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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4 thoughts on “Hume’s Causality

  1. Hi, came about your blog while looking at other philosophical blogs. This particular entry struck me as I find myself agreeing that indeed a lot of the things we assume as facts are just because we have constantly been experiencing them and we know no other truth. I’m just starting to read more on philosophy right now. May I know what you think the implications of this reasoning are? Like for example, can a “fact” still exist?

    • Currently I dislike the notion of an impartial world of facts which we are all capable of accessing. If you read some of my posts you’ll bet a better sketch of my viewpoint (shameless plug), but I view knowledge as something ‘done’ as opposed to something possessed. The person who is epistemological humble and continuously aims to learn more is knowledgeable. I would also recommend you think about the conflict between idealism – realism – phenomenology. Do you consider reality mental, physical, or experiential? You’re answer will have very important implications for the force of Hume’s critique.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, I hope this was helpful 🙂

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