Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 12:10 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:

Again, Hume's main aim is to show that our understanding of causality is based on habit and convention, rather than inviolable a priori principles. Who was he criticizing? The scholastics, of course, and the Aristotlean 'categories of causation' that we started out with.


I don't disagree, either with you or Hume. My post was simply to point out that in the event of a broken toe, different habits and conventions might generate a different schema for causation. (I've become enamored of the word "schema" this evening, obviously.)

@kennethamy

kennethamy wrote:

I agree that it might be true that the explanation of his broken toe was not that a heavy object fell on it. All that means is that it is not a self-contradiction to suppose that the heavy object did not break the toes. But that is not a good reason to suppose that the heavy object did not break the toes, nor that someone who argued that because it is logically possible that the heavy object did not break the toes that we do not know that the heavy object broke the toes is saying something that is reasonable. Unless you think that unless it can be shown that it is impossible for the object not to have broken the toes, that we do not know that the object broke the toes. Suppose I claim to know that Obama is now president. And suppose that someone objects that I do not know that Obama is president because it is not logically impossible that he is not president. Do you think that would be a reasonable objection to my claim that I know Obama is president. Is it a necessary condition that it be impossible for Obama not to be president for me to know he is president. Similarly, is it a necessary condition that is be logically impossible that the heavy object did not break my toes for me to know that the heavy object did bread my my toes? Why?


I have to admit, I've become a bit lost while trying to decipher what you are getting at. You might need to break it down for me a bit; I'm feeling a little logically unsophisticated tonight.

I'm not arguing that a perfectly logical argument could not be made that the falling object broke the toe. I'm just pointing out that the argument would be based on the underlying assumption that in most cases (esp those involving sensation) one event is the result of the occurrence that immediately preceded it. If one worked from a different underlying assumption, one might make a different argument just as reasonably. In other words, different theories of cause and effect may be equally reasonable, but based on different casual propositions.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 11:29 am
@Razzleg,
Razzleg wrote:

jeeprs wrote:

Again, Hume's main aim is to show that our understanding of causality is based on habit and convention, rather than inviolable a priori principles. Who was he criticizing? The scholastics, of course, and the Aristotlean 'categories of causation' that we started out with.


I don't disagree, either with you or Hume. My post was simply to point out that in the event of a broken toe, different habits and conventions might generate a different schema for causation. (I've become enamored of the word "schema" this evening, obviously.)

@kennethamy

kennethamy wrote:

I agree that it might be true that the explanation of his broken toe was not that a heavy object fell on it. All that means is that it is not a self-contradiction to suppose that the heavy object did not break the toes. But that is not a good reason to suppose that the heavy object did not break the toes, nor that someone who argued that because it is logically possible that the heavy object did not break the toes that we do not know that the heavy object broke the toes is saying something that is reasonable. Unless you think that unless it can be shown that it is impossible for the object not to have broken the toes, that we do not know that the object broke the toes. Suppose I claim to know that Obama is now president. And suppose that someone objects that I do not know that Obama is president because it is not logically impossible that he is not president. Do you think that would be a reasonable objection to my claim that I know Obama is president. Is it a necessary condition that it be impossible for Obama not to be president for me to know he is president. Similarly, is it a necessary condition that is be logically impossible that the heavy object did not break my toes for me to know that the heavy object did bread my my toes? Why?


I have to admit, I've become a bit lost while trying to decipher what you are getting at. You might need to break it down for me a bit; I'm feeling a little logically unsophisticated tonight.

I'm not arguing that a perfectly logical argument could not be made that the falling object broke the toe. I'm just pointing out that the argument would be based on the underlying assumption that in most cases (esp those involving sensation) one event is the result of the occurrence that immediately preceded it. If one worked from a different underlying assumption, one might make a different argument just as reasonably. In other words, different theories of cause and effect may be equally reasonable, but based on different casual propositions.


