PHL220: Hume's Enquiry, sections VI and VII
Hume's Enquiry, sections VI and VII
Hume, Section VI
The goal of this section is to explain probability.
- Hume argues that we confer probabilities on events based
on the frequencies that we have observed in the past.
- Example: I observe that one event (tossing a coin)
results in another event (the coin landing heads up) with some
frequency (the coin landed heads-up 50% of the time in the
past), so I conclude that in the future, this frequency will
Hume's Enquiry section VII part 1
The goal of this section is to explain our idea of "powers" or
"necessary connections" underlying causes.
- While the concepts of mathematics may be clear, the
concepts of the sciences are often ambiguous or unclear.
- The most important but very unclear concept in sciences
is that of a "necessary connection" or "power" that connects a
cause with an effect.
- Where does this idea come from?
- All ideas are copies of impressions, so what
impression underlies the idea of this "power" or
- It cannot be an observation of something
- When we examine events, we see no power,
just a correlation between kinds of events
- From the first appearance of an object or
event we cannot predict what it will cause (we
need to see what follows); so, it cannot be
that we see some power in the cause for this
would tell us about the effect.
- Objects ("bodies") have no powers
revealed in them, just independent properties
of extension, motion, solidity
- The will is like a power, perhaps - is our source
of the idea of a power come from our observation of
THUS: we do not understand or observe the
- Hume says it cannot be that observation
of something internal is our source of this
idea either, because the will is mysterious.
The will requires a link between soul and
body if we are to observe it as a power, and
this link is mysterious
- We cannot control some things, like our
livers - but we cannot say why we cannot
control of liver. So, the will is not
something we understand and can see in it its
- We know when we will some action that we
will that action, but we do not know the chain
of events leading to this action. So, the
will's action is mysterious to us.
- Perhaps we get the idea from our ability to
Thus: like the will's command over the body, the
will's command over thoughts remains unclear and
is not an experience of necessary connection.
- We don't understand the soul and its activities.
- We don't have complete command over our thoughts,
so there is not complete clarity of power here.
- Our self command over our thoughts changes over
time, and we do not understand why.
- Perhaps we get the idea of power or necessary
connection from thinking on God's will
- God's will is completely beyond our experience
- How God's volition works is as obscure as
- Is the idea of "power" or "necessary connection"
- Hume argues no - there is an impression on which it is
- This impression is of a sentiment.
- We observe correlations of types of
events A which are followed regularly in the
past by another type of event B.
- This regularity causes in us a sentiment
of expectation for the B events when we
observe an event of type A.
- This sentiment may mistakenly lead us to
think of there being a kind of power between