Hume on Probability

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 158
  • Published : March 27, 2008
Open Document
Text Preview
Hume on Probability
Hume begins section six of “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” by stated right out that chance does not exist, but is merely a result of our ignorance of the causes behind any given event. He argues this by relating probability and belief. Belief arises when probability is at its most high. According to chance, any event may turn out anyway. Hume illustrates his point with a die. If a die were marked with one figure on four sides, while another figure on the other two sides, then it would be most probable that the die would land on the former side. If, however, the die had a thousand sides marked in one manner and only one side marked differently, then the probability of landing on the former mark would be higher. As such, our belief or expectation of this result would be higher1. As the chance of landing on one side of the die increases, the probability of that result also increases, and as such our belief in that result increases. As experience tells us that one result is more probable then another, so our mind construes the belief in that result. The nature of belief is thus constructed, as an experiment is repeated (such as the tossing of the fictional thousand sided die) and the result shows itself to be the same more often then not, then the idea of obtaining that result becomes more concrete and secure in the mind of the observer. Thus constituting a belief. There are some causes who's results are always uniform (fire always burns) yet there are others which are less certain and subject to fluctuations. Our beliefs are influenced by the past, and from the past we make all our inferences of the present and future. Knowledge is built upon experience. If a cause in the past always resulted in the same manner, then we assume that it will always be so. When it does not result in the manner we had thought, it is because of some unknown or unobserved cause acting on the initial cause thus changing the results, and calling our belief...
tracking img