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David Hume's Theory Of Causation And Scepticism

1653 words - 7 pages

Why according to Hume, must Humans inability to fully understand Cause and Effect in the world result in scepticism? Explain Kant’s position on the problem.

Through the process of this essay, I will attempt to explain the reasoning behind Hume’s theory of causation and scepticism. I will then describe the thought of Kant on the topic.
The reason that Hume believes that human’s inability to understand causation must result in scepticism can be seen through the following claim.

“Upon the whole, there appears not, throughout all nature, any one instance of connection which is conceivable by us. All events seem entirely loose and separate. One event follows another; but we never can observe any tie between them. They seemed conjoined, but never connected. And as we can have no idea of any thing which never appeared to our outward sense or inward sentiment, the necessary conclusion seems to be that we have no idea of connection or force at all, and that these words are absolutely without meaning, when employed either in philosophical reasoning or common life”. (Hume, 1737)

He asserts that we never see causal necessity, and therefore that the idea of a necessary causal connection is meaningless. This can be more precisely explained if the claim is analysed in individual parts.
     The first part of Hume’s claim can be seen as being an obvious truth.
We can never see causal necessity, as we never have perceptions that tell us that, under the same conditions, a given cause must be followed by its usual effect. All we have is perceptions of things called causes followed by perceptions of things called effects. Let us look at an example to examine this notion more clearly. Take for instance, if we were to videotape a sequence of events involving cause and effect, e.g. A golf club hitting a golf ball, which is initially at rest. If every frame of the videotape is examined, we will not find a frame that shows the ‘necessary connection’ between the impact of the golf club on the ball and the spatial displacement of the ball. All we will see is the golf club undergoing spatial displacement followed by a frame of the golf club right up against the ball, and subsequently, a frame showing the displacement of the golf ball. We do not observe anything in this video that we can identify with causal necessity, so if causal necessity does exist at all, according to Hume, it is not perceptible, at least through vision. Hume correctly explains that Humans do not know the 'Necessary Connection' between objects and thus do not know the relationship between Cause and Effect. This quite simply is the Problem of Causation- that until we know 'what exists' and the 'necessary connections' between these things that exist, then it is impossible for Humanity to have certainty of knowledge.
     This leads us to the second section of Hume’s claim, which states that, because this causal necessity cannot be perceived by us,...

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