Hume's own circle? wtf?!

So wat do you guys think? Am I right? Yes no?

  • Nope your wrong, and should go back to the therapist
  • Your right in one sense, but they’re some mistaken correlation
  • I think you might be on to something here…
0 voters

This just hit me while I was reading about Hume and I think I am mistaken in this claim but, something seems a bit odd here. I’ll elaborate.

Hume is an empiricist, who by not finding empirical proof of necessary connexion denies causality, and sticks to constant conjunction.

Yet, for him to be and empiricist, he believes that all our ideas and knowledge are caused by our experiences! (yes i know you may say it’s not caused as much as derived and bla bla bla. but the point remains, where he asserts causality)

Does this not mean Hume’s trapped in circularity? … o_O

no, hume exists only in the moment

new moment, new hume

-Imp

lol =D>

New poster here so be kind!

He says something about how we can’t hope to provide anything like a complete explanation for anything, so he’d probably happily accept this problem as being impossible to solve i.e. its just what we do, there can’t be an explanation.

There’s probably a related problem with how an impression can cause (lead to) an idea, isn’t there?

I suppose Hume could quite happily extend his scepticism a bit and say that we should more properly say that it is our belief that all our knowledge comes from experience, a belief that we have gained from such a constant conjunction of experience and ‘knowledge’. I don’t see how this would cause much of a problem for his philosophy, other than making it even more sceptical.

Firstly I’d like to say welcome to ILP! and secondly lol you have a wicked name. Is it Irving Washington, or Washington Irving? lol, one of the best books I’ve read :smiley: So to get back to the topic at hand…

Well I understand how he can say that we can’t hope to provide a complete explanation for anything, but even admitting that, doesn’t the circularity at least bring about some contradictions that make his claims flawed? The main problem is that

  • as an empiricist he denies causality, and turns to constant conjunction as the sole phenomena between even A and B as he could not find empirical proof of the necessary connexion

  • yet for him to be an empiricist, he must hold that ideas and knowledge are caused (derived) by our experiences

  • thus he is trapped in circularity, where to be an empiricist he must rely on his empirical data to prove certain knowledge exists, yet when it comes to causality he cannot find such data and thus concludes causality to not exist. in doing so he effectively nullifies his base principle of empirical experiences attaining knowledge

I’m not sure if i’ve answered your question correctly, or maybe i’m going into my own circularity lol

Hello Blindseer:

— as an empiricist he denies causality, and turns to constant conjunction as the sole phenomena between even A and B as he could not find empirical proof of the necessary connexion
O- He does not deny causality per se, but a necessary connection, so that of two events the preceeding one is not a necessary cause of the following. You do have a constant conjunction, that is what Hume would say, but not a necessary, as in mathematics where it is necessary that 2+2=4 in the past, the present and the future. But if you consider, say the Sun, there is no such guaratee that the Sun shall rise tomorrow just as CERTAIN as 2+2=4. It is probable that it will but not LOGICALLY impossible that it will not.
Rather than deny causality he qualifies it, changes it criteria to a simple historical observation of a constant conjunction and then adds that the cause is not found there logically, by necessity, but if found in the eye of the beholder, in common predispositions of a man’s fancy, or imagination. He places causality not in the events themselves but in the thing observing it at a given time and his ability to relate with his imagination contiguous experiences.

— yet for him to be an empiricist, he must hold that ideas and knowledge are caused (derived) by our experiences
O- He does not deny that. He is an empricist.