No educated person thinks (or rather, should think) that just because A occurred and then B occurred, that A was the cause of B. To think that is to commit the elementary fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (sometime called the fallacy of false cause). And indeed, believing in it leads to superstition. After all, day always follows night, but anyone who has any education knows that night does not cause day. So, if I believe that A is the cause of B, I hope it is because not only is there a high correlation between A and B, but also, because I have an explanation for the connection between A and B. I am sure you realize that when I think that when a heavy object falls on my foot and fractures my foot, I have some (vague it is true, since I am not a physiologist) physiological theory in the back of my head concerning the effects of dropping heavy objects on vulnerable objects. For example, dropping a heavy rock of a water glass. So, although I do have some explanation in mind for why my foot was harmed by the heavy object, that explanation is, I think well confirmed by our further experiences with that kind of thing. Assuming a theory is inevitable. But there is nothing wrong with making an assumption for which we have every reason to think is true, and no reason to think is false. Is there?
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 12:21 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

So, although I do have some explanation in mind for why my foot was harmed by the heavy object, that explanation is, I think well confirmed by our further experiences with that kind of thing. Assuming a theory is inevitable. But there is nothing wrong with making an assumption for which we have every reason to think is true, and no reason to think is false. Is there?
It's the assumption in the background that's in question. That once you've related two past events, that you can now make a prediction. Hold a brick above your toe. If you drop it, what's going to happen?

You know good and well it's likely to damage your foot. Is it possible to doubt that? I can't. Neither can I justify my knowledge empirically or through reason. I can't observe the future, and noting that things have always been a certain way doesn't make a logical argument that they will be that way in the future.

You know the laws will stay the same. Don't let that fool you into thinking that you arrived at that knowledge through some logic.

Demanding that someone prove that your knowledge is wrong... noting that they can't... that's not a proof.

Proof requires starting with doubt and then gaining confidence through the proof. If you can't doubt that the laws of physics won't change then you're never going to be able to prove it.

So if you really want to say you have a foundation of reason for cause.. you're first going to have offer a convincing testament to your own doubt that the brick will hurt your foot when you let go of it.

My advice: don't drop the brick.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 12:35 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:

kennethamy wrote:

So, although I do have some explanation in mind for why my foot was harmed by the heavy object, that explanation is, I think well confirmed by our further experiences with that kind of thing. Assuming a theory is inevitable. But there is nothing wrong with making an assumption for which we have every reason to think is true, and no reason to think is false. Is there?
It's the assumption in the background that's in question. That once you've related two past events, that you can now make a prediction. Hold a brick above your toe. If you drop it, what's going to happen?

You know good and well it's likely to damage your foot. Is it possible to doubt that? I can't. Neither can I justify my knowledge empirically or through reason. I can't observe the future, and noting that things have always been a certain way doesn't make a logical argument that they will be that way in the future.

You know the laws will stay the same. Don't let that fool you into thinking that you arrived at that knowledge through some logic.

Demanding that someone prove that your knowledge is wrong... noting that they can't... that's not a proof.

Proof requires starting with doubt and then gaining confidence through the proof. If you can't doubt that the laws of physics won't change then you're never going to be able to prove it.

So if you really want to say you have a foundation of reason for cause.. you're first going to have offer a convincing testament to your own doubt that the brick will hurt your foot when you let go of it.

My advice: don't drop the brick.


I can't observe the future, and noting that things have always been a certain way doesn't make a logical argument that they will be that way in the future.

Could you just say why you believe that? It just seems to me that the fact that, for example, that all observed mammals have livers is an excellent reason for thinking that all mammals, both observed and unobserved, have livers. Indeed, it would be difficult to think of a better reason, except, that I can. Namely, that given what else we know about mammalian anatomy, and knowing the function of the liver in mammals, we have a powerful additional reason, even more powerful than the former one, for thinking that all mammals, even the unobserved mammals, have livers. For, unless they did, how could they be alive, and why would they have even evolved? In other words, we have not merely excellent reason to think that all unobserved mammals have livers, but in addition, we know why they have livers (that is, what is the function of the liver in mammals). Now, if those are not good reasons, I cannot even guess what you think would be good reasons.
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 01:26 pm
@kennethamy,
Well, this is causing me to pull down my copy of Hume's Treatise and reinvestigate. (or is it? Wink)

I'll try to build to concrete instances, but I would prefer to start out from Hume's conception of cause. What I mean by "rejecting cause-and-effect", I mean that I think Hume thought that cause-and-effect is not a real but fictional. So, to answer your question about the particular theory -- meh, I don't think that he just criticized this one notion of cause-and-effect. He attaches necessity to cause-and-effect. If the necessary connection between cause-and-effect isn't there, then we're no longer discussing cause-and-effect, according to Hume. Supposing your example: If I drop a rock on my foot, I would infer that this would hurt, at least, if not break my foot. This is a necessary connection. We're not allowing for the possibility that I miss my foot, or something: If the rock is dropped from a sufficient height, and hits my foot, then it will hurt. However much we abstract, Hume is attacking the connection itself -- my anticipation of pain from this cause. Hume claims that my anticipation is not something that is real, but is fictional -- that I have no basis for believing this aside from a feeling of conviction.

