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86. DISCUSSION Causal Powers by R. Harré and E. H. Madden. Pp.viii+191. Oxford: Blackwell, 1975. Price ¿4.75.ISBN 0-631-16040-X. NATURAL NECESSITIES AND CAUSAL POWERS "The authors of this book intend" , in the words of their dust-jacket, "nothing less than a wholesale rejection of the Humean scheme of causality and the reconstruction of the causal relation along non-Humean lines." Readers of Hume Studies will, and others I believe should, regret that Harré and Madden chose to relate their own contribution to the original source of the tradition which they are rejecting only most distantly. This neglect is curious, since the book is full of historical titbits. I was, for instance, glad in the final chapter 'Fields of Potential* to learn something of the sixteenth century Robert Norman - "The first scientist of the modern era to develop the concept of a field in a way recognizably like our contemporary notion..." (p. 164). But in this journal it is appropriate to concentrate upon the connections, and the lack of connections, with Hume. The first chapter begins: "There can be no doubt that the Humean conception of Causality and its linear descendant, the Regularity Theory, must be wrong" (p.l). I agree. I agree, furthermore, both that there are powers - that "a particular thing" may be "endowed with the power to produce an effect in virtue of its nature" (p. 16) and that - as "A number of eminent philosophers have insisted" - "we are sometimes directly aware of the action of causal powers" (p. 49). But I want to establish the first thesis by starting from Hume himself, and showing that the elements which he admits cannot by any means be 87. put together into an analysis carrying all the entailments carried by propositions asserting causal connections or laws of nature. And I want to see the second and third theses against the background of a lively appreciation of exactly what it was which Hume here was primarily concerned to deny. So consider the first of the two definitions proposed in the first Inquiry: «we may define a cause to be an object, followed bu another, and where all the objects similar to the first are followed bu objects similar to the second. Or in other words where, if the first object had not been, the second never had existed."! The first of the two clauses italicized by Hume is a variation on the theme of constant conjunction; and such constant conjunctions can easily be expressed in terms of material implication - not as a matter of fact one and not the other. But the second clause, which Hume falsely states to be equivalent, is totally different; it is a contrary to fact conditional. Propositions of this second sort are not entailed by propositions of the first kind. Yet every causal proposition entails some such contrary to fact conditionals; and the same is, indeed, definitionally true of every kind of nomological proposition . If, for instance, I maintain that the cause of the trouble is a fault in the wiring, then, it follows necessarily, that had there been no fault in the wiring, and had everything else been held constant, there would have been no trouble. The upshot is that, in so far as Hume's account of causation is an account in terms of the regularities of constant conjunction, it must be, as an analysis of the established meanings of causal words, at the very least, crucially insufficient. Nor is this situation saved by introducing some reference to associations of ideas or to the projection of 88. the felt force of habit: "We may ... form another definition of cause, and call it, an object followed by another, and whose appearance always conveys the thought to that other." 2 For, whatever may or may not happen to be true about my psychology when I give vent to some assertion about what causes what in the universe around me, that assertion itself certainly cannot be denied by offering some counter-assertion about putative ongoings in the speaker. Such psychological references cannot, therefore, be any part of the meaning of my original assertion. At this point, if not before, someone will...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 86-94
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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