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A.

Introduction:

In the battlefield of philosophy, causation has been one of

the more difficult philosophical problems to answer with

certainty. There are, however, many theories of it but neither of

them has attained the title Standard/Valid Theory of

Causation. Otherwise, it would distract the essence of

philosophy, that is, to remain open and thus not limited in some

respect.

Causation, as its name suggests, basically means the cause

or the origin on why an event happened. I wrote this paper

because it is a requirement for me to pass this course. In

English terms (rule), the cause is it is a requirement and so

(the effect) I wrote this paper. Yet, it is never the case in

philosophy. In the latters case, causation is vague and thus it

cannot be perceived simply in the sentences we are writing or

speaking.

Many philosophers have attempted to explain what causation

is. Hence, the researcher will be discussing some of these

attempts throughout the paper itself. However, the main focus is

limited only to one philosopher in the person of David Hume. This

is not for the reason that his notion is the standard but because

he was once considered as the most intriguing philosopher during

the time, especially to his idea on causation. Another reason is

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that the researcher, in his thorough examination of Humes

causation, finds it a very interesting philosophy as an attempt

explains causation.

David Hume is one of the British empiricists1, and was born

in the year 1711 in Edinburgh. His family wished him to become a

lawyer, but he tells that he was dominated by a passion for

literature and felt an insurmountable aversion to everything but

the pursuit of philosophy.2 This interest to Literature and

Philosophy led Hume to produce many works, though, at first, he

was not immediately recognized. Some of these works are A

Treatise of Human Nature Essays,Moral and Political,An Enquiry

concerning the Principles of Morals Political Discourses An

Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. Among the aforementioned

works, it is in the latter and in the former where he discusses

more on causality.

In this paper, the researcher will try to provide an

exposition of Humes notion on causation. Yet, in order to make

sense of the latter, the researcher will begin by providing a

1Hume, David.A Treatise of Human Nature (Oxford: Clarendon Press,


1896),http://people.rit.edu/wlrgsh/HumeTreatise.pdf<date accessed: April 30, 2016
Hume, David. Enquiries concerning Human Understanding and concerning the
Principles of Morals, 3rd Edition (London: Oxford University Press, 1975)

2 Frederick Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy, Book II (New York: Doubleday,


1985), p. 258

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glimpse of Humes epistemology considering that this

[epistemology], which is written in his book Enquiries

Concerning Human Understanding, serves as the first step to the

understanding of Humes notion of Causation.3Moreover, in his

epistemology, the Treatise of Human Nature will not be

disregarded as it is also of importance to the subject matter.

However, it is inevitable that even how profound and

convincing the idea of a philosopher is, there will be other

thinkers who would likely criticise the philosophers claim. Hume,

of course, is not excuse to critisms. One of his critics is Kant,

whose contention will also be included. Lastly, the researcher

will give his commentary at the latter part of the paper, a kind

of evaluation whether or not Humes theory on causation is

reliable.

3 C. M. Lorkowski, David Hume: Causation <http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume-


cau/<date accessed: April 30 2016

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Chapter II

On Humes Epistemology

Since Hume is an empiricist, it is expected that he would

consider that the thoughts in our mind are but products of

experience. Hume is convinced to say that it is the human mind

which possesses the ability to seemingly think unlimitedly.

Seemingly for the reason that that though the mind seems to

possess this wide freedom it is really confined within very

narrow limits.4 This means that however vague the thoughts in

our minds are, it does not mean that they are completely free.

The human mind then is not totally free, Hume argues, as it does

not have the capacity to think of something which does not have

an empirical basis. Every thought we have are solely the product

of our sensations. One cannot think of a chair without

experiencing what a chair is. Even those mythical beings, they

are just merely a product experience, in a way, because they are

not but a product of sensations; though not literally, for they

are sensed in a different manner.

What Hume is trying to say is that those uncommon

creatures/things we think of are just products of our fertile

4Ibid.

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imaginations; but are still grounded on experience. When, for

instance, one thinks of a speaking ball pen, he has not, of

course, seen and heard literally a speaking ball pen. Rather,

this speaking ball pen is considered to be, as what Hume calls

it, a complex idea; thus, a combination of two simple

experiences. What one experienced in reality is just a normal

ball pen and an attribute of man, which is, the ability to speak.

