One small part of Hume's Metaphysics, and epistemology.

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b6zulu
 
Reply Sun 28 Oct, 2007 08:22 pm
Hume on causation (etiology). Basically Hume denies a necessary connection between the cause or what is perceived as the cause (preceding event), and the effect.

Anyone familiar with Hume's line of reasoning? The reading is pretty dense, methodical, and very pedantic.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Oct, 2007 10:31 pm
@b6zulu,
b6zulu wrote:
Hume on causation (etiology). Basically Hume denies a necessary connection between the cause or what is perceived as the cause (preceding event), and the effect.

Anyone familiar with Hume's line of reasoning? The reading is pretty dense, methodical, and very pedantic.


Sure. Hume points out that there is no contradiction in supposing the existence of the cause, and supposing that the effect did not exist. But, if there were a necessary connection between cause and effect, there would be a contradiction in such a supposition. Therefore, there is no such necessary connection. An example of a necessary connection is that between a figure being a triangle, and that figure having three sides. We cannot suppose a figure being three-angled, but not being three-sided without supposing a contradiction. But, although it is true that heating a metal causes the metal to expand, we can certainly suppose the metal being heated and not expanding (maybe even contracting). Therefore there is no such contradiction in such a supposition, and there is no necessary connection between the cause (heating) and the effect (expansion). Hume writes that anything can cause anything and we cannot know what can cause what, only by thinking about it (a priori) and not investigating it empirically by observation and experiment. But, in the case of necessary connection, as in mathematics, what we know, we know by just thinking about it, and not by observation and experiment (empirically).

That is, of course, philosophy, and so, necessarily abstract. But that seems me me quite straightforward, not pedantic, and, best of all, true. (I think it is good to be methodical, don't you?)
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Tue 25 Dec, 2007 11:09 pm
@b6zulu,
I once read something that helped me understand Hume. It went something like this: Image there is a baby who has a soft doll. He has dropped this doll five times, and each time it plopped to the floor. Later, this boys uncle comes along and gives this boy a ball. This boy would no doubt think that when he drops this ball, it will plop to the floor like his doll. However, when the boy does drop the ball it bounces. Now, that boy has no possible knowledge of what caused that ball to bounce. Now compare what the boy knows compared to what his uncle knows: The only advantage the uncle has, is that he has witnessed balls dropping and bouncing multiple times. The knowledge that the boy and the uncle have are more or less the same, the uncle's knowledge is only multiplied.

See, Hume thought that our mind and what we can possibly know are solely shaped by our experience. And if this is in fact the case, then Hume is correct: The knowledge that the next time a ball is dropped is only a knowledge of habit, not of the property of the necessary connection itself. We cannot derive necessary connection from experience, we can only create a habitual knowledge that when a ball is dropped it bounces, and therefore never have knowledge of the necessary connection between the ball and it bouncing.

However, if we undercut Hume's assumption, that all of our knowledge is gained from experience, we undercut his whole theory. This is what Kant did.
 
boagie
 
Reply Thu 10 Apr, 2008 11:33 am
@b6zulu,
b6zulu wrote:
Hume on causation (etiology). Basically Hume denies a necessary connection between the cause or what is perceived as the cause (preceding event), and the effect.

Anyone familiar with Hume's line of reasoning? The reading is pretty dense, methodical, and very pedantic.


b6zulu,Smile

:)Hume does not denied cause and effect, he says we have no knowledge of it, other than the impressions formed through habit. I remember Bertrand Russell being asked, What is electricity, his response, electricity is the way in which things act--certainly this is somewhat less than an understanding of what this force of electricity is. In order for there to be an effect there must be a relation between another condition or object. If we assume that there is no such thing as cause, but only, relational reactions, then it is all reaction and this relational reaction is the bases of reality---maybe!
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 10 Apr, 2008 06:34 pm
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
I once read something that helped me understand Hume. It went something like this: Image there is a baby who has a soft doll. He has dropped this doll five times, and each time it plopped to the floor. Later, this boys uncle comes along and gives this boy a ball. This boy would no doubt think that when he drops this ball, it will plop to the floor like his doll. However, when the boy does drop the ball it bounces. Now, that boy has no possible knowledge of what caused that ball to bounce. Now compare what the boy knows compared to what his uncle knows: The only advantage the uncle has, is that he has witnessed balls dropping and bouncing multiple times. The knowledge that the boy and the uncle have are more or less the same, the uncle's knowledge is only multiplied.



I think that the uncle also knows why the ball bounces, and the doll does not bounce. The ball is elastic, and the doll is not. And, if the uncle knows some physics, he will know why the ball is elastic, and the doll is not. It has to do with the different molecular structures of the ball and the doll. So, I think it is pretty clear that the uncles knows a lot more than the boy does. Don't you?
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Thu 10 Apr, 2008 08:24 pm
@b6zulu,
The example is more of a thought experiment than an actual case study. However, I do think that we can continue extending the limits of the knowledge that we gain from experience.