— thus he is trapped in circularity, where to be an empiricist he must rely on his empirical data to prove certain knowledge exists, yet when it comes to causality he cannot find such data and thus concludes causality to not exist. in doing so he effectively nullifies his base principle of empirical experiences attaining knowledge
O- I agree with you that there is something iffy about the whole thing, a paradox, but not about causality or about his empiricism. He does not deny causality but proposes that it resides in our fancy, not in the events themselves. We see A then B, but no necessary connection by which we can say that if A then by necessity so too B. It is inferred A then B because we add the missing ingredient by the ability of the imagination to relate two similar events, even if they are inperceptably distinct in-themselves.
As an empiricist he can collect observed data and make a hypothesis about what will happen if he again finds the same circumstances (a) that will perhaps occur prior to (b). There is a chance, a likelyhood, but no necessity that it will be in the future as it has been in the past. The past observation cannot guarantee it’s own repetition/reocurrence.
Now, here is the paradox:
He says that:“We have no other notion of cause and effect, but that of certain objects, which have been always conjoin’d [sic] together, and which in all past instances have been found inseparable. We cannot penetrate into the reason of the conjunction. We only observe the thing itself, and always find that from the constant conjunction the objects acquire a union in the imagination.”

Well, he has found that that has been the case with himself, in the past, that the imagination has served as the glue between objects, but can he tell me about “Human Nature”? He can tell me of Hume’s nature", but that would make a less exciting book. He can say that he has found that the fancy imparted necessity, but not that it will everytime or any other time in the future. So he can give us as an empiricist an account of what has been observed but hardly about what IS, such as Human Nature but by his own use of his own fancy, imagination and induction, which he also rejected. In the world of constant and unstoppable flux, there is no way for Hume to say a thing about anything at all. Unless we imagine that Hume knew this and accepted it. That is, that he says what he says comming from what he imagines, induces and fancies. As if to say that this is our lot: we’re fallible and imaginative creatures and it is because of that that we can say we “know”. He thus writes a book about observations about Human Nature, that is, he has used his own imagination to relate this or that observation to tie it to human nature, even if he saw no necessary connection. He saw behaviours in others similar to his own and inferred that they were alike. Whether he does this consciously or not is a question for the likes of IMP who know much more than I.

Omar to your question, i’m not sure if i understood it correctly about ideas and imagination, but I believe Hume says that all our imaginations are derived from impressions (experiences) from which we formulate all ideas. His example of a Golden Mountain, comes from the idea of both gold and a mountain being fused together. Thus all simple impressions can lead to complex ideas.

I say that he denies causality, in the commonsensical view, where we believe B to happen after A BECAUSE of A, and not just the constant conjunction. Hume’s view takes out the first element, both of which are necessary for causality to occur in our view. By changing our common view, is he not rejecting it?

He then gives us only part of the equation because he couldn’t empirically find proof.

Yet we fall into another dilemma, which Hume tried to subvert by denying it’s existence. Which is this:

  • If causality in the commonsensical view is false, then where did we get such idea from. What impressions or experiences made us think of such idea? Unlike the Golden Mountain, which is a complex idea, Hume believes causality to be a simple idea (a simple idea is one that cannot be further divided into other ideas), and thus if it is a simple idea, it must have a simple impression which it is derived from. Albeit in Hume’s context you may argue we have made a false idea from a simple impression which is not actually causality itself. But I ask you, what simple impression did we mistaken ourselves to make the transition into causality?

Because you have to keep in mind that there is a fundamental difference between A happens and then B happens, and A happens and then B happens BECAUSE of A. Where did we get this “because” from? Where is such impression?

In the book, its both names. Major Major starts writing Irving Washington on his official documents after Washington Irving gets tiring.

I feel I didn’t explain myself adequately before, I will now attempt to do so.

You argue that Hume casts doubt on the notion of cause and effect, showing that we have no necessary connection, only a constant conjunction. Thus, we can never be certain that B will always follow A, though if we see many B-like events following A’s we will have a strong belief that when we see an A we will see a B. Therefore, given that Hume holds that experience causes knowledge, he is in difficulty, as he can’t very well hold that position when he has shown that there can’t be a necessary connection between experience and knowledge. Hopefully I’ve got you right here.

From what I’ve said above, I think you should probably be able to see why there isn’t really a problem here. Hume doesn’t deny that we can gain belief from causation, just that we can gain knowledge. So, as an empiricist, he denies that we can get knowledge (understood in the strictest sense) from empirical grounds. So there is no circle, because he doesn’t think that experience (through causation) gives us knowledge.
Causation just can’t give rise to knowledge. All we get are varying degrees of belief.

