13. The Problem of Induction
Link between cause and effect relationships
0. Hume: some biography
1. Hume's "Fork"
Relations of Ideas: similar to a priori
“three times five is equal to half of thirty”
“the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides”
“bachelors are unmarried males”
“Propositions of this kind are discoverable by the mere operation of thought,
without dependence on what is anywhere existent in the universe. Though there
never were a circle or triangle in nature, the truths demonstrated by Euclid would for
ever retain their certainty and evidence.”
Matters of Fact: similar to a posteriori
“The monkey is on the carpet”
“bread is nourishing to human beings”
“my friend peter is in France”
Not ascertained (discovered) in the same manner as relations of ideas.
Our evidence of their truth is not of the same nature as that of relations of ideas.
The contrary of any matter of fact is possible:
–it never implies a contradiction
–the contrary is entirely conceivable
Perfectly true that these facts are false. (bread poisonous to humans, peter is not in
2. Relations of Cause and Effect
„Aristotles four causes‟
Most interested in the efficient cause
Present testimony in our senses
Records of our memory
“All reasonings concerning matters of fact seem to be founded on the relation of
cause and effect.”
Your friend is in France.
–inferred from a letter received from him
There once were human beings on the island.
–inferred from the discovery of a watch
A person is present.
–inferred from hearing articulate voice and rational discourse in the dark The reaching of the conclusion is the reliance of cause and effect
Our reasoning about matters of fact all turn on the relations of cause and
The relations of cause and effect are not themselves relations of ideas; they are matters of
You cannot reason through to, just sitting in a chair. It‟s a matter of fact about the
world that has to be checked.
“…..causes and effects are discoverable, not by reason, but by experience”
Ex: explosion of gun powder7
Ex: magnets attract one another
“The mind can never possibly find the effect in the supposed cause, by the most
accurate scrutiny and examination.”
- Think as hard as you like about the supposed cause. You will not find in the idea
of that cause, the idea of the effect.
- We have alleged causes and alleged effects, but we don‟t know or experience the
link between them.
Hume‟s basic message is that, if we think carefully about cases of cause-effect
relationships, we discover that in fact we have no impression of causal power, no
impression of necessary connection…
…all we have is an impression of one event followed by an impression of another
We have no impression of any link between the events.
-Yellow ball hits red ball, red ball moves off. No link I detected
between the two events. One event AND THEN the other
-We can hypothesize, but we DO NOT detect a link
-we don‟t experience the link
-it is not part of the idea that the yellow ball hits the red ball, and the
red ball moves off
-it‟s just one thing after another!!!!