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59. HUME'S DEBT TO KANT Various commentators on Hume's work have argued that his examination of our causal reasoning is not fundamentally at odds with the claims made by Kant in his supposed "answer to Hume". One way of making the connection , suggested by Wolff for example, is to emphasize the ways in which Humean epistemology depends upon a theory of mental activity. If this activity itself can only be understood in terms of built-in "propensities" of the mind, these dispositions can be interpreted as psychological descriptions of a mind operating in accordance with something quite like Kantian categories. Another way of arguing for this compatibility between Hume and Kant is to bring out central principles (e.g. , relating to causation ) which Hume's account depends upon, but which are such that they cannot be given an experiential foundation. Lewis White Beck has offered such a Kantianization of Hume, arguing that beneath the surface of the official Empiricist Hume (and just outside Hume's view of what he was doing) there is a commitment to principles that have 2 an a priori status in his theory. If Beck is right about this, we might speak with tongue only partially in cheek, of Hume's debt to Kant, for the Kantian categories could be taken as the systematic working out of the underpinnings of Hume's theory. In this paper I shall consider this problem only insofar as it relates to causal reasoning. I focus on Professor Wilson's defense of the Empiricist Hume, in which it is denied that our causal reasoning rests upon a priori principles. The principles in question are that (1) Every event has some cause, and (2) That like causes have like effects, and like effects like causes . Wilson argues that these are both empirical generalizations within an account that is both plausible and Humean. I shall 60. argue briefly that, contrary to Wilson's claim, the Humean account of causation makes the second of these an a priori truth because it is analytic. The first is certainly not an analytic truth, but it could not have been derived from experience, at least as Hume depicts our experience. It thus seems to be a claim that is functioning as synthetic and a priori in Hume's account of our beliefs. Except in the general way that this phrase implies, this paper is not really about Kant, who will barely be mentioned again. In my discussion of Wilson's argument I will not deal with the formalizations which he has introduced, but will attempt to capture the main lines of argument in more or less ordinary language. In proceeding thus, I am siding with Hume in siding with the vulgar. Having listed the eight rules of causal judgment which are under discussion here, Hume says Here is all the LOGIC I think proper to employ in my reasoning; and perhaps even this was not very necessary, but might have been supply 'd by the natural principles of our understanding . Our scholastic headpieces and logicians shew no such superiority above the mere vulgar in their reason and ability, as to give us an inclination to imitate them in delivering a long system of rules and precepts to direct our judgment, in philosophy. (T175) 1. The basic problem is whether or not Hume's explanation of our causal reasoning depends upon the assumption that all events have causes, and depends upon it in a way that makes this assumption a priori. Beck (and Wolff) have argued that this is the case, and hence that Hume is much closer to Kant than is commonly supposed. This Wilson denies. The argument revolves around the cases in which we fail to observe the causes we have come to associate with certain effects (or, in principle, vice versa) so that the conjunction of events is not "constant". The Humean account of what happens in such circumstances is that the imagination supplies the deficiency; we feign unobserved events to 4 fill the gap. But whereas Hume frequently disparages such 61. exercises of the fancy (as he calls them) he does not do so here. Hence, one may ask, what entitles us...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 59-73
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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