without any logical contradiction to say the sun will not rise tomorrow. There is no more a logical necessity for the one than for the other. We can never know that a fact must be so. But there was another kind of knowledge which sets up in opposition to knowledge of matters of fact. This other kind of knowledge he calls
knowledge of the relations of ideas mathematics specifically geometry algebra and arithmetic. Give us a knowledge of the relations of ideas. This is the domain of certainty. The propositions of mathematics are either self evidently certain or they can be demonstrated by deductive reasoning to have complete certainty. The truths of mathematics assert relationships between ideas between abstract symbols playoff formal abstract truths. They tell us these truths of mathematics nothing about matters of fact and matters of fact cannot refute them. The truth two plus two is four is a formal truth. It is true in the pendent of any experience that we might have. Furthermore you cannot deny a proposition which states a relation between ideas can you
without being illogical that two plus two four. But Hume says you can deny that the sun will rise tomorrow without being illogical. And so you say Aha. HUME does admit that we have some knowledge namely mathematics which can give us absolute certainty. But there is a catch. Mathematical propositions must pay a price for yielding absolute certainty. It is that mathematics is not truth about anything which exists. It is not truth about any matters of fact. Mathematics is only empty abstract formal truth which tells you nothing about existence. No problem solution would States a relation between ideas can establish any truth about existence. Thus there is a tradeoff. Statements about formal relations of ideas like two plus two off or give us knowledge which has certainty.
But on the other hand it is merely formal truth empty and abstract. It gives no information about existence of statements about matters of fact on the other hand. Give us information about facts about existence. But they provide no certainty not even probability. And now we have seen that human in conceiving that mathematics gives us absolutely certain knowledge is by no means agreeing with the rationalists like Descartes Descartes tried to show that the coca toe was a self evident truth and at the same time it was a statement about a matter of fact namely my own existence from human's point of view. The cart was either totally confused or a total fraud. Humes distinction between two kinds of statements or propositions has been maintained by most twentieth century empiricists his propositions stating
relations of ideas are now in the twentieth century called analytic propositions Hume's propositions stating matters of fact are now in the twentieth century called synthetic propositions like human present empiricism maintain that no synthetic proposition what Hume called matters of fact can have certainty certainty is the exclusive property of analytic propositions. What Hume called relations of ideas. One of the goals which he set out to achieve was to discover the limits of human knowledge. As far as our knowledge of the world of facts is concerned we are limited says he. To our impressions and their corresponding ideas and we have no notion as to what causes them. And so metaphysics which is concerned with the ultimate nature of reality is impossible. It attempts to transcend the limits of our
understanding to know what we cannot know what we have no possible impressions of the idea of physical substance is meaningless. The idea of mental substance is also meaningless. They carts clain that I am a thinking substance is meaningless. There is no impression to which the idea of thinking substance corresponds. Moreover says human the idea of my having personal identity is meaningless. There is no impression from which is derives an identical single self. When says you enter intimately into what I call myself I always stumble on some particularly impression or perception of heat or cold light or shade an impression of love or hatred pain or pleasure. I never catch myself. And so Hume offers his famous definition of mind the
mind he says is a bundle or collection of different perceptions or impressions which succeed one another with an inconceivable reputation and are in perpetual flux and movement. But there is no identity in these fleeting impressions. Mind is nothing but a heap of moving changing impressions. The idea that we have personal identity or that we have a soul is false and meaningless. We have no impression of personal identity no impression of a soul. Is it any wonder that at the end of book one of the treatise when Hume looks at what his Wrecking Ball has demolished he is badly shaken. He writes in this book. The intensive view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me and heated my brain that I am ready to reject all belief in reasoning and can look upon no
opinion as more probable than another. Where am I or what am I from what causes do I do you arrive my existence and to what condition shall I return. I am confounded with all these questions and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable environed in the deepest darkness utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty. This outpouring of anguish is rare among philosophers. Next time we shall see how why it says no. Matter whose work. It was a Maryland senator for Public Broadcasting.
From Socrates To Sartre
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Will the Sun Rise Tomorrow?
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Maryland Public Television
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Maryland Public Television (Owings Mills, Maryland)
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Hume III: Causality. Radical Empiricism - Hume on causality. All our knowledge of nature is by cause and effect. The causal relation is the foundation of scientific knowledge. What impression is the source of the idea of causality? The idea of causality arises in the mind when these relations can be observed between cause A and effect B: (1) contiguity; (2) priority in time; (3) constant conjunction. But none of these yields the idea of necessary connection, that the effect B is necessarily determined by antecedent cause A. The idea of necessary connection has no source in sense-impressions, but only in the psychological laws of association of ideas, habit, psychological expectation. Necessary connection cannot be established for any "causal law." Uniformity of nature is meaningless. "The sun will arise tomorrow" is not denied but the necessity of the effect following the cause is denied. Causality is not an objective relation but a psychological association. Outco
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"From Socrates to Sartre is an educational show hosted by Dr. Thelma Z. Lavine, who teaches viewers about the theories and history of philosophy."
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Host: Thelma Z. Lavine, Ph.D.
Producing Organization: Maryland Public Television
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