Hume on Cause and Effect

According to Hume ‘cause and effect’ is one of the three principles of connexion among ideas (Hume 1902, III) on which all our reasonings are founded (Hume 1902, IV.1). This constant conjoining of objects/ideas is known by us humans only by experience (Hume 1902, IV.1; Russell 2009, 532; Moore 2011, 134). Our minds cannot discover the effect in the cause thorough scrutiny; this is so because the effect is ‘totally different from its cause’ (Hume 1902, IV.1; also Moore 2011, 133). They are distinct. Their connection is ‘not logical’ and there is nothing in A which should lead to produce B (Russell 2009, 532). Thus, this inference is not determined by reason but from experience (Russell 2009, 532).

Cause, Effect and Reasoning

This relation of cause and effect is the foundation for the nature of all our reasonings concerning matter of fact (Hume 1902, IV.2) and, the foundation of everything we think about this relation of cause and effect is experience (Hume 1902, IV.2). The fact that we discover ‘similarity among natural objects’ offers us the foundation for all our arguments.

Melchert, Norman. 2011. The Great Conversation, A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Moore, Brooke Noel, and Kenneth Bruder. 2011. Philosophy, The Power of Ideas. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Russell, Bertrand. 2009. History of Western Philosophy. Oxon: Routlege.
Selby-Bigge, L. A., ed. 1902. Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals by David Hume. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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