Also, in A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume is intentionally focusing upon how human beings form beliefs, knowledge, and ideas with the purpose of understanding morality -- in essence, he's trying to extend the scientific method to morality, and to do so he first needs to understand how we form knowledge (think of him as the the analytic version of Kant Very Happy). So, I guess I'll just begin. Up front: I'm reading through the introduction by David Fate Norton to present this, while looking up some select passages. As such, take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I'm only looking at old notes, the intro, and highlighted portions to remind myself rather than reading the whole thing.

Hume believed that the immediate object of the mind, whether it be an emotion, a tree, or the abstract thought of a triangle, was an object of the mind in all cases. However, he wasn't interested in proving the existence of external objects and other related problems: Instead, he was interested in explaining how it is that we come to believe that there are external objects (amongst other related problems). As an empiricist, Hume argues that our beliefs and knowledge comes from perceptions. Of these perceptions there are two types: Ideas, and Impressions. Impressions are the immediate objects of our senses and emotions, while ideas are the copy of these immediate sensations (the difference between these two is also related to how strongly they come across, but this is only a probable description according to Hume -- sometimes memories can be stronger than our immediate sensations). These ideas are mediated by two faculties, our memory and our imagination. The memory stores the ideas, while the imagination moves them, connects them, or compares them in various relations. There is also a connection of "vivacity" to these two faculties -- memory is thought to be more vivacious (stronger) than the imagination, and the imagination is thought to be less ordered than the memory.

It is in the relationship between ideas that we come across cause-and-effect in Hume. There are other relations, but I'll focus in on this one now. I'll only note that in the general system there are two types of relations, that which leads to intuitive knowledge and that which leads to demonstrative knowledge. Intuitive knowledge is better as it is more certain, and demonstrative knowledge is obtained by demonstration. From this Hume believes that causation is never more than probable, as it depends upon the order of events, and that order could differ at some point in the future.

So, what is the relation of causation, and what does causal reasoning entail? If we see that the ground is wet outside, for instance, but that the sky is clear, we would infer that it had rained, but the clouds had dissipated or moved on. Similarly, thinking about what would happen if we let a heavy rock fall on our toe, we would conclude that the rock would break our toe (or make it hurt a lot, at least). The catch with Hume is that we don't immediately perceive this, yet we infer it, and not only do we infer it, but Hume wants to know why we believe it. He states

Hume wrote:
The idea, then, of causation must be deriv'd from some relation among objects... I find in the first place that whatever objects are consider'd as causes or effects, are contiguous... The second relation...'Tis that of PRIORITY of time in the cause before the effect...Shall we then rest contented with these two relations of contiguity and succession, as affording a compleat idea of causation? By no means. An object may be contiguous and prior to another, without being consider'd as its cause. There is a NECESSARY CONNEXION to be taken into consideration; and that relation is of much greater importance, than any of the other two above-mentioned

(Treatise of Human Nature, 1.3.2.6-11, with abbreviations)

From this conception of causation, he asks immediately below this

"For what reason we pronounce it necessary, that every thing whose existence has a beginning, shou'd also have a cause?"

"Why we conclude, that such particular causes must necessarily have such particular effects; and what is the nature of that inference we draw from the one to the other, and of the belief we repose in it?"

Hume argues against the notion of the first question, and argues that our notion of cause-and-effect is neither intuitive or demonstrative knowledge and therefore must necessarily come from experience. He leads his argument to a point where he connects these ideas to the question "Why we conclude, that such particular causes must necessarily have such particular effects, and why we form an inference from one to another?" (1.3.3.9)

Hume's answer to the question is that we form a connection of cause-and-effect because of repetition of something coming before another thing. Eventually, we conclude "OK, this is the cause, this is the effect, and now I can go on operating under this necessary connection". And, surely, we do do this: No one actually believes that when they let go of a rock it won't fall. But, the only basis we have for believing this is that we've experienced it several times over and so we conclude that we will always experience it from this point onward. This, in the words of Spock, "Is not logical".

