Sunday, May 10, 2009

39b David Hume

Causation must be something special according to Hume for “by means of that relation alone we can go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses.” And that is a big step, but characteristic of scientific predictions, for instance.

So causation is the basis of all our reasoning concerning matters of fact, and in our “reasonings … it is constantly supposed that there is a connexion between the present fact and that which is inferred from it”

When A happens, we have an expectation that B will follow, as if A and B are connected somehow. We have seen this idea of a connextion before, discussed by the Greeks, like Aristotle, and much later by the rationalists.

But none of their interpretations was satisfactory for Hume. the big question: what is the nature of this so called connextion and how do we know what kind of connection it is?

There is a philosophical term: a priori. It means 'before sensory experience" . The counterpart is: a posteriori, which means "after sensory experience". So knowledge derived from innate ideas is a priori knowledge. Immanuel Kant will make great use of this a priori / a posterio, so keep it in mind.

You can imagine that Hume thence rejected the existence of any a priori knowledge that would explain, why we believe in causal relations. So knowledge of causality is not the result of deductive reasoning coming to conclusions from our experiences.

The conclusion that B will occur when A occurs, in which we feel a kind of necessary connection is simply based on past experiences. We have seen it happen many times before.

This may be true, but how can we say with certainty that this relation between A and B will occur in the future too. What justifies such a conclusion? There is no logic that forces us to accept this conclusion.

The premise "When A coccured, B always follows" doesnt necessarily imply the conclusion "Thence A will cause B a next time". So we are a bit at a loss. We see things happen. We have a feeling of , what we call a causal relation - the one cant be without the other - and the only thing we have is, that we see A happen and immediately after that we see B happen.

We even expect that. You turn the switch and the light goes on. Your shoe hits a tincan and it jumps away several meters. You touch the flame of a candle and you feel pain. Causal relations. So how should we explain this certainty of knowledge about these facts?

There it is!!! Since my grauduation at the university I havent opened this book ever. Through the years I just took it in my hand putting it in a box, when we moved to a new place. Was on that shelf here since 1993, untouched. So I had to clean off a lot of dust: The original text of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

I look for that one line, that one statement that I still can quote by heart, but I want to see it in print, the exact words. It is exciting paging through this book, searching for the paragraph. Lots of underlined lines, lots of notes scribbled in the margins. A smile...a young man at work there thiry years ago.

There it 44! The answer of Hume to explain how we can understand causality. Listen....!
"All inferences from experience, therefore, are effects of custom, not of reasoning. Custom, then is the great guide of human life".

Let me quote Hume some more:

"But there is nothing in a number of instances, which is supposed to be exactly similar; except only, that after a repetition of similar instances , the mind is carried by habit, upon the appearance of one event, to expect its usual attendant, and to believe that it will exist.

This connexion, therefore, which we feel in the mind, this customary transition of the imagination from one object to its usual attendant, is the sentiment or impression from which we form the idea of power or necessary connextion."

And thence Hume comes to a very sober definition of cause. He gives two definitions; the first definition, which defines a cause as “an object, followed by another, and where all objects similar to the first are followed by objects similar to the second” , accounts for all the external impressions involved in the case.

His second definition, which defines a cause as “an object followed by another, and whose appearance always conveys the thought to that other” captures the internal sensation — the feeling of determination — involved.

So no a priori knowledge nor big metaphysical theories to explain all. Just this and on this principle all our scientific theories are based.

This class offers many things and one thing it offered me today it to review that book, that I studied so intensely more than 30 years ago. It is a special experience and I may wonder: did I study this book? Is there an I, a personal identity, a self, persisting through time? Hume has some ideas about that.

We cant leave Hume now. He has a few more things to say which are so important and which influenced future philosophical discourse profoundly. So next class may be on induction and the self. And it may take another lecture to deal with the consequences of Hume's philosophy for ethics.