It is only the mind that adds and reduces the original attributes

of a ball pen and of mans ability to speak.Thus, in that sense,

mind still is limited.

Furthermore, David Hume considers that what we have in mind

is of two classification. These are, the impressions and the

ideas.5 Both are said to be our perceptions impression on the

one hand and Ideas on the other. However, Hume argues that the

former, that is, impression, is genuine while, the latter is just

the imitation of impressions, which are, the ideas. Hume is

somehow saying that ideas are but the fake manifestations of

impression. Thus he says:

Every one will readily allow that there is a

considerable difference between the perceptions of

the mind, when a man feels pain of excessive heat,

5David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896),


p.7http://people.rit.edu/wlrgsh/HumeTreatise.pdf<date accessed: April 30, 2016

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or the pleasure of moderate warmth, and when he

afterwards recalls to his memory this sensation,

or anticipates it by his imagination. These

faculties may mimic or copy the perceptions of the

senses; but they never can entirely reach the

force and vivacity of the original sentiment. All

colors of poetry, however splendid, can never

paint natural objects in such a manner as to make

the description be taken for a real landskip. The

most lively thought is still inferior to the

dullest sensation.6

Basing from the argument above, Hume makes it clear that the

actual sensations are more realistic than mere reminiscence of

experience since the former is more vivid and lively sensed than

the latter. The abovementioned argument is what Hume calls the

copy thesis7. Impressions therefore are original. Without

impressions, there can be no ideas since it is only through

impressions that ideas are born. This point of view grounds why

Hume remains a dedicated empiricist.

A. Humes Causation

6David Hume, Enquiries concerning Human Understanding and concerning the


Principles of Morals, 3rd Edition (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 20

7James Fieser, David Hume, Internet Encyclopedia of


Philosophy,http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume/<date accessed: April 30, 2016

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David Hume stated out two paths wherein the mind connects ideas.

On the one hand, it is done through natural relations and,

through philosophical relations on the other.8Both are somehow

interconnected yet Hume made a distinction between them. In the

natural relations, we are led to imagine the connection of ideas.

In a much concrete way of explaining this kind of relation, it is

the same as to think of the idea of a table and of a chair with

their corresponding principles. Moreover, natural relations are

of three kinds, namely, resemblance, contiguity, and cause and

effect wherein it is the latter stated that is the most

prevalent.9Indeed it is, because it gives something which tells

us about the world. In that sense, it can be said that the cause

and effect is not solely a natural relation but also a

philosophical relation. Other philosophical relations are

resemblance and contrariety; both can provide certainty, though

not always the case. Hume emphasizes that cause and effect has

already existed and, thus, present, from the very beginning of

time and of the worlds origination. Nevertheless, Hume tells us

that we would never know what really causation is for the reason

that our experiences are just particulars. Our experience of

causation does not bring us to causation that is universal. This

8C. M. Lorkowski, David Hume: Causation, http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume-cau/<date


accessed: September 9, 2015

9Ibid.

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belief of Hume made him very sceptic to causality. Cause and

effect therefore cannot bring us certainty or knowledge in so far

as David Hume is concerned.

Now, the question is, what really is causation?

Basically, for Hume, causation is the interconnectedness of

events within the world. It is neither about something that is an

a priori nor something that is an abstraction. There are three

ingredients of the cause-effect notion of Hume, namely, priority

in time, proximity in space, and necessary connection.10In

priority in time, it is much concerned with which event happened

first before the result took place. For instance, I punched a guy

which caused him a black eye, it tells us that it can never be

the case that he first had a black eye before I punched him. It

should be the other way around. Event A should be prior to event

B since B was the result of the event A.In proximity in space, it

is grounded upon the space wherein the event happened. The

occurrence of, two events must happen within the parameter; that

is the nearness of the two events to happen. Lastly, the

necessary connection is of much importance to causality. In every

event there must be a necessary causal relation. Otherwise,

causality will end up being futile and thus, invalid. Further,

10James Fieser, David Hume,http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume/<date accessed: April


30, 2016>

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this necessary causal relation is also known to be the driving

force which connects two or more events. Upon punching the guy,

there must be a kind of force which made him move backward and

get a black eye. In other sciences, necessary causal connection

is somehow a counterpart for their law of motion. As a summary,

the aforementioned three ingredients of causality must be met and

satisfied.

