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NOTES AND DISCUSSIONS HUME'S DEFINITIONS OF CAUSE: SKEPTICISM WITH REGARD TO LESHER'S TWO SENSES 99 Professor James Lesher, in a recent article (this lournal, XI, 3[July, 1973]), has purportedly resolved the dispute about Hume's two definitions of cause. Not only does he claim that all previous treatments of this problem are wrong, but he also argues that all previous commentators are mistaken about Hume's methodology. This would be a boon to Hume scholarship if his argument were correct. He argues that Hume was not offering two non-equivalent definitions of the same concept , but that Hume was offering two non-equivalent definitions of the same term. The two definitions of cause in the Treatise1 are: D 1 All object precedent and contiguous to another, and where the objects resembling the former are plac'd in like relations of precedency and contiguity to those objects that resemble the latter. D2 An object precedent and contiguous to another, and so united with it, that the idea of the one determines the mind to form the idea of the other, and the impression of one to form a more lively idea of the other. (T. 170) There are several problems with Lesher's interpretation of D 1 and D2, the least of which is that it does not correspond to Hume's own claims in the relevant section of the Treatise, e.g., "all causes are of the same kind," "the same course of reasoning will make us conclude, that.., there is but one kind of cause" (T. 171). There is also the problem of Lesher's puzzling use of textual evidence. He claims that Hume clearly had two non-equivalent definitions of cause, since in the essay on Liberty and Necessity in the Inquiry , 2 Hume offers two definitions of necessity. Lesher here implies that these definitions of necessity are not equivalent and hence the definitions of cause of which they are a part cannot be equivalent. He cites the passage where Hume says "necessity can be defined in two ways, conformably to the definitions of cause of which it makes an essential part," and, he goes on to say, "Hume recognizes two senses (E., p. 97) of the term [necessity ].... -3 Lesher refers to this passage three times. It is indeed surprising and unfortunate that he offers such an abridgement of this passage. The sentence, without the ellipsis, reads, "Now necessity in both these senses (which, indeed, are at bottom the same) has universally.., been allowed to belong to the will of man..." (I. 106, my italics). The parenthetical comment4 is Hume's. It is designed to avoid precisely the sort of move Lesher makes when he claims that Hume thinks there are different non-equivalent definitions of necessity. Even the Treatise material on Liberty and Necessity has a similar emphasis (T. 400). If we look at Hume's theory of causality we can see that he is not using two senses of necessity in his two definitions. D 1 presupposes a uniformity theory and Hume requires a determination of the mind to account for a uniformity theory. For Hume, any prediction 1 References to A Treatise o/Human Nature are to the edition by L. A. Selby-Bigge;hereafter cited as T. 2 References to An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding are to the edition by C. W. Hendel (New York, 1955); hereafter cited as I. 3 Lesher, p. 391. 4 The same parenthetical comment is in the Selby-Biggeedition which Lesher cites. 100 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY of the future uniformityof a causal relation requires a mental determination. In D1Hume is talking about a future as well as a past uniformity when he uses the tenseless expression "where all objects resembling the former are plac'd in like relations" (T. 170). Thus even in D1, causality requires a mental determination. This point is confirmed in Hume's abstract of the Treatise where he claims that a uniformity view of causality is dependent on a determination of the mind. After saying that "we conclude that like causes, in like circumstances , will always produce like effects" (i.e., the uniformity thesis of Dx in both the Inquiry and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 99-100
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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