I'm going to quote the introduction at this point, because I think it gives a good impression of the argument on necessary connection and causation in summary:

David Fate Norton, I36-I37 in Treatise of Human Nature wrote:

1. The inspection of any two events or objects, one of which is said necessarily to cause the other, never reveals a direct causal link or power that connects these items.

2. The idea of power or necessary connection arises from the constant conjunction of two events or objects, or two events or objects of the same type.

3. The repetition of a conjunction neither reveals nor causes anything new in the events or objects said to be necessarily connected. But such a repetition does produce a 'customary transition' in the mind. It causes us to infer from the experience of one item of a customarily conjoined pair the second item in that pair.

4. This 'customary transition' is the source of an impression, namely, a felt determination of the mind. This determination is in turn the source of our idea of necessary connection--this determination copied, in the way that ideas copy impressions, is the idea of necessary connection.

5. It follows then that causal power and necessary connection are feelings of the mind, not qualities found in events or objects.


So, inferences regarding cause-and-effect, the one relation Hume thought could lead us to knowledge of something more than our immediate experiences, is nothing but the result of habit, feeling, and fiction. This is what I mean by "reject cause-and-effect".

To answer your questions

kennethamy wrote:

Could you explain what it would mean to reject cause and effect? Would it mean, for example, to reject that if something heavy fell on your foot and your toes broke, that the first event explained why the the second event occurred?


It would mean exactly that.

Quote:
What did Hume say that makes you think he rejected cause and effect rather than (and this is important) rejecting a particular theory of cause and effect?


The above quotation, where he defines cause-and-effect, should suffice to explain this. If cause-and-effect were only contiguous in time-and-space, then everything would cause everything (or something close to it). We attribute more to the notion of cause-and-effect, a "necessary connexion", as Hume puts it, and why we place this necessary connection in cause-and-effect that Hume wanted to explain. His explanation is that it's only a feeling of conviction we get from habit, and therefore, cause-and-effect isn't a real relationship in the world. You could propose another definition, such as "an explanation" (as I did, myself), but I think Hume would then say that we're playing with words rather than explaining cause-and-effect, and are basically admitting just as much as he's already demonstrated.

Quote:
Do you believe that Hume thought that if a heavy object were to fall on his toes and his toes break, that there was no connection between the first event and the second event so that the sequence was just an accident or a coincidence?


Yes. Also, no. Hume admitted to himself that even though cause-and-effect are not real, that he couldn't operate within the world without cause-and-effect.

Hume wrote:

Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. i dine, I play a game of back-gammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hour's amusement, I wou'd return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain'd, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther

(Treatise, 1.4.7.9)

From this he concludes that Philosophy is a worthless pursuit, and it would have been better had he spent all this time enjoying it with his family and friends. But then he goes back on this, and states that it's worthwhile to know that everything we hold to be true can be and ought to be held in doubt, even something as simple as stones falling from the cause of gravity. After this, he goes onto what he initially wanted to do: explain what Human nature is, and from that, build a science of morals.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 01:41 pm
@kennethamy,
Mammals have livers = a priori.

Thanks Huxley!
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 02:03 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:

Mammals have livers = a priori.

Thanks Huxley!


It is? Do mean we never had to look to see whether all mammals had livers? How did we know it, then. (What else do we know a priori about mammalian anatomy? For example, do all mammals have a pancreas? And since you know so much about mammalian anatomy, a priori, of course, what do you know a priori about the anatomy of reptiles? Have all reptiles a pancreas too? Or is your knowledge of anatomy (a priori) confined to mammals? Do any of your friends know about bugs a priori? Fascinating!
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 02:10 pm
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:

Well, this is causing me to pull down my copy of Hume's Treatise and reinvestigate. (or is it? Wink)

I'll try to build to concrete instances, but I would prefer to start out from Hume's conception of cause. What I mean by "rejecting cause-and-effect", I mean that I think Hume thought that cause-and-effect is not a real but fictional. So, to answer your question about the particular theory -- meh, I don't think that he just criticized this one notion of cause-and-effect. He attaches necessity to cause-and-effect. If the necessary connection between cause-and-effect isn't there, then we're no longer discussing cause-and-effect, according to Hume. Supposing your example: If I drop a rock on my foot, I would infer that this would hurt, at least, if not break my foot. This is a necessary connection. We're not allowing for the possibility that I miss my foot, or something: If the rock is dropped from a sufficient height, and hits my foot, then it will hurt. However much we abstract, Hume is attacking the connection itself -- my anticipation of pain from this cause. Hume claims that my anticipation is not something that is real, but is fictional -- that I have no basis for believing this aside from a feeling of conviction.

