David Hume on Causal Relations

Topics: Logic, Empiricism, David Hume Pages: 1 (332 words) Published: May 24, 2013
David Hume, an empiricist and a materialist, was bent on showing that all ideas are derived from impressions we gain through sensory experiences by means of the three principles of association namely, resemblance, contiguity in time and place and cause and effect. Causal relationships (cause and effect) are the basis for all reasoning concerning matters of fact. Human beings believe that to know something fully, one must know the cause upon which it necessarily depends. Hume criticizes this notion by raising some arguments which would be discussed in the paragraphs that follow.

First of all, Hume asserts that, the causal relationship between any two objects is based on experience, and is not known through reasoning.. No one can reason to find an effect in a cause. For instance, if Adam were created with perfect rational faculties, prior to experience, he still could not tell from the properties of water that it would suffocate him. He would know this through experience alone. However, our inductive reasoning regarding experience is derived from custom and not from understanding. Hence, experience cannot establish a necessary connection between cause and effect.

Secondly, to Hume, the reason why we mistakenly infer that there is something in the cause that necessarily produces its effect is because our past experiences have inclined us to think so. However, we can imagine, without contradiction, a case that a cause does not produce its usual effect. For instance, there would be no logical contradiction if one was to postulate that the sun will not rise tomorrow because to Hume, it is not the case that the future will always resemble the past. He therefore asserts that, knowledge of unobserved facts cannot be attained. In a nut-shell, Hume doubts the rational foundation of everything that is useful and helps us get by in the world. All actions and speculations are based upon supposition of cause and effect. He asserts that the link we establish between cause...
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