Sunday, May 10, 2009

40 Thomas Reid

Thomas Reid....who knows Thomas Reid with all due respect. The 100 Philosophers List I derived from the book by Philip Stokes: Philosophy: 100 essentail thinkers. And he is in the list. I had never heard of him before.

He shows to be not an original philospher, one with his unique ideas and new ideas, but he is a brilliant critic of the philosophers of his days, Locke and Hume for instance.

But really, it was tough to find something interesting to deal with, something of which I had the feeling YES....with due respect to

After searching a lot I found something that is interesting. He criticizes Hume's theory on causation