It has just occured to me that there might actually be a problem after all though! He says that we do have knowledge (relations between ideas) in the Treatise. How can we have knowledge? All our ideas come from impressions, so from experience, therefore it seems strange to say we can have knowledge from considering the relations between the ideas. Although I think I see how it works, the ideas themselves aren’t certain but relations between ideas need not depend upon the ideas themselves. For example, 2 uncertain ideas can resemble each other and we can know for certain that they resemble without being certain in our knowledge of the ideas.

Hopefully you understood some of the above and I wasn’t totally wrong about it all.

not totally…

-Imp

Blindseer:

— Omar to your question, i’m not sure if i understood it correctly about ideas and imagination, but I believe Hume says that all our imaginations are derived from impressions (experiences) from which we formulate all ideas.
O- You have your derivations mixed up. Wiki quotes Hume on these saying:“By the term impression, then, I mean all our more lively perceptions, when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or desire, or will. And impressions are distinguished from ideas, which are the less lively perceptions, of which we are conscious, when we reflect on any of those sensations or movements above mentioned.”
It also quotes him later:“It is plain, that in the course of our thinking, and in the constant revolution of our ideas, our imagination runs easily from one idea to any other that resembles it, and that this quality alone is to the fancy a sufficient bond and association. It is likewise evident that as the senses, in changing their objects, are necessitated to change them regularly, and take them as they lie contiguous to each other, the imagination must by long custom acquire the same method of thinking, and run along the parts of space and time in conceiving its objects.”

Hume thus sees the imagination as the agent that conjoins two similar events instead of reason. It is not derived from ideas- what it does for your example is that it relates ideas; some fantasticaly others ordinarly.

— I say that he denies causality, in the commonsensical view, where we believe B to happen after A BECAUSE of A, and not just the constant conjunction. Hume’s view takes out the first element, both of which are necessary for causality to occur in our view. By changing our common view, is he not rejecting it?
O- He is not denying that we observe that B follows A, but whether A causes B, produces B necessarly he questions. He is investigating from where do we receive the impression or idea of production. How do we KNOW that A produces B rather than simply being followed by B? What he finds is that it is not our reason, but our imagination that finds the necessary condition in event A and not any given sensation during event A itself.
Consider these experiments:
A rat is placed on a cage with a metal floor from which electricity is given, and a red button is placed on one of the walls of the cage. A few shocks are given and then when the rat presses the mentioned red button, the charge is stopped by a researcher in a control room. This is repeated a few times until the habit is imparted to the rat, a connection made, an idea of causality between button and stoppage of shock. Afterwards, the researches simply apply the shock for a period of time regardless of what the rat does. The rat however will continue to press that button because it imagines that it can cause the shocks to stop. It has been conditioned in this way by experience.
Hume would see little difference between the rat and a human.
We speak of causes and may continue to do so but with the understanding that this is a linguistic convention and not something given to our reason as a certainty. The cause is in the eye of the beholder. He refutes Plato and could’ve said: Man is the measure of all things.

— He then gives us only part of the equation because he couldn’t empirically find proof.
O- Where does the proof lies? In the thing itself? In our impression of an event? It can’t be in the event itself because kids do the darnest things. The impression of mercury cannot tell you by itself alone that it can poison you.

  • If causality in the commonsensical view is false, then where did we get such idea from.
    O- That is a very good point. It is the point I was expression above. Where did he get his information? His imagination about these matters, relating his past experiences and linking them again to an inexperienced future he can prognosticate based on his imagination about the mechanics of nature. Fallacious, yes, but that is all he is left.

— Because you have to keep in mind that there is a fundamental difference between A happens and then B happens, and A happens and then B happens BECAUSE of A. Where did we get this “because” from? Where is such impression?
O- Our imagination, according to Hume.