The uncle knows that elastic objects bounce because every time he has experienced elastic objects fall to the ground, they have bounced. If you want to argue that he gained this knowledge from study and not experience, then those people who wrote the books that he read experienced that every time an elastic object fell it bounced. As to the molecular structure, science tells us through repeated observation, a property of the particular molecular structure in question is that it enables objects to bounce.

All of these experiences are but relations between objects properties that habit has created for us.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 11 Apr, 2008 06:48 am
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
The example is more of a thought experiment than an actual case study. However, I do think that we can continue extending the limits of the knowledge that we gain from experience.

The uncle knows that elastic objects bounce because every time he has experienced elastic objects fall to the ground, they have bounced. If you want to argue that he gained this knowledge from study and not experience, then those people who wrote the books that he read experienced that every time an elastic object fell it bounced. As to the molecular structure, science tells us through repeated observation, a property of the particular molecular structure in question is that it enables objects to bounce.

All of these experiences are but relations between objects properties that habit has created for us.


As I pointed out, the uncle knows not only that the ball bounces, and that he knows from observation, but he also knows why (the cause) of the ball bouncing, namely that it is made from elastic material. And he does not know that from the simple constant observation that the ball bounces. He has to examine the ball to find that out, not simply bounce the ball some more times, for that will merely confirm that the ball bounces (unlike the doll). And the continued bouncing of the ball will not tell uncle why it is that elasticity causes the ball to bounce. How, exactly can be know through repeated observation of the molecular structure that the ball will bounce? So you mean that if we examine the molecular structure of the ball's material, we will somehow observe a property called, "bounciness"?
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Fri 11 Apr, 2008 07:35 am
@b6zulu,
Quote:

So you mean that if we examine the molecular structure of the ball's material, we will somehow observe a property called, "bounciness"?


Not at all. What I meant was that science tells us through repeated observation that a property of the particular molecular structure of elastic is that it enables objects to bounce when they are dropped. It is the repeated observing of the dropping and bouncing that tells us elastic objects bounce. It is not by examining the molecular structure itself, it is by examining what happens when objects with that molecular structure are dropped.

Sorry that I was unclear.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Fri 11 Apr, 2008 07:49 am
@b6zulu,
Quote:

de Silentio - science tells us through repeated observation that a property of the particular molecular structure of elastic is that it enables objects to bounce when they are dropped.


After I thought about it more, perhaps the word property is misleading. I don't mean to say that bouncieness is a property of the molecular structure like having X number of carbon atoms is a property. I mean to say that bouncieness is an observable effect of elastic materials.

This does not say, however, that we observe the cause-effect relationship between elastic and bouncieness. We only know that everytime we have observed an elastic object it has bounced. Thus creating the relationship between the apparent cause and the effect, not actually providing for us the necessary connection between the cause and effect.

Does that clear it up any?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 11 Apr, 2008 10:57 am
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
Not at all. What I meant was that science tells us through repeated observation that a property of the particular molecular structure of elastic is that it enables objects to bounce when they are dropped. It is the repeated observing of the dropping and bouncing that tells us elastic objects bounce. It is not by examining the molecular structure itself, it is by examining what happens when objects with that molecular structure are dropped.

Sorry that I was unclear.


That is right. It is the molecular structure, and ultimately the atomic structure, which no one is able to observe directly, which tells us, not that the ball will bounce, but why it bounces. Science explains as well as describes.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Fri 11 Apr, 2008 12:06 pm
@b6zulu,
Quote:

That is right. It is the molecular structure, and ultimately the atomic structure, which no one is able to observe directly, which tells us, not that the ball will bounce, but why it bounces. Science explains as well as describes.


Why do you say "That is right." What you said is not what I said. I am confused by your response.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 12 Apr, 2008 03:20 pm
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
Why do you say "That is right." What you said is not what I said. I am confused by your response.


We observe that the ball does bounce by repeated observations of its bouncing. But in order to explain why it bounces, we need to formulate an hypotheses about the material the ball is made of, and then test that hypothesis by observation. No amount of observation of the bouncing of the ball can tell us why the ball bounces. For that, we have to go further.
 
dergottthrower
 
Reply Mon 19 May, 2008 05:03 pm
@kennethamy,
Quote:
Originally Posted by kennethamy
We observe that the ball does bounce by repeated observations of its bouncing. But in order to explain why it bounces, we need to formulate an hypotheses about the material the ball is made of, and then test that hypothesis by observation. No amount of observation of the bouncing of the ball can tell us why the ball bounces. For that, we have to go further.
You're venturing into a whole other area of inquiry; de Silentio's point was that the uncle already knew that the ball would bounce, not why. The nephew's knowledge of this contrasted with his uncle's because he'd only seen the result of the doll falling to the ground, not the ball. The purpose of this thought experiment is to illustrate the concept that the human idea of connection between cause and effect is an impression that's maintained in our thought processes through habit: the child's never witnessed the 'effect' of an object bouncing before he's witnessed the bouncing of the ball; the uncle has witnessed this many times, and so understands that the ball bounces.

