PHL220: Hume's Enquiry, sections III and IV part 1
Hume's Enquiry, sections III and IV part 1
Hume, Section III
The association of ideas
- Ideas are associated in one of three ways
- Cause and effect
- Examples include
- Resemblance: a painting reminds us of the thing painted
- Contiguity: thinking about one apartment in a
building naturally leads us to think about the others
in the building.
- Cause and effect: if we think of a wound, we
think of the pain it would cause.
Hume, Section IV part 1
- All knowledge is of two forms
- Relations of Ideas
- Matters of Fact
- Relations of ideas
- Relations of ideas include mathematical findings.
- Relations of ideas are "demonstratively certain"
and would be true regardless of what kinds of things
there are in the universe.
- Hume seems to intend us to understand that truths
that are relations of ideas are necessary truths, they
could not have been otherwise.
- One test of necessity is that it would be
contradictory to deny a necessary claim.
- NOTE: with a very few exceptions, there seems to
be agreement that truths of mathematics and logic are
not empirical facts. That is, both empiricists and
rationalists agree that they are somehow independent
of the physical world.
- Matters of fact
- Matters of fact include scientific claims, and
other claims about the physical world.
- Matters of fact are contingent claims: "The
contrary of every matter of fact is still possible."
That is: there is no contradiction in imagining a
matter of fact is false.
- Since matters of fact are contingent, what
evidence do we have to believe a matter of fact other
than immediate experience?
- Hume says all reasoning about matters of fact is
based on a notion of cause and effect.
- We explain a matter of fact by referring to
other matters of fact.
- We clearly believe that there is a special
relation between some facts, which we call
- How do we get knowledge about cause and effect?
- This knowledge is not a priori - it arises
totally from experience. (a priori means given
- When confronted with a new phenomenon, I cannot
derive its causes.
- I must experience correlations between this
phenomenon and others, and I will call other prior and
correlated phenomena "causes."
- Similarly: when confronted with some new phenomenon, I
could never discern the effects it could cause by looking at
- The cause and the effect are always different, and cannot
be discovered in each other.
- Science tries to reduce causes down to fewer kinds of
causes, but it cannot explain those causes.
- Applied mathematics will not help: although math is a
relation of ideas and is a priori, it is applied to experience
and not a determiner of experience.