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IS THERE A PRUSSIAN HUME? or How Far Is It from Könisberg to Edinburgh! Lewis White Beck has recently argued that Hume, in spite of his empiricist commitment, implicitly recognized the limitations of that position when he incorporated in his thinking ideas that are essentially Kantian and incompatible with his official empiricism. Beck is not, of course, the first so to argue; Robert Paul Wolff made a 2 similar claim some years ago in a well-known paper. Wolff's case has, however, been challenged, and it is the aim of the present paper to challenge Beck's somev.'hat different case. 4 Beck argues that Hume has two causal principles: (1)Every event has a cause (2)Same cause, same effect the second of which he claims Hume defends, and the first of which he claims Hume does not defend. He then turns to the case of perception, where we observe an object once intermittently and once continuously. The result is a gappy series of impressions in the first case, and a non-gappy one in the second. The existence of the gap falsifies principles (1) and (2). In order to save principle (2), Beck argues, Hume relies on principle (1) . The latter enables Hume to "feign" unobserved events to fill the gap. But (1) is also falsified by the empirical data, that is, the existence of the gap. So this appeal to (1) is illegitimate. At least it is illegitimate if the only support we are permitted to use is observational data. And that is all that the official Hume, committed to empiricism, is permitted to use. However, Hume does use (1), contrary to what his official position allows. This suggests that he recognizes, what Kant explicitly argued, that there are non-empirical reasons justifying the acceptance of (1) . And it is here that we see the Prussian aspects of the Scots sceptic. Beck's case depends upon three points: (a)He must separate principles (1) and (2). (b)He must argue that gappy series of impressions are filled by appealing to (1) . (c)He must argue that gappy series of impressions falsify (1) , rendering its use to fill those gaps illegitimately. In what follows it is argued that the distance from Königsberg to Edinburgh cannot thus be bridged. Specifically, it is argued, first, that (a) is false, or, more specifically that for Hume (2) entails (1) ; second, that, when (1) and (2) are so understood, then (b) is partially correct; and third, that, when (1) and (2) are taken as Hume takes them, then (c) is incorrect: the gaps do not falsify (1), its use remains legitimate. Let us begin with principle (2) , the "same cause, same effect" principle. This principle is Rule 4 of Hume's rules by which to judge of causes and effects. He states it as The same cause always produces the same effect, and the same effect never arises hut from the same cause. (T173) Rules 1-3 give the analysis of the causal relation insofar as it is an ob8 jective relation among things. Rule 4 then makes a claim about events and causes. Rule 4 is followed by four rules which are the best statement of Mill's Methods of eliminative induction prior to Herschell's Preliminary Discourse. When one of these methods is used, the data eliminate all possible hypotheses but one, and the conclusion is that this uneliminated hypothesis must be true, correctly describing the relevant causal relation. Hume carefully points out that we draw this conclusion not from the data alone, but 3. also from the "same cause, same effect" principle. Thus, when Hume states Rule 5, the method of agreement, he writes There is another principle , which hangs upon this [i.e., upon Rule 4, "same cause, same effect"], viz . that where several different objects produce the same effect, it must be by means of some quality , which we discover to be common amongst them. For as_ like effects imply like causes, we must always ascribe the causation to the circumstance, wherein we discover the resemblance . (T174, italics added) We can bring out the logic of the situation if we translate this into the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 1-18
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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