Furthermore, causality for Hume can also be likened to an event

that repeatedly occurs. One good example of which is that, the

moon is seen at night and not at noon. If so far this premise

does not fail, it becomes a habit. And when it becomes a habit,

we are of course expecting for this event to happen all over and

over again. We then tend to become accustomed to this series of

event. In effect, if the other way around, by any chance,

happens, it becomes strange to us.

Humes copy thesis has a very important role in causality

since it allows us to think that it is because of impressions,

which is grounded on experience, that we are able to see priority

in time, proximity in space, and necessary connection. Without

impressions, we cannot have any idea of what those are. These all

are not really difficult to comprehend except necessary

connection. Priority traces back to our various experiences of

time Proximity traces back to our various experiences of space

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But what is the experience that gives the idea of necessary

connection?11 Here then comes the problem of inductive method.

David Hume has this bias especially when it comes to knowledge on

causality. According to him, we cannot actually grasp necessary

connection since our experiences are always particular. Thus, it

cannot arrive to any universalization. Hume criticizes much those

thinkers who tend to generalize things since it can never give us

true knowledge. Even how consistent the data are, possibility of

its opposites. This belief grounds Humes scepticism. There is no

room for man to attain absolute truth or certainty because

everything is just a series of events and hence, can possibly be

altered in the least of ones expectation. Everything is just a

product of experience. Knowledge is just a product of experience.

Experience is particular, given that we cannot experience all

thing sin the world. Ergo, we cannot arrive at certainty.

Now, here come the rationalists, trying to refute Hume. They

argue that to consider causality as part of mans experience is a

nave definition of causality. Immanuel Kant, considers causality

as part of our understanding. Absolute Causality is never seen in

the succession of events we experience throughout our lives

because if thats the case, then causality will be regarded as

subjective rather than objective; thus, a kind of threat to

11 Ibid.

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knowledge. If I kick a ball and it hits the other balls,

causality is never in the first ball I kicked. Rather, it is in

our intellect. It is not something material but something

immaterial that is applied to the world; thus, causation for Kant

can be regarded as a priori rather than a posteriori.

Hume did not accept any of the ideas of the traditional

metaphysicians. He is a philosopher with deep suspicions about

the idea that the world has genuinely modal features12.This

strong opposition is clearly seen in his epistemology. As he

believes sensation is more vivid. For example, I was hit by a

car, what is very clear is at the moment of the accident rather

than remembering the pain Ive got upon that accident that

happened a long time ago. The most striking part of Humes strong

opposition to rationalism is seen in the last part of the

Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Thus, he says:

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these

principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our

hand any volume; of divinity or school of metaphysics,

for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract

reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. does it

contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of

12 Michael J. Loux, Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction, 3rd Edition (New York:


Routledge, ____ ), p. 188

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fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames:

for it can contain nothing but sophistry and

illusion.13

The aforementioned contemtion actually led to the alarm of many

thinkers, especially the rationalists. The content has very

persuasive words. The rationalists are very sensitive to the

empiricists since they consider rationalist as threat to

knowledge and to society as a whole.

B. On the various interpretations of Humes notion of Causality

There are three groups of thinkers that interpreted Humes

causation differently. Each of which has their own belief of what

really Hume is trying to talk about. These three are the causal

reductionist, the causal skeptic, and the causal realist. The

causal reductionist takes Humes definitions of causation as

definitive14. Reductionism accepted Humes basic theory of

causation as being successions of events. They hold that

causation, power, necessity, and so forth, as something that

exist between external objects rather than in the observer, is

constituted entirely by regular succession15. However, there is


13 Ibid., 165

14 C. M. Lorkowski, David Hume: Causation, http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume-


cau/<date accessed: April 30 2016

15 Ibid.

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somehow an internal conflict within the group of reductionism and

so it has been divided further into two. On the one hand is the

group who believes that Humes causation is but solely a

conjunction of events; thus a habit, on the other hand is the

group that is concerned more on a mere explanatory in nature,

and is merely part of an empiricist psychological theory 16. What

is wrong with this composition of thinkers is that they tend not

to have no complete Humean account of causation. Second is the

Causal Skeptic. This group of thinkers takes Humes problem of

induction as unsolved17. If the causal reductionists are more

concerned with the objects or the external entities, rather than

the perceiver, as the centre of their inquiry on causality, the

Causal Skeptics are somehow considering the other way around.

