Hume’s Causality

I’m drawing a bit of a blank as to topics to theorize about, so I am instead going to do a bit of an exposé on the reading that I’ve been doing lately.  I’ve decided that I need to go back and read/reread some of the fundamental philosophers – my current planned rout is Hume’s Inquiry > Kant’s Prolegomena > Kant’s Critique > Hume > Husserl.  I’ve finished Hume’s inquiry, so what I’m going to do with today’s post is explore one of his fundamental principles – the notion that causality is something that the mind imposes on the world.  As with most of my posts, this will be fairly informal since I will not be referring back to the text.

As I understand it, Hume’s notion is as follows: we are incorrect to view causality as necessary, and we cannot gain any knowledge of cause and effect a priori (or knowledge that we can have before experience).  He uses the example of a billiard ball multiple times – we cannot help but think if one ball hits another that the first will stop and the second will move, but Hume argues that this is only because we have been conditioned by prior experience of other objects moving in the same fashion.  We think that one ball ’causes’ the other to move, but we can not in any way perceive this causality.  What we do perceive is the constant conjunction of one object hitting another and the other object moving.  This occurrence is so pervasive in our experience that we come to perceive it as necessary, but Hume argues that the reality of our circumstance is probabilistic expectation.  This was a major philosophical curve ball, especially for the sciences, because it means that in exploring the world we are not actually learning about how objects ‘work, but more just informing our probability predictions.

Maybe next time I’ll talk about Kant, though Kant is much more intimidating then Hume,

Let me know what you think, thank you for reading


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Revisiting Reality

In a previous post I talked about Husserl’s notion that we should bracket off the question of whether reality is distinct from human experience.  You can see that post here: link.  To give a quick rehash for those who don’t want to go re-read, there is an old philosophical debate between realists and idealists.  The realists say that reality is mind-independent, while the idealists say that reality is mind-dependent.  The Husserlian compromise is to essentially say ‘why does it matter?’  I think that this is in many ways the best response to the argument, but I also have some notions I would like to present on the subject.

I’m inclined to say reality exists in a mind-independent way (look at this philosopher going out on a limb).  I think that it is the more probable hypothesis.  I say this mostly citing evolutionary psychology as evidence – the mechanics of our mind make much more sense if reality is mind-independent.  However, I think that reality, as it is possible for us to know, is mind and sense dependent.  This includes my previous statement that reality is probably not mind-dependent.  That is a notion that we have within the mind.  I think that human notions cannot correspond to anything outside of experiential reality.

I think that our perspective on the world is entirely anthropocentric (indeed, it is so much so that it is impossible for me to point out an alternative – never has a thought been had by a human that was not anthropocentric).  We see the world at a certain size, we define organisms by their relation to us, we write history as it relates to us.  It is we who divide the world into objects – into plants and animals, into microbes, into ideas.  Without consciousness these objects vanish – all the wondrous motion of the universe becomes less then nothing.  All the pieces are still moving, but outside of consciousness the pieces have no meaning.  Without consciousness the world as an experience disappears.

So, that is what I think of the substance of reality, let me know what you think,

Thank you for reading,


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How good is voting?

It is oft repeated (at least in the literature I’ve read and in the circles I inhabit) that voting is a duty.  The notion, as I would present it, is that someone is being quite derelict in their behaviour if they fail to vote.  This perspective is usually justified on the grounds of the value of democratic participation – one should take an interest and participate in directing one’s country.  The judgement, then, is that it is wrong to fail to exercise one’s democratic rights.  I wonder though, to a certain degree, how much a negative judgement on the non-voter can be justified.  I’m inclined to say that voting is superior to not voting, but I wonder if the importance of the act is possibly being exaggerated out of proper proportions.

What is it that makes voting good?  I would describe it thus: voting is an act upon the world to make it more how you think it should be.  As I’ve explored previously, I think that acting upon the world thus is both how we act autonomously, and the most that we can ask of anyone who wants to be a good person.  Failing to vote is one of many ways that we can fail to exert ourselves on our environment as we think we should.  The question, though, is how we should rank our successes and failures.  What makes different autonomous actions better, and what makes non-autonomous actions worse?

Following from what I’ve explored in my systems previously, it would follow that people can not truly be blameworthy for failing in autonomy (the person who acts autonomously does as they should, the person who fails does not fit the criterion of an agent whom we can judge).  I’m going to set that notion aside for the moment, because it is still under development.  For the rest of the conversation, I shall proceed on the basis that that which differentiates our actions needs to be fairly consequential, and that action or inaction should be judged on our own perspective of the importance of that action.  In other words, my crime for not acting is greater based on the good I perceive myself to not be enacting.  This seems to be a reasonable extension of my moral structure – since the most you can ask of someone is that they do what they think is right, they are more wrong the less that they do what they think is right.  This could also easily be thought of in utilitarian terms, which at least some of you will probably find more palatable.

On this basis, it seems to me that not voting does not sit that high on the totem poll of wrongs.  The impact of any one person not voting, I think its fair to say, is negligible.  Indeed, I can easily imagine acts that at least seem to have greater moral worth that take a comparable amount of time to researching candidates and voting.

Let me know what you think,


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