Also, in A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume is intentionally focusing upon how human beings form beliefs, knowledge, and ideas with the purpose of understanding morality -- in essence, he's trying to extend the scientific method to morality, and to do so he first needs to understand how we form knowledge (think of him as the the analytic version of Kant Very Happy). So, I guess I'll just begin. Up front: I'm reading through the introduction by David Fate Norton to present this, while looking up some select passages. As such, take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I'm only looking at old notes, the intro, and highlighted portions to remind myself rather than reading the whole thing.

Hume believed that the immediate object of the mind, whether it be an emotion, a tree, or the abstract thought of a triangle, was an object of the mind in all cases. However, he wasn't interested in proving the existence of external objects and other related problems: Instead, he was interested in explaining how it is that we come to believe that there are external objects (amongst other related problems). As an empiricist, Hume argues that our beliefs and knowledge comes from perceptions. Of these perceptions there are two types: Ideas, and Impressions. Impressions are the immediate objects of our senses and emotions, while ideas are the copy of these immediate sensations (the difference between these two is also related to how strongly they come across, but this is only a probable description according to Hume -- sometimes memories can be stronger than our immediate sensations). These ideas are mediated by two faculties, our memory and our imagination. The memory stores the ideas, while the imagination moves them, connects them, or compares them in various relations. There is also a connection of "vivacity" to these two faculties -- memory is thought to be more vivacious (stronger) than the imagination, and the imagination is thought to be less ordered than the memory.

It is in the relationship between ideas that we come across cause-and-effect in Hume. There are other relations, but I'll focus in on this one now. I'll only note that in the general system there are two types of relations, that which leads to intuitive knowledge and that which leads to demonstrative knowledge. Intuitive knowledge is better as it is more certain, and demonstrative knowledge is obtained by demonstration. From this Hume believes that causation is never more than probable, as it depends upon the order of events, and that order could differ at some point in the future.

So, what is the relation of causation, and what does causal reasoning entail? If we see that the ground is wet outside, for instance, but that the sky is clear, we would infer that it had rained, but the clouds had dissipated or moved on. Similarly, thinking about what would happen if we let a heavy rock fall on our toe, we would conclude that the rock would break our toe (or make it hurt a lot, at least). The catch with Hume is that we don't immediately perceive this, yet we infer it, and not only do we infer it, but Hume wants to know why we believe it. He states

Hume wrote:
The idea, then, of causation must be deriv'd from some relation among objects... I find in the first place that whatever objects are consider'd as causes or effects, are contiguous... The second relation...'Tis that of PRIORITY of time in the cause before the effect...Shall we then rest contented with these two relations of contiguity and succession, as affording a compleat idea of causation? By no means. An object may be contiguous and prior to another, without being consider'd as its cause. There is a NECESSARY CONNEXION to be taken into consideration; and that relation is of much greater importance, than any of the other two above-mentioned

(Treatise of Human Nature, 1.3.2.6-11, with abbreviations)

From this conception of causation, he asks immediately below this

"For what reason we pronounce it necessary, that every thing whose existence has a beginning, shou'd also have a cause?"

"Why we conclude, that such particular causes must necessarily have such particular effects; and what is the nature of that inference we draw from the one to the other, and of the belief we repose in it?"

Hume argues against the notion of the first question, and argues that our notion of cause-and-effect is neither intuitive or demonstrative knowledge and therefore must necessarily come from experience. He leads his argument to a point where he connects these ideas to the question "Why we conclude, that such particular causes must necessarily have such particular effects, and why we form an inference from one to another?" (1.3.3.9)

Hume's answer to the question is that we form a connection of cause-and-effect because of repetition of something coming before another thing. Eventually, we conclude "OK, this is the cause, this is the effect, and now I can go on operating under this necessary connection". And, surely, we do do this: No one actually believes that when they let go of a rock it won't fall. But, the only basis we have for believing this is that we've experienced it several times over and so we conclude that we will always experience it from this point onward. This, in the words of Spock, "Is not logical".