The Discussion

[13:07] hope63 Shepherd: did anyone ever hear from Maph?
[13:07] Gemma Cleanslate: not for about a week
[13:07] AristotleVon Doobie: I did
[13:07] Herman Bergson: Not recently
[13:07] Gemma Cleanslate: he said he would TRY to drop in once in a while
[13:07] Gemma Cleanslate: if possible
[13:08] Gemma Cleanslate: missses it
[13:08] Herman Bergson: We miss him too...:-)
[13:08] Gemma Cleanslate: ys
[13:08] itsme Frederix: And every class another jacket Herman, very nice
[13:08] Cailleach Shan: mmmm sure do.
[13:08] AristotleVon Doobie: he was very appreciative of our missing him
[13:08] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:08] Gemma Cleanslate: he is
[13:08] Gemma Cleanslate: and liked all the comments
[13:08] Herman Bergson: thnx Itsme..:-)
[13:08] Cailleach Shan: mmm.. yes. very colour co-ordinated...
[13:09] herman Bergson smiles
[13:09] Herman Bergson: time to change the
[13:09] Alarice Beaumont: haha
[13:09] Herman Bergson: Let's talk about Hume..
[13:09] itsme Frederix: is there causality between that
[13:09] Herman Bergson: we wil learn Itsme..we will
[13:10] Herman Bergson: Ok..let's begin
[13:21] Herman Bergson: So far on causality...
[13:22] Qwark Allen: ola blue
[13:22] itsme Frederix: Can I make some remarks and ask questions
[13:22] Herman Bergson: I can imagine you may be somewhat puzzled, for this is real philosophy..or algebra like Gemma said...
[13:22] Herman Bergson: Sure..go ahead feel free
[13:22] itsme Frederix: hope first ..
[13:23] hope63 Shepherd: i suppose hume was very concious of the element time in causality.. did he ever ask him self the question about a first cuse to start all other causes?(of course i know he couldn't know about big bang:))
[13:24] Herman Bergson: that is exactly what he never would ask Hope...
[13:24] Herman Bergson: Because this is a question beyong experience
[13:24] itsme Frederix: Right you are Herman
[13:25] Herman Bergson: The big bang is a fable to me..
[13:25] Herman Bergson: astronomical fantacy
[13:25] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:25] Qwark Allen: could be
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: hmm.. observing happings in time relationship could be considered as an experience..
[13:25] Herman Bergson: well you can approach it pragmatically...
[13:26] itsme Frederix: Herman you said ... effects of custom, not of reasoning .. which is very empiristic indeed - custom of the senses - what if there are no senses?
[13:26] Herman Bergson: if it helps to explain some phenomena...
[13:26] Herman Bergson: if there are no senses there is no knowledge
[13:26] itsme Frederix: oke that does the trick - indeed
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: Is Hume saying that we only assume the B will follow A?
[13:27] Herman Bergson: former lecture I refered to the faculties of the mind: imagination, fantasy, reasoning, willing..
[13:27] Herman Bergson: empty faculties without sensations
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: very true in that way of looking at it
[13:28] Herman Bergson: Hume just states that custom guides it to belief that when we have seen B following A a lot of times , we are inclined to belief that it will happen in the future too
[13:28] Ze Novikov: so then is the notion of custom for Hume subjectiive
[13:28] Ze Novikov: ?
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: but something may interfere and prevent the expected effect
[13:29] Cailleach Shan: In my understanding 'custom' is habit.. data... is that what Hume means.
[13:29] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:29] Herman Bergson: You might say that Ze...but in later developements you will see the concept of consensus and intersubjectivity in relation to this
[13:29] Ze Novikov: ahh
[13:29] Herman Bergson: yes..custom ..habit...the same I guess
[13:29] hope63 Shepherd: right ari. imagine i burned my finger in a flame an then caught lepra. and the flame doesn't hurt me any more..
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: oh good heavens!!
[13:30] itsme Frederix: Herman are there facts althought there is no knowledge of it (no sensual experience)?
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: sounds wonerful Hope
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: LOLOL
[13:30] Herman Bergson: Nice question Itsme...
[13:30] Herman Bergson: there is another question...
[13:30] hope63 Shepherd: welll..i've seen them in india.. not so wondrful to look at...
[13:31] Herman Bergson: when a tree falls over and noone is there to witness there then sound, the cracking of braches?
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: yes yes
[13:31] Cailleach Shan: If people have different interpretations of sensory experience how can there be consensus.