There's nothing wrong with going further, however, and I urge anyone who entertains such aspirations to do so: strive to find an answer for every question that arises; and the next; and the next. However, could a person inquire into the nature of a concept before that concept is, to some degree, known? Would you be able to ask why the ball bounces without observing that the ball bounces first?
 
Arjen
 
Reply Tue 20 May, 2008 09:08 am
@dergottthrower,
I would like to follow dergottthrower and emphasize that Hume pointed out that our causal reasonings suppose that at least one thing is stable: the workings of the "laws of nature" (which are described in natural sciences). This problem is also pointed out in HUme's is-ought problem.
 
AmericanPop
 
Reply Tue 27 May, 2008 08:38 am
@kennethamy,
The fundamental problem with empiricism is that there is always a more minute detail to be observed, or by contrast, a larger picture to be synthesized. In the case of causation we are forever bound to keep searching for the actual point of contact, which is never revealed directly in and of itself.
 
AmericanPop
 
Reply Tue 27 May, 2008 08:43 am
@AmericanPop,
If all knowledge is to be gained through the five senses, as empiricists hold,
Yet this presupposition has never been observed empirically,
How can we know this is how all knowledge is gained?

Does this epistemology not relegate itself to a metaphysical precept?
 
Arjen
 
Reply Tue 27 May, 2008 09:34 am
@AmericanPop,
There are many problems with empiricism, but I have had the worst times with empiricists trying to show a little of rationalism. The difficulty is that deep down in the ego a decision was made that things that cannot be percieved are none-existent. Every other theory therefore cannot exist. Even though the things-in-themselves cannot be percieved, conditions for perceptions cannot be percieved, etc.

So, to make a long story short, no theory can; it is a decision and not rational; that is why empirism sets itself out versus rationalism.
 
ACB
 
Reply Sun 28 Dec, 2008 08:12 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
Sure. Hume points out that there is no contradiction in supposing the existence of the cause, and supposing that the effect did not exist. But, if there were a necessary connection between cause and effect, there would be a contradiction in such a supposition. Therefore, there is no such necessary connection. An example of a necessary connection is that between a figure being a triangle, and that figure having three sides. We cannot suppose a figure being three-angled, but not being three-sided without supposing a contradiction. But, although it is true that heating a metal causes the metal to expand, we can certainly suppose the metal being heated and not expanding (maybe even contracting). Therefore there is no such contradiction in such a supposition, and there is no necessary connection between the cause (heating) and the effect (expansion). Hume writes that anything can cause anything and we cannot know what can cause what, only by thinking about it (a priori) and not investigating it empirically by observation and experiment. But, in the case of necessary connection, as in mathematics, what we know, we know by just thinking about it, and not by observation and experiment (empirically).


Can someone please clarify the following points for me?

1. How does Hume define 'real' causation, in order to contrast it with mere habitual association? Unless 'cause' is clearly defined, the statement 'we cannot know what can cause what' has no meaning. I suggest it means 'force' or 'compel': when we say that heat causes metal to expand, we mean (albeit without proper justification) that it makes it expand.

2. Did Hume believe that it might be possible - perhaps in the distant future - to find a necessary connection between such things as heating and expansion? Or did he think this was impossible in principle?

3. Did he believe that there could actually be real causation even if we could never know about it?

4. If two very accurate adjacent clocks have been set so that one always strikes the hour exactly 10 seconds after the other, a person encountering them would not say that one causes the other to strike. So there must be more to the common idea of causation than just habitual association. Did Hume acknowledge this?
 
alcaz0r
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 11:59 am
@ACB,
ACB;39975 wrote:
Can someone please clarify the following points for me?

1. How does Hume define 'real' causation, in order to contrast it with mere habitual association? Unless 'cause' is clearly defined, the statement 'we cannot know what can cause what' has no meaning. I suggest it means 'force' or 'compel': when we say that heat causes metal to expand, we mean (albeit without proper justification) that it makes it expand.


Hume defines causation as any two objects* which we consistently observe to be contiguous, and the one to be precedent to the other. Reasoning by causation means that when we receive the impression of a cause or effect, our mind is driven by habit to consider the idea of the related cause or effect with a liveliness approaching an impression. Also, when we observe an object which shares similarities with a cause or effect we are familiar with, we expect it to have been produced by, or to produce a similar cause or effect. However this expectation is attended by some uncertainty untill verified by direct experience.