I'm going to quote the introduction at this point, because I think it gives a good impression of the argument on necessary connection and causation in summary:

David Fate Norton, I36-I37 in Treatise of Human Nature wrote:

1. The inspection of any two events or objects, one of which is said necessarily to cause the other, never reveals a direct causal link or power that connects these items.

2. The idea of power or necessary connection arises from the constant conjunction of two events or objects, or two events or objects of the same type.

3. The repetition of a conjunction neither reveals nor causes anything new in the events or objects said to be necessarily connected. But such a repetition does produce a 'customary transition' in the mind. It causes us to infer from the experience of one item of a customarily conjoined pair the second item in that pair.

4. This 'customary transition' is the source of an impression, namely, a felt determination of the mind. This determination is in turn the source of our idea of necessary connection--this determination copied, in the way that ideas copy impressions, is the idea of necessary connection.

5. It follows then that causal power and necessary connection are feelings of the mind, not qualities found in events or objects.


So, inferences regarding cause-and-effect, the one relation Hume thought could lead us to knowledge of something more than our immediate experiences, is nothing but the result of habit, feeling, and fiction. This is what I mean by "reject cause-and-effect".

To answer your questions

kennethamy wrote:

Could you explain what it would mean to reject cause and effect? Would it mean, for example, to reject that if something heavy fell on your foot and your toes broke, that the first event explained why the the second event occurred?


It would mean exactly that.

Quote:
What did Hume say that makes you think he rejected cause and effect rather than (and this is important) rejecting a particular theory of cause and effect?


The above quotation, where he defines cause-and-effect, should suffice to explain this. If cause-and-effect were only contiguous in time-and-space, then everything would cause everything (or something close to it). We attribute more to the notion of cause-and-effect, a "necessary connexion", as Hume puts it, and why we place this necessary connection in cause-and-effect that Hume wanted to explain. His explanation is that it's only a feeling of conviction we get from habit, and therefore, cause-and-effect isn't a real relationship in the world. You could propose another definition, such as "an explanation" (as I did, myself), but I think Hume would then say that we're playing with words rather than explaining cause-and-effect, and are basically admitting just as much as he's already demonstrated.

Quote:
Do you believe that Hume thought that if a heavy object were to fall on his toes and his toes break, that there was no connection between the first event and the second event so that the sequence was just an accident or a coincidence?


Yes. Also, no. Hume admitted to himself that even though cause-and-effect are not real, that he couldn't operate within the world without cause-and-effect.

Hume wrote:

Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. i dine, I play a game of back-gammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hour's amusement, I wou'd return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain'd, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther

(Treatise, 1.4.7.9)

From this he concludes that Philosophy is a worthless pursuit, and it would have been better had he spent all this time enjoying it with his family and friends. But then he goes back on this, and states that it's worthwhile to know that everything we hold to be true can be and ought to be held in doubt, even something as simple as stones falling from the cause of gravity. After this, he goes onto what he initially wanted to do: explain what Human nature is, and from that, build a science of morals.


I really did not bargain for this being a thread about Hume on causation. That of course is a matter of the history of philosophy. I was under the impression that this thread was going to be about causation. Was I mistaken? Not that Hume was not a great philosopher. But Hume on causation is one thing. And the philosophy of causation (although Hume certainly began the topic) is not an historical discussion of Hume. So, if you want to discuss the issue, I will be happy to do so. But if you want to talk about Hume's views on causation. let's do it on a different thread. Philosophy is not the history of philosophy.
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 02:28 pm
@kennethamy,
Sure, that's what I meant it to be. But you asked me about Hume, and why I thought the things I did about Hume.... so.... I told you.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 02:31 pm
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:

Sure, that's what I meant it to be. But you asked me about Hume, and why I thought the things I did about Hume.... so.... I told you.