[13:31] Ze Novikov: right
[13:31] itsme Frederix: that's a very sensual happening, what about mathematics
[13:32] Herman Bergson: First this.....
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: can you sense mathmatics
[13:32] Herman Bergson: sounds and colors are attributes of objects...
[13:32] Herman Bergson: they only exist in our sensory experience
[13:33] itsme Frederix: what about the physical definition of a color
[13:33] Herman Bergson: I read about that question there sound if noone is there to hear it..
[13:33] Herman Bergson: this is getting complicated...
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:33] itsme Frederix: lets stick to Hume's anwer ;)
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: the transmitter still functions even withou the receiver
[13:34] Herman Bergson: First of all...when you say there is color when noone sees it, you are saying that universals have real existence..
[13:34] Herman Bergson: So that is not what Hume would accept...
[13:35] Herman Bergson: remeber the interpretation of abstract ideas
[13:35] hope63 Shepherd: yes it is there herman.. because the individual experience is individual.. you may not hear the sound.. but it does influencce the world around us.. though with our very limited senses we can't know..
[13:35] Herman Bergson: they are refering to particular sensations
[13:35] Herman Bergson: so I guess it makes no sense to talk about the existence of general attributes when not perceived
[13:36] itsme Frederix: What would Hume have said about virtuality (sl)?
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: hi Oola
[13:36] Herman Bergson: Not much I guess..He had no computer
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: but he would have to consider the human senses as the upper limit of the possible.. just because we think.. and i think he did know that the odorat and ears of his dog when hunting was superior to his..
[13:37] oola Neruda: sorry
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: what would any of them said!! I think of that often
[13:37] itsme Frederix: if he denied it there is little left, no general reality, no imaganairy reality - empty soul -
[13:37] Herman Bergson: anyone of them? who do you refer to Gemma
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: any one of the philosophers we have studied
[13:37] Herman Bergson: and about what?
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: about sl
[13:38] Herman Bergson: about Virtuality?
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: and us being here at all
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:38] oola Neruda: smiles...nods
[13:38] Cailleach Shan: Ah... but are we really here...:)_
[13:38] Herman Bergson: Well...if I would be Hume I would say that Virtuality is a word refering to an abstract idea
[13:38] itsme Frederix: Call depends on what you define as "we" or "I"
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: I am sure the DaVinci designed it anyway
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: mind-body question:)?
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: lol he may have
[13:39] Herman Bergson: Besides he would say that we experience a lot of sensations, particular sensations...
[13:39] itsme Frederix: Herman you said [13:20] herman Bergson: So no a priori knowledge nor big metaphysical theories to explain all. Just this and on this principle all our scientific theories are based.
[13:40] Herman Bergson: so when we talk about Virtuality , we actually are thinking of these particular sensations...
[13:40] itsme Frederix: by principle you mean the Hume causality I think - do we still think about it that way?
[13:41] Herman Bergson: I believe so Itsme..I have no metapysical interpretations for causality
[13:41] Herman Bergson: I prefer Hume's approach
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: me too
[13:41] itsme Frederix: I mean the causality is nothing more than customized mind - isn't it a metaphysical/physical principle in modern times
[13:42] Herman Bergson: hmmm.....I must think about that Itsme...
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: hm... not to take a metaphisical approach doesn't mean there could not be a metaophysical approach thinkable..
[13:42] Herman Bergson: at least it isnt metaphysical...
[13:43] Herman Bergson: physiological /neurological principle maybe
[13:43] itsme Frederix: oke so physical (stand alone) or customized mind
[13:43] Herman Bergson: but I think that that is not the issue here
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: just the facts, maam
[13:44] itsme Frederix: mmm it was the issue when I read your sentence about science - looked like a (a priori) conclusion
