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PHL lecture, jan. 31.doc

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Peter King

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Hume: Necessary Connection and Belief • Hume’s Problem of Induction: there is no rational support for inductive inferences o Hume argues that there is no way to support the claim that the future will be like the past without begging the question o We can clarify Hume’s Problem by contrasting it with some other well- known problems with causal reasoning  (a) Finite sample problems and generalization worries;  (b) Interpreting probabilistic or statistical claims, • E.g.: There is a 90% likelihood that A will be followed by B o The usual charge is that we fail to have knowledge in such cases  However, sceptic and defender of causal reasoning alike usually grant that past instances are relevant to future prediction  Hume denies this common premise • In Enquiry V, Hume readily admits that we do have beliefs about the future, based on past experience o He even thinks we’re better off for having such beliefs, and furthermore that such beliefs are largely correct; those aren’t the point at issue.  Instead, Hume is worried about our epistemic warrant for these beliefs which is another matter altogether o Since we do not acquire these beliefs though conscious or unconscious reasoning processes, we must get them merely by habituation-through the influence of ‘custom’ A1 followed by B1  an impression-of-A1, an impression-of-B1 A2 followed by B2  an impression-of-A2, an impression-of-B2 An  an impression-of-An [The imagination moves to a belief in Bn) An+1  an impression-of-An+1 [The imagination moves to a belief in Bn+1) o The question that occupies Hume in Enquiry V-VII is: How does habituation work in this case?  That is: Given past experience of a constant conjunction between A and B, and given the present impression of an A, how do we come to have a belief in the prospective existence of B? o Hume’s strategy in these chapters is to explore the nature of belief and, once equipped with an analysis of belief, to work backwards:  He identifies the key component in the causal judgment “ A causes B” as the idea that A and B are necessarily connected  Then, by the ‘empiricist theory of meaning’ (to any legitimate idea there must be a correspond an impression in some fashion), he goes looking for the impression-of-necessary-connection • In Enquiry VII.1 Hume argues that we have no direct experience of the ‘power’ involved in necessary connection in o (a) Our experience of external objects; o (b) The mind’s power over the body;
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