Hume - Necessary Connection

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Jac Brueneman
Hume and Kant

Hume Essay

In David Hume’s masterful argument, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding, he addresses the foundation and processes of our epistemology through both empirical and applied epistemology. In this argument he addresses the issue of what, exactly, necessary causation is, its importance to our epistemology, and whether or not we are able to truly understand it. While Hume’s argument concerning necessary connection is strong there are flaws in it regarding necessity, what exactly Hume is arguing, and contradictions regarding his argument.

Hume begins his discussion of necessary connection by suggesting that there are no ideas in metaphysics as obscure as the idea of necessary connection. He states that, “it is impossible for us to think of anything that we have not antecedently felt, either by our external or internal senses.”(62) Our complex ideas are the sum of our simple ideas and our simple ideas are made up of impressions which we have “antecedently felt.” These impressions are not unclear in anyway, they elicit no doubt concerning their meaning. When we experience an instance of what we believe to be cause and effect, we experience the cause and the effect. We do not, however, experience the impression of necessary connection. In Hume’s example of the billiard balls we experience one billiard ball striking the other and the other seems to move as a result of the one’s strike. What we do not experience, Hume argues, is the necessary connection that causes the first billiard ball to move the other. We do not experience the actual relationship that the two have in that one moment that causes the effect to result. We cannot elicit the impression of necessary connection from our outward experiences, yet can we acquire the impression of necessary connection from our reflection of the operations of our mind and body?

Hume would argue that we still to do not gain any sort of impression from the interaction of the mind and its command over the body or what is known as the “mind-body connection.” He first observes that one of the most mysterious unions is the union of soul and body. If we were able to understand necessary connection from our consciousness then, “we [would] know the secret union of soul and body, and the nature of both these substances.”(65) Secondly, he notes that we do not have the same control over all of our organs and limbs. While we can move our arms, legs, feet, etc. freely, we have no control over the beat of our heart or the actions of our stomach. We observe that we will our limbs to move and they do so seemingly as a result, but we do not experience the necessary connection between the two. Lastly, when we command our body to move we do exactly that, command our body to move. What actually occurs, although, is a series of events centered in our nervous system that sends that message to the body parts that we wish to move. We do not in any way command our nerves to act in such a way, yet this is what happens. Therefore we, again, do not experience the necessary connection between our mind and body, but only our will acting upon our body and the resulting action.

The last connection that we experience that could evoke the sentiment of necessary connection is the interaction between the minds inner workings and its ability to conjure up ideas out of nothing. In this connection, Hume again does not believe that we experience an impression of necessary connection. Hume first notes that “a production of something out of nothing: implies a power so great, that… at least it must be owned, that such a power is not felt, nor known, nor even conceivable by the mind.”(68) We only feel our will give command and an idea appears out of nothing, but we do not feel, “the power by which it is produced.”(68) Next Hume notices that the minds ability to control itself is limited at best and the reason for this is not known. We have no ability to...
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