They are more into interpretation of claims epistemically rather

than ontologically rather than interpreting Humes insights

about tenuousness of our idea of causation as representing an

ontological reduction of what causation is, Human causal

scepticism can instead be viewed as his clearly demarcating the

limits of our knowledge in this area and then tracing out the

ramifications of this limiting18. Furthermore, they believe that

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18Ibid.

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Humes causation remains hanging; thus, unsolved. The third group

of thinkers is the Causal Realism. This is somehow in favour with

Hume. They added some interpretations to avoid the negative

claims of the causal reductionist and the causal skeptic; this

group believes that Hume has some robust notion of causation19

C. On the various interpretations to Humes notion of Causality

Accordingly, if not led astray, there are three groups of

thinkers who have interpreted Humes causation differently. Each

of which has their own belief of what really Hume is trying to

talk about. These three are the following: the causal

reductionist, the causal skeptic, and the causal realist. The

causal reductionist takes Humes definitions of causation as

definitive20. Reductionism accepted Humes basic theory of

causation as being successions of events. They hold that

causation, power, necessity, and so forth, as something that

exist between external objects rather than in the observer, is

constituted entirely by regular succession21. However, there is

somehow an internal conflict within the group of reductionism and

so it has been divided further into two. On the one hand is the

19Ibid.

20 C. M. Lorkowski, David Hume: Causation, http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume-


cau/<date accessed: April 30 2016

21 Ibid.

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group who believes that Humes causation is not but solely a

conjunction of events; thus a habit; while on the other hand is

the group of reductionism, that are considered by Robinsons as

that which is concerned more on a mere explanatory in nature,

and is merely part of an empiricist psychological

theory22.Whats wrong with this composition of thinkers is that

they tend not to have a complete Humean account on causation.

Second is the Causal Skeptic. This group of thinkers takes

Humes problem of induction as unsolved23. If the causal

reductionists are more concerned with the objects or the external

entities, rather than the perceiver, as the centre of their

inquiry on causality, the Causal Skeptics are somehow considering

the other way around. They are more into interpretation of

claims epistemically rather than ontologically rather than

interpreting Humes insights about tenuousness of our idea of

causation as representing an ontological reduction of what

causation is, Human causal scepticism can instead be viewed as

his clearly demarcating the limits of our knowledge in this area

and then tracing out the ramifications of this limiting24.

Further, they believe that Humes causation remains hanging; thus

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24Ibid.

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unsolved. The third group of thinkers is the Causal Realism. The

latter is somehow in favour with Hume. They added some

interpretations to avoid the negative claims of the causal

reductionist and the causal skeptic; this group believes that

Hume has some robust notion of causation25.

III. Conclusion

In the long run of the exposition of Humes Causation, the

researcher finds it very substantial and thus very practical.

Though many would say that Humes philosophy is a threat to

knowledge, still the researcher is convinced for the following

reasons: Firstly, Humes theory of knowledge is very much evident

in reality, that is, in the world. Indeed, the contents of our

thoughts are reducible to simple idea and are thus grounded with

experience. Secondly, causation, the researcher believes, is not

basically in our understanding, following the notion of Hume. For

the researcher, it is the events we are experiencing that pave

the way for us to have in mind the understanding of what

causation is. Understanding therefore is just secondary quality

of man. Again, that is the bias of the researcher. And lastly,

but most importantly, the researcher is very much convinced to

the idea that our mind is limited, thus we can never know what

really are the essences of things. What we can know are just the

25Ibid.

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product of our observations towards the objects we experience,

following of course the philosophy of Hume and of Kant. Yet, of

the two, the researcher is more convinced with the former, when

it comes to causation and theory of knowledge.

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