*(This term has to include objects, and also their particular qualities, which being distinguishable by the mind can be considered seperately, and therefore can be considered as causes or effects on their own. Using the term impressions might be more accurate but probably also more confusing.)

As we discover, through science, ever more intricate qualities of physical objects, by careful experimentation we find which of these subtle qualities are the causes of certain effects. These discoveries are still arrived at through experience, the experiments scientists carry out demonstrate which specific causes are attended by certain effects.

When you say that causation means one object "forces" or "compels" another, you do not imply anything different about the objects than if you were to say that there is a constant conjuction between certain causes and effects. If you insist that there is a necessary connection, this insistence does not change any of the characteristics of the objects, it only changes our feelings towards these objects.

Try it, think of any cause and its effect. First imagine them only as being constantly united in their operation, without forming the idea that they MUST be united so. Repeat several times. Next consider the same cause and effect, but try to imagine the one object as possessing some power or efficacy which necessitates the connection. If this causes a difference in your ideas of the objects themselves, then this difference should be distinguishable and seperable by the mind, to be considered in its own light.

The actual origin of the idea of Force or Necessity which we form comes from the sensation of compulsion we feel in our own thoughts to proceed from the idea of a cause to the idea of its effect. This compulsion we feel is the force of habit. To apply this to our objects is an error in judgement. Just because we feel such a compulsion in our own minds to pass from the idea of a cause to its effect is not evidence that objects themselves labor under some such compulsion. Given that our impressions and the objects they represent really are different, it can only be reasoned that the connections and repulsions we observe between objects must also apply to our impressions, and this is only necessary because we are incapable of considering otherwise. It is not logically necessary that the connections and repulsions we observe between our impressions must apply to the objects they represent as well.

Thus, the only just definition we can give of a cause, is any thing, which we discover by experience to constantly be contiguous and precedent to some other thing.

Quote:
2. Did Hume believe that it might be possible - perhaps in the distant future - to find a necessary connection between such things as heating and expansion? Or did he think this was impossible in principle?


I rather think Hume considered our idea of necessary connection to be flawed and chimerical, and that he would hope we would one day abandon it as unreasonable. Personally, I consider it a subtle kind of anthropomorphization.

Quote:
3. Did he believe that there could actually be real causation even if we could never know about it?


I don't think Hume would even consider it, as attempting to answer such a question could only lead us into errors and contradictions. I think that above all he believed that we must rest content with our ignorance once we've taken our reasoning as far as we can, and to accept the limitations we face. The causation that we experience and reason concerning, is *real* causation, and we can hope for nothing more.

Quote:
4. If two very accurate adjacent clocks have been set so that one always strikes the hour exactly 10 seconds after the other, a person encountering them would not say that one causes the other to strike. So there must be more to the common idea of causation than just habitual association. Did Hume acknowledge this?


Because we already have experience of clocks and how they work. We know that they are governed by their internal machinery, and that they tend to operate in a similar manner wherever we have occasion to encounter them. To form the idea that the striking of one clock causes the striking of the other would contradict reason, and this holds true even if human reasoning is nothing but a customary transition between certain ideas.

If you want examples of strange causal connections that people form based on nothing but the experience of constant, or even inconstant conjuction, superstition will provide you with plenty.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 13 Aug, 2009 01:09 pm
@b6zulu,
b6zulu;5548 wrote:
Hume on causation (etiology). Basically Hume denies a necessary connection between the cause or what is perceived as the cause (preceding event), and the effect.

Anyone familiar with Hume's line of reasoning? The reading is pretty dense, methodical, and very pedantic.


Certain philosophers like Descartes and Spinoza (who are called, Rationalists) held that the connection between cause and effect was the kind of connection there is in mathematics, Mathematical connections are logically necessary connections. For example take the connection between a figure being a triangle, and that figure having three sides. It is logically impossible for a figure to be a triangle, and for it not to have three sides. That is, it would be self-contradictory for it to be a triangle and not have three sides. So, we say that triangle necessariily have three sides. But now consider the proposition that all metal expand when they are heated. Now, that is a true statement. All metals do expand when heated. But would it be logically impossible for a metal to be heated and not expand. That is, would it be self-contradictory. Obviously not. But the Rationalists claimed that it would be self-contradictory, and that all true statements were either necessarily true, or necessarily false. Hume denied that was true. And, of course, consequently denied that causal statements were necessarily true. Although, of course, true causal statement are true. But no necessarily true.

By the way. I don't think you should expect philosophy to be entertaining. Only interesting.
 
 

 
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