I don't remember what I asked about Hume, but I don't think it was for his philosophy of causation. Shall we return to your topic? Why would the possibility that we were mistaken about whether X causes Y, be a good reason for concluding that (a) it is not true that X causes Y, or that we do not know that X causes Y? It can be possible that we are mistaken about whether X causes Y, and yet it be true that X causes Y; and it can be possible to be mistaken that X causes Y, but so long as we are not mistaken that X causes Y, we can know that X causes Y. It is not an objection to my claim that X causes Y, to say, that even if it is true that X causes Y, and you are right, the mere possibility that you are mistaken (even if you are right) shows that you do not know that X causes Y.
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 02:39 pm
@kennethamy,
Sure. You can begin by answering these questions:

But is this notion of causation defensible (for science), or is it too metaphysical for science?

Do we need to think of cause in the efficient cause way in order to make a solid scientific contribution?

Do we need to think of cause in any way at all to generate scientific knowledge?

What is cause?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 02:49 pm
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:

Sure. You can begin by answering these questions:

But is this notion of causation defensible (for science), or is it too metaphysical for science?

Do we need to think of cause in the efficient cause way in order to make a solid scientific contribution?

Do we need to think of cause in any way at all to generate scientific knowledge?

What is cause?


I really have no clear idea what the answers to your questions might be, and I think (myself) that they are too vague to answer. But the question seems to be why anyone would think that we cannot know that X causes Y. And, in the particular example, why we cannot know that dropping a heavy object on my foot was the cause of the harm done to my foot. Have you a reply to that? (Vague questions get vague answers, and vague answers do not contribute to progress in getting clear about the issue, or the answer to the issue). For instance, asking, "what is cause" is like asking, "what are mashed potatoes?" It isn't that I don't know what mashed potatoes are, it is that I don't see how much progress comes from answering the question. And the same goes for "What is cause?". I think we can get somewhere by asking a specific question like the one I just asked above. Else, we'll just go round, and round, and round.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 04:37 pm
actually I think I'm the one who introduced Hume, mainly because it was his critique of the notion of causality which still seems very influential. I never really got it. Nor do I understand why modern philosophy things causation is 'metaphysical'. As far as I am concerned, everything is connected. I don't think I will try to bother working out the details, but just act accordingly. Very Happy
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 04:52 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:

actually I think I'm the one who introduced Hume, mainly because it was his critique of the notion of causality which still seems very influential. I never really got it. Nor do I understand why modern philosophy things causation is 'metaphysical'. As far as I am concerned, everything is connected. I don't think I will try to bother working out the details, but just act accordingly. Very Happy


Everything is connected, how? To say that everything is connected is just vague enough to be true; just as everything is different is just vague enough to be true.
If you want to start a Hume thread, I'll be happy to participate. As I said, Hume's target way Spinoza's "hideous hypothesis" which was that all causal connection was necessary connection, so that all propositions of the form, X is the cause of Y express a necessary truth. And a necessary truth is one whose falsity is logically impossible, which is to say, its negation is a self-contradiction. Hume considered this notion false, and held that all causal propositions were contingent and not necessary. You might ask why he thought Spinoza's hypothesis that all causal connection is necessary connection, "hideous". It was because Hume thought that it implied that free will was false. So, in his (compatibilist) defense of free will, his first step was to repudiate Spinoza's hideous hypothesis, that all causal connection is necessary connection. (And, indeed, Spinoza denied free will because he held that all causal connection was necessary connection. Although, Spinoza's last part of his Ethics is called, "Of Human Freedom". For Spinoza argued that although free will was false, human freedom was true. And he held that free will and human freedom had been confused, and that the one had nothing to do with the other.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 06:17 pm
@kennethamy,
Thanks! I didn't know that Hume was criticizing Spinoza, I thought he had the scholastics in his sights. That is interesting. Without knowing the details, I instinctively agree with Spinoza about 'freedom' and 'will'. One of the spiritual teachers I used to read would say the same: 'will is the instrument of desire'. Therefore will is always bound to do desires bidding. Freedom is not freeedom to do whatever you want, but freedom from being driven by what you want. I suppose this is essentially a spiritual attitude, but Spinoza was actually a spiritual kind of guy, I think.

