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David Hume

Updated November 1, 2018

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David Hume essay

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.. ” (165). There are two ultimate definitions of causality that Hume finally reaches. He sees them as either an object precedent and contiguous to another, where all the objects resembling the former are placed in a like relation of priority and contiguity to those objects that resemble the latter. The other definition can be seen as an object precedent and contiguous to another, and so united with it in the imagination, that the idea of the one determines the mind to form the idea of the other, and the impression of the one to form a more lively idea of the other.

Hume sees the second definition of cause as being more accurate. The precedent and contiguous object seems to cause the effect, but in reality cannot be used to reason a necessary connection between cause and effect. The ideas of cause and effect, though they may be real, can only be supported by experience. David Hume’s argument in his epistemology on impressions and ideas mirrors his argument on causation.

He looks at many of the same concepts, including contiguity, succession, and resemblance. Many of his arguments on causation refer back to the epistemology, concerning the connection between impressions and ideas, as well as memory and the imagination. After comparing the two arguments there is only one rational end that you can come to, with the arguments being founded on the same premises and not contradicting each other, if you accept one, you must accept the other. Perceptions that enter the body with force form impressions, including sensations, passions and emotions. “In all reasonings from experience, there is a step taken by the mind which is not supported by any argument or process of the understanding, there is no danger that these reasonings, on which almost all knowledge depends, will ever be affected by such a discovery” (163-4). Those impressions are formulated in the composition of ideas.

Impressions and ideas can be broken down into simple and complex. Simple perceptions or ideas admit of no distinction or separation, where complex can be divided into parts. Ideas are solely formed from impressions, and cannot be separated from those impressions. Ideas and impressions always correspond to each other. You can, however, have complex ideas of which you never had impressions that corresponded to them in the same order. Therefore, you can imagine all sorts of things that you have never seen, such as the “golden mountain” (158).

“When we think of a golden mountain, we only join two consistent ideas, gold, and mountain, with which we were formerly acquainted” (158). Though there is a great resemblance between complex impressions and ideas, they are not always exactly the same. Simple impressions, on the other hand, always form simple ideas that resemble them. The idea can differ in degree from the impression, but not in nature.

If simple ideas and impressions resemble each other, and complex ideas are formed from simple ones, then simple and complex are exactly correspondent. Ideas are preceded by other more lively perceptions, from which they are derived, and which they represent. Simple impressions are prior to their correspondent ideas. There can be certain impressions, however, that can be preceded by ideas, as in the case of reflection. An impression can strike the senses, and a copy of it taken to the mind, which will remain even after the impression ceases.

It forms a lasting idea. The memory and imagination copy that impression and make it into an idea that can eventually give rise to other impressions and ideas, making for an exception that still does follow the rules of impressions and ideas. There are forces that cause ideas to be associated with each other. They arise from resemblance, contiguity in time and place, and cause and effect. Hume’s doctrine on causality follows many of the same ideas through the process of his epistemology, as does his definition of causality in his section on knowledge and probability.

The first of the similarities lies with contiguity. Impressions and ideas are related, just as cause and effect are thought of as being related. There is also a perceived succession in both cases. Impressions precede ideas, just as a cause precedes effect.

Even in the case of reflection, where a pre-conceived idea of the mind is there and can form other impressions, the initial impression comes before the idea. The concept of the impressions of the mind is one of the key pieces that associates Hume’s epistemology and his argument on causation. Cause and effect are complex and distinct ideas of the mind that are spawned from impressions. Ideas are separable, therefore cause and effect are not necessarily associated. The ideas of cause and effect are contingent upon Hume’s concept of impressions from his epistemology. Those impressions were formed from perceptions of relations between cause and effect, which are based on experience.

Impressions, in essence, formed the idea of a necessary connection between cause and effect. Impressions are based on experience, and the impression that formed the idea of a necessary relation between cause and effect was no different. The only reason for the idea of cause and effect being related was a previous experience, or custom that tied cause and effect together. Hume’s doctrine on causality is firmly founded in the concepts from his epistemology. His theories on the relation between impressions and ideas tie in directly with his idea of a necessary connection between cause and effect.

We have internal impressions that form the ideas of necessity, and those ideas are based on repetition and resemblance, but do not prove the claim that there is a necessary connection between cause and effect. Ideas are not original, they are formed from impressions and influenced by resemblance, and experience. Cause is not an original idea, it is formed from impressions, which are in turn formed from experience. Therefore, we accept the idea of cause not because it is rational or well reasoned, but because of custom.

Hume’s position is consistent, and ultimately if you accept his epistemology, you must accept the reasoning behind his ideas on cause and effect. Philosophy.

David Hume essay

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