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Дата публикации: 2018-05-27 14:41

Having described these two important components of his account of causation, let us consider how Hume’s position on causation is variously interpreted, starting with causal reductionism. The family of reductionist theories, often read out of Hume’s account of necessity outlined above, maintain that causation, power, necessity, and so forth, as something that exists between external objects rather than in the observer, is constituted entirely by regular succession. In the external world, causation simply is the regularity of constant conjunction. In fact, the defender of this brand of regularity theory of causation is generally labeled a “Humean” about causation. However, since this interpretation, as Hume’s own historical position, remains in contention, the appellation will be avoided here.

Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Kant and the Critique of

The second of Hume’s influential causal arguments is known as the problem of induction, a skeptical argument that utilizes Hume’s insights about experience limiting our causal knowledge to constant conjunction. Though Hume gives a quick version of the Problem in the middle of his discussion of causation in the Treatise (T ), it is laid out most clearly in Section IV of the Enquiry. An influential argument, the Problem’s skeptical conclusions have had a drastic impact on the field of epistemology. It should be noted, however, that not everyone agrees about what exactly the Problem consists in. Briefly, the typified version of the Problem as arguing for inductive skepticism can be described as follows:

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Matters of fact of category (A) would include sensory experience and memory, against which Hume never raises doubts, contra René Descartes. For Hume, (B) would include both predictions and the laws of nature upon which predictions rest. We cannot claim direct experience of predictions or of general laws, but knowledge of them must still be classified as matters of fact, since both they and their negations remain conceivable. In considering the foundations for predictions, however, we must remember that, for Hume, only the relation of cause and effect gives us predictive power, as it alone allows us to go beyond memory and the senses. All such predictions must therefore involve causality and must therefore be of category (B). But what justifies them?

There are reams of literature addressing whether these two definitions are the same and, if not, to which of them Hume gives primacy. . Robinson is perhaps the staunchest proponent of the position that the two are nonequivalent, arguing that there is an nonequivalence in meaning and that they fail to capture the same extension. Two objects can be constantly conjoined without our mind determining that one causes the other, and it seems possible that we can be determined that one object causes another without their being constantly conjoined. But if the definitions fail in this way, then it is problematic that Hume maintains that both are adequate definitions of causation. Some scholars have argued for ways of squaring the two definitions (Don Garrett, for instance, argues that the two are equivalent if they are both read objectively or both read subjectively), while others have given reason to think that seeking to fit or eliminate definitions may be a misguided project.

We must therefore follow a different route in considering what our impression of necessity amounts to. As causation, at base, involves only matters of fact, Hume once again challenges us to consider what we can know of the constituent impressions of causation. Once more, all we can come up with is an experienced constant conjunction. Of the common understanding of causality, Hume points out that we never have an impression of efficacy. Because of this, our notion of causal law seems to be a mere presentiment that the constant conjunction will continue to be constant, some certainty that this mysterious union will persist. Hume argues that we cannot conceive of any other connection between cause and effect, because there simply is no other impression to which our idea may be traced. This certitude is all that remains.

The second step of the causal realist interpretation will be to then insist that we can at least suppose (in the technical sense) a genuine cause, even if the notion is opaque, that is, to insist that mere suppositions are fit for doxastic assent. There doesn’t seem to be anything terribly problematic in believing in something of which we have an unclear representation. To return to the Fifth Replies, Descartes holds that we can believe in the existence and coherence of an infinite being with such vague ideas, implying that a clear and distinct idea is not necessary for belief. Hume denies clear and distinct content beyond constant conjunction, but it is not obvious that he denies all content beyond constant conjunction.

This is where the realists (and non-realists) seem most divided in their interpretations of Hume. Generally, the appeal is to Hume’s texts suggesting he embraces some sort of non-rational mechanism by which such beliefs are formed and/or justified, such as his purported solution to the Problem of Induction. This picture has been parsed out in terms of doxastic naturalism, transcendental arguments, psychological necessity, instinct, and even some form of proper function. However, what the interpretations all have in common is that humans arrive at certain mediate beliefs via some method quite distinct from the faculty of reason.

Further, given Hume’s skeptical attitude toward speculative metaphysics, it seems unlikely that he would commit the Epistemic Fallacy and allow the inference from “x is all we can know of y” to “x constitutes the real, mind-independent essence of y,”  as some (though not all) reductionist accounts would require. In fact, Hume must reject this inference, since he does not believe a resemblance thesis between perceptions and external objects can ever be philosophically established. He makes this denial explicit in Part XII of the Enquiry.

Even granting that Hume not only acknowledges this second distinction but genuinely believes that we can suppose a metaphysically robust notion of causal necessity, the realist still has this difficulty. How can Hume avoid the anti-realist criticism of Winkler, Ott, and Clatterbaugh that his own epistemic criteria demand that he remain agnostic about causation beyond constant conjunction?  In other words, given the skeptical challenges Hume levels throughout his writings, why think that such a seemingly ardent skeptic would not merely admit the possibility of believing in a supposition, instead of insisting that this is, in fact, the nature of reality?  The realist seems to require some Humean device that would imply that this position is epistemically tenable, that our notion of causation can reasonably go beyond the content identified by the arguments leading to the two definitions of causation and provide a robust notion that can defeat the Problem of Induction.

Whether the Problem of induction is in fact separable from Hume’s account of necessary connection, he himself connects the two by arguing that “…the knowledge of this relation is not, in any instance, attained by reasonings a priori but arises entirely from experience, when we find that any particular objects are constantly conjoined with each other.” (EHU SBN 77)  Here, Hume invokes the account of causation explicated above to show that the necessity supporting (B) is grounded in our observation of constant conjunction. This is to say that (B) is grounded in (A). But again, (A) by itself gives us no predictive power. We have thus merely pushed the question back one more step and must now ask with Hume, “ What is the foundation of all conclusions from experience? ” (EHU SBN 87, emphasis his)

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