Personal Critique of Hume’s Analysis of Causality
The idea of causality is one of the most familiar that we have today; in fact, it is involved in almost every aspect of reasoning and is presupposed in each and every form of argument and all practical action. Causality has generally been a critical conception in philosophy and also in the philosophy of science since the ancient period, and especially that of ancient Greek. This is precisely the reason why causality has obsessed philosophers so much over the years. According to Hume causality is literary the “cement of the universe, (Fowler, 1)” which essentially can be construed to mean that causality is the glue that holds all things together. By getting to know what causes are, we might be empowered to understand the way our mind relate to our bodies, the way free will works, the way ideas influence our actions, and finally, the way our bodies might bring about changes to other bodies. There is no doubt that just as Hume alludes in his theory of causality, mankind attributes to specific phenomena a causative action on other people. This natural attribution of cause and effect to the phenomenon is antecedent to all philosophical analysis and statement.
Hume’s Epistemology and metaphysics, irrespective of whether they are true of false, symbolize the bankruptcy of the 18th century reasonableness. He begins with the line of reasoning that Locke adopted, with the sole intention of not only being sensible but also empirical, trusting absolutely nothing that is not backed by observation and experience. However by having sharper analysis skills, intellect, and greater acuteness, especially in analysis than Locke, together with little room for booking comfortable inconsistencies, Hume ends up arriving in a disastrous conclusion to the effect that observation and experience present absolutely no learning experience. This essentially mean that there is nothing like rational believe, has can be found in his statement to the effect that “if we believe that water refreshes or fire warm, it is only due to the fact that it cost us too many pains to think otherwise (Fowler, 1).” In his opinion, there is no way we can avoid believing, however, there is no believing that has ever been grounded on reason.
According to Zubiri and almost all other British empiricists of the time, it is important to dig deeper into the subject matter before developing any epistemology, which enables a philosopher in his analyses of human intelligence, something that Hume seem to understand perfect as can be testified by the causality philosophy (Fowler, 1). Zubiri also maintains, just as Hume, that such analysis ought to be the foundation of any causality theory. He further goes on to concur with Hume that ‘causes’ in a certain metaphysical sense, are never provided in experience. Finally, Zubiri agrees with Hume that there are major problems with the “classical” idea of causality, which at the moment require a total overhaul (Fowler, 1).
By believing in a matter of fact while failing to accord the relations of ideas any prominence, the casual reasoning that seems to be Hume conclusion of his theory of causality, the knowledge in it is rendered unmathematical and illogical (Fowler, 1). According to Hume, that kind of belief is contingent, something that makes his conclusion contingent too, which therefore makes it unjustifiable through reasoning. From this, we can, therefore, say that Hume literary defeat himself with his own weapon, a fate that logical positivism also suffered. At the heart of logical positivism was the belief that nothing can be said to be true until it has been proved empirically, however it still recognize the fact that nothing can be proved empirically, this is a contradiction that like I have observed with Hume’s conclusion of causality theory, kills it while trying to explain it.
Hume’s argument combines both induction and deduction concepts. Although it is essentially a structure of deduction, its presuppositions are not logically self-evident, as they mainly come from experience (Fowler, 1). The induction component on the other hand, according to Hume, will definitely result in the contingency of casual reasoning which essentially constitute his conclusion. Lastly, his theory is basically premised on a cognitive model of mind, in the research field that today is referred to as cognitive science.
Just as Bertrand Russell noted, Hume theory has two components, one subjective and the other objective. The objective component says that; whenever we say that A is caused by B, all that we are alluding to is that the two are conjoined, or in simple terms B is preceded by A. however according to available information this does not necessarily mean that B has to be preceded by A, neither are we a hundred percent sure that B can be made to follow an vice-versa. The point that I am trying to drive home is the fact that causality can only be defined in terms of series, and not independent opinion (Fowler, 1).
The subjective part of the theory, on the other hand, says that; the frequently observed union of A and B create an impression of A being caused by B at all time. This is erroneous because frequency does not necessarily provide a perfect basis for predicting the future as far as the two events are concerned. If for some reason the objective part of his theory is to be believed, then the fact that associations have frequently been made previously does not in itself create a good reason to believe new associations will be occasioned by similar conditions in future. Therefore Hume agrees in causation in the subjective parts, which he is quick to counter it in the objective part. In very simple terms what Hume’s Causality theory says is that the impression of A can only create an idea of B. Looking at it very carefully we can conclude his conclusion to mean that causal law is only present in the subjective world, but not in the objective one (Fowler, 1). And yet there is absolute no concrete reason for this kind of an asymmetry. This essentially shows that this theory of Hume cannot explain convincingly our belief of causality in a manner that is consistent.
It is important that any conceivable bring forth a logical contradiction. However, Hume causality theory seems unconscious of this important prerequisite. First, it is important to note that a belief, or anything that is contrary to it, is not only conceivable but also logically possible (Fowler, 1). In Hume’s case, his idea of causality as a constant conjunction is conditional or contingent. If anything, another idea of causality is still conceivable. So his presupposition, which is very much needed in his argument, may actually render his argument invalid. Moreover, this presupposition is obviously unreasonable so to speak, which is because reason is normally refused due to the mere fact of non-reason being conceivable.
The notion of causation is a constant conjunction has also been found to have flaws. First, the regular conjunction of events does not always mean there is a causality relation between them. For instance, lightning normally precedes thunder in an atmospheric electrical event, if we were to follow Hume argument then we will assume that thunder is caused by lightning, which is not the case in a real sense. This does not, however, eliminate the possibility of there being an actual connection between cause and effect.
Noteworthy is the fact that the subjective component of this theory, the argument of causation as a constant conjunction, actually depends on the uniformity principle. If for some reason the uniformity principle cannot be reasonably justified, then there is absolutely no ground as to why present conjunctions must reliably uphold in similar situations in the future (Fowler, 1). Therefore, Hume’s argument of causation as continuous conjunction will be rendered untenable. Hume assumed that science needs causality, and because science is unquestionably both empirical and knowledge, then he made sure that his explanation of causality supports the growth and the application of scientific knowledge.
From this analysis, we can conclude that Hume causality theory fares dismally. Especially when compared with other alternatives theories that have been formulated to explain causality. Some of the most promising theories in this regard include; Probabilistic Theories of Causality, Systematic Dependence Accounts of Causality, and Mechanism Theory of Causality. Probabilistic theories of causality are grounded on the idea that causes increases the probability of their effect, although an effect might as well occur when there is no cause. System dependence theories assume that causes make a huge difference to their respective effects, while mechanism approach (theory) assumes that two events are causally connected if there exists a mechanism that connects them.