[13:44] Herman Bergson: explaining causality epistemologically is done by conceptual analysis and logical reasoning
[13:45] Herman Bergson: and we come an a complete new area when we try to relate these concepts with neurological states for instance
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: yes herrman.. but there might be something which is difficult to subsumize under causuality..
[13:45] Herman Bergson: Hello Rodney
[13:45] Rodney Handrick: hi herman
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: at least for the time of hume
[13:45] Qwark Allen: ;-)
[13:46] Cailleach Shan: lol Your late... what's the causality..
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:46] Rodney Handrick: work...
[13:46] Herman Bergson: it was a chain of causes and effect, Cailleach, definitely
[13:46] Cailleach Shan: lol
[13:46] Herman Bergson: and we have grown accustomed to it..:-)
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: lol.. rod confirms the theory..
[13:47] Herman Bergson: Well I have the feeling that the last word about this issue isnt said...
[13:47] itsme Frederix: Herman you mean we could have interpreted this as being early if normali the apearance was always much more later?
[13:47] Cailleach Shan: lol
[13:48] Herman Bergson: I get the feeling you all are not that sure what to think about this meager definition of causality
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: right
[13:48] Cailleach Shan: It's just that it's my yesterday for you...:)
[13:48] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: i suppose no philospher felt very happy about what he said in his time.. but gave them a lot to think about -in anew direction...
[13:48] itsme Frederix: yep - it misses something it's to less idealistic!
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: what they said surely created questions
[13:49] Herman Bergson: Something like that least that is what some might love to think..
[13:49] itsme Frederix: a soon as you come up with a monolistic definition/approach, duality comes up somewhere
[13:49] Herman Bergson: Yet, Hume's influence on the development of the emperical science and methotodology is important
[13:50] Ze Novikov: umm
[13:50] Herman Bergson: we'll see Itsme..:-)
[13:50] itsme Frederix: Herman i'm not referring to future phils - but reflecting to a personal "sense of living"
[13:50] Herman Bergson: Dont forget that this agnostic scepticism of Hume was completely new to the world in those days
[13:51] Rasana Destiny: have a good day all bye
[13:51] Herman Bergson: I see..Itme..I understand
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: in a way i understand him as someone who is thinking about how we function.. not who we are taht function..
[13:51] Herman Bergson: Bye Rasana
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: bye Rasana
[13:51] Ze Novikov: bb
[13:52] itsme Frederix: Well at least he made the way free for some good experimental science!
[13:52] Herman Bergson: Not true Hope....Hume digged deep into the question WHO we are..
[13:52] hope63 Shepherd: and what did he find...?
[13:52] Herman Bergson: He was one of the very first who pointed out the problem of personel identity
[13:52] itsme Frederix: a person questioning who am I - thats a sense
[13:53] Herman Bergson: Next lecture I'll deal with the issue of the self, personel identity
[13:54] hope63 Shepherd: the personal identity can only lead me to the "i" not the we..
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: well I iwll read it all at one time in two weeks and maybe then it will alll fall together
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: who else is there but I?
[13:54] hope63 Shepherd: so he would agree with descartes that we can only know our own existence?
[13:54] Cailleach Shan: mmmm prior to discovering personal idential was there such a word as 'I'...
[13:54] Herman Bergson: Before you go let me mention a few things
[13:54] Herman Bergson: Sources for good info...
[13:55] itsme Frederix: Gemma as was said last lecture, first you have to find the pieces before getting the structure. Shit some pieces are missing I think.
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Wikipedia is good but questionable now and then
[13:55] Alarice Beaumont: LOL
[13:55] Alarice Beaumont: oh really?
[13:55] Alarice Beaumont: i always look in the wiki
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: got to wach Wikkipedia.
[13:55] hope63 Shepherd: not so bad if you take the english-french and german atricles ..
[13:56] Herman Bergson: better souce is
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: perhaps you should go in there and edit Herman
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: lol you could interpret for us Hope.