As for 'everything being connected' it seems to me in the 'age of science' the scope given to causality has been made smaller and smaller and smaller until now it is practically at vanishing point. I think the reason why is that it is not politically correct to say that 'things happen for a reason'. It sounds kind of spooky. So scientific philosophers insist that things happen for no reason, except their material causes, which just happen to be as they are, for the reasons described by the Laws of Physics. That is about the size of it, isn't it?
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 06:53 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
I think we can get somewhere by asking a specific question like the one I just asked above. Else, we'll just go round, and round, and round.
You have stated earlier that causes are not descriptions, so, what are causes? The fact is, that by returning to one of your standard questions, these threads just go round and round. Huxley started this thread and I assume he knows what he wants to talk about.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 07:19 pm
@ughaibu,
ughaibu wrote:

kennethamy wrote:
I think we can get somewhere by asking a specific question like the one I just asked above. Else, we'll just go round, and round, and round.
You have stated earlier that causes are not descriptions, so, what are causes? The fact is, that by returning to one of your standard questions, these threads just go round and round. Huxley started this thread and I assume he knows what he wants to talk about.


Why causes are connection between kinds of events. What did you think they were. Of course, what kind of connections these are, is a question for philosophers. Isn't it?
It is not often true on forums like these that posters are clear about what they are discussing. The clarification (if any) comes during the discussion. You have only to read through some posts to see that.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 07:25 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

It is? Do mean we never had to look to see whether all mammals had livers? How did we know it, then.
Yea, how do we know they all do? I know of a mammal you haven't seen. Very Happy
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 07:28 pm
@Arjuna,
actually I have a directly relevant comment that I actually recall from my first year of philosophy, in my first lecture, by Alan Chalmers, on Empiricism. (Yay!) It was the anecdote (probably well known) whereby a group of medieval monks were debating how many teeth a horse had. They all scurried off to consult Aristotle. No luck, nothing to be found there, and dejected, they decided they couldn't find the answer. One bright monk said 'I know! Let's go and look in a horses mouth!'

He was roundly condemned for his audacity and no such investigation was carried out, of course.

Of course this seems ridiculous to us moderns. But in medieval times, people were like that. It makes you realize how far we've come. BUT I think we have lost something, also. I personally think empiricism, starting with the likes of Hume, has gone much too far, and now scientists will deny many truths which were understood as apodictic in the traditional view, and mainly truths of an a priori, metaphysical sort.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 07:51 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:

Thanks! I didn't know that Hume was criticizing Spinoza, I thought he had the scholastics in his sights. That is interesting. Without knowing the details, I instinctively agree with Spinoza about 'freedom' and 'will'. One of the spiritual teachers I used to read would say the same: 'will is the instrument of desire'. Therefore will is always bound to do desires bidding. Freedom is not freeedom to do whatever you want, but freedom from being driven by what you want. I suppose this is essentially a spiritual attitude, but Spinoza was actually a spiritual kind of guy, I think.

As for 'everything being connected' it seems to me in the 'age of science' the scope given to causality has been made smaller and smaller and smaller until now it is practically at vanishing point. I think the reason why is that it is not politically correct to say that 'things happen for a reason'. It sounds kind of spooky. So scientific philosophers insist that things happen for no reason, except their material causes, which just happen to be as they are, for the reasons described by the Laws of Physics. That is about the size of it, isn't it?


Yes, freedom Spinoza said in one of his moments, is "the recognition of necessity". In general, his view, which he expresses in the penultimate part of his Ethics, "Of Human Bondage" is that the absence of freedom, or bondage, is being in the thrall of your own desires. There is a novel by W. Somerset Maugham which is called, "Of Human Bondage" which is about a person (English) who is in bondage in just Spinoza's sense you might want to read.

I was under the impression that scientific progress consists in discovering causal explanations for kind of events whose explanations we did not know. Have I been mistaken about that? If you mean by "reason" cause, (those notions are often mixed up) then I don't see why it is politically incorrect to hold that things happen for a reason (cause). Certainly, for instance, the recent downturn in the world economy has a number of causes. But who would say that it happened for no cause? Of course, to hold that there was a reason for the downturn, and that this reason was the cause of the downturn, would be to suggest that the economic downturn was the result of someone's intentions, or the intentions of a number of people. And although some may think that, conspiratorialists, I think that is something that needs evidence. Of course, that is not to say that human stupidity and neglect did not have a hand in causing the downturn, since it clearly did. But, to ask about the cause of water freezing and becoming ice, is certainly not to ask about the reason for its doing so, for that would suggest that there was some intention that water becomes ice when its temperature is lowered enough, and that is certainly not true. In general, reasons often can also be causes (as they are in the case of human action). But ordinarily, causes are not also reasons.
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