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PHL lecture, jan. 26.doc

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University of Toronto St. George
Peter King

Hume: The Problem of Induction • Hume holds that causal reasoning is, and must be, based on experience o Distinguishes two claims  All effects have causes  All events have causes o The truth of (C1) is based on a relation among ideas: it is part of the idea of an effect that it is caused.  That is, the ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ are correlative terms, just as much as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’  A husband is someone’s husband, and a wife someone’s wife  Likewise, ‘effect’ means something like ‘an event brought about by some other event’ o Hume is interested in (C1) only to the extent that it might be confused with (C2) not in its own right o C2 is a matter of fact: its denial is logically possible  Hume points out that what we identify as the cause and as the effect are in fact no more than two distinct events; there is no more reason why a given event should a priori be the effect of a given event as cause than any other event  Hume thinks that the point is readily granted in the case of unfamiliar things  Isolated on a desert island, a castaway finds an unfamiliar brownish-green kind of fruit growing on a tree  The fruit could equally well be nourishing or poisonous, and no amount of a priori reasoning will serve to settle the question  As with unfamiliar things, so too with familiar things  Hume, to his credit, takes an example that seems undeniable: the motion of a billiard-ball being (apparently) caused by the impact of the cue-ball  He argues that our immediate response is in fact a learned response, and it is merely the force of habit (‘custom’) that makes it seem to be undeniable • Yet Hume will deny it o He holds that all causal inference has the following pattern:  “A” has been followed by “B,” therefore this “A” will be followed by a “B” o The inference is clearly not deductive, since it is at least possible that this A not be followed by a B o Therefore, the conclusion is a matter of fact, and causal inference is inductive o The Uniformity of Nature Principle (UNP)  The future will be like the past  Thus inductive inference includes a hidden premise: • “A” have been followed by “B” • The future will be like the past • Therefore: this A will be followed by a B  It’s clear that UNP, if true, justifies the inductive inference by providing the missing premise  IS THE UNP TURE? • Hume holds that there is no justification for accepting (UNP) Hume reasons as follows: o The proposition that the future will be like the past is concerned with either (a) relations among ideas, or (b) matters of fact and existence o There is no contradiction
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