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: one can
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: us Wikki as backup
[13:56] itsme Frederix: you certainly have to refer to other sites Stanford is a nice one - and offcourse you read the guy himself
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:56] Herman Bergson: Internet Encyclopedia of philosophy..
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: that one is really good
[13:56] Herman Bergson: Yes Itssme..
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: Not all of our 100 is in the IEP though Herman.
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. that's the one you gave me Gemma :-)
[13:56] Herman Bergson: third and very reliable source like IEP is
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: very different articles.. and different from iep which i read as a backup lol
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: thats true Cal
[13:57] Herman Bergson:
[13:57] itsme Frederix: yep thats really good
[13:57] Herman Bergson: a really acadmic source, like IEP
[13:57] oola Neruda: will you include these addresses when you post the blog herman
[13:58] Herman Bergson: I'll make an extra note of it
[13:58] hope63 Shepherd: more homework to do lol
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: always
[13:58] Herman Bergson: ohyes..there is plenty to read...
[13:58] Herman Bergson: WIKI is good for in intro...
[13:58] itsme Frederix:
[13:58] Alarice Beaumont: yes it is
[13:58] Herman Bergson: for real stuff you go to IEP and Stanford
[13:59] Qwark Allen: really nice today herman
[13:59] Qwark Allen: got to start work in 2 minutes
[13:59] hope63 Shepherd: take me with you gemma.. 2 weeks without philosophers might do me good :)
[13:59] Qwark Allen: ;-)
[13:59] Cailleach Shan: cu Qwark.
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: well
[13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: Great Books of the Western World is loaded with great reading
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: i will be in the jungle
[13:59] Qwark Allen: causality
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: and rainforest
[13:59] Qwark Allen: ;-)
[13:59] Herman Bergson: Bye Qywark,thnx for comming
[13:59] Qwark Allen: my pleasure
[13:59] Qwark Allen: ty
[13:59] Qwark Allen: ;-)
[13:59] Herman Bergson: wow..Gemma!!
[13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Q-man
[13:59] Qwark Allen: cya later
[13:59] Herman Bergson: Adventure!!
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:59] Qwark Allen: ;-)
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: birding
[14:00] Herman Bergson: Oh...nice...
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: i hope you are going with wwf and not del monte..
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[14:00] Cailleach Shan: Which jungle Gemma?
[14:00] oola Neruda: add to your life list
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: Costa rica
[14:00] itsme Frederix: a lot off drugs around there
[14:00] oola Neruda: cloud forest there
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: no!!
[14:00] Alarice Beaumont: so wonderful landscape
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: yes there too
[14:01] Herman Bergson: bring us some picture Gemma....a slideshow..yeah!!!
[14:01] Cailleach Shan: mmmm let's all go...
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[14:01] Alarice Beaumont: lol
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: perhaps
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: i will
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: got a go :-))
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: we have a viewer too
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: thx a lot Herman
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: me too
[14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: bye AL
[14:02] Herman Bergson: Bye Alarice :-)
[14:02] itsme Frederix: Herman, again ... thx for the class - i'm finding my way here
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: very nice
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: always so wonderful here :-)
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: as usual
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: Bye Ari
[14:02] Herman Bergson: thnx..
[14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: As always Herm , good class
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: yes :-)) right Gemma
[14:02] Sofie DuCasse is Offline
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: bye all
[14:03] Alarice Beaumont: bye everybody
Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-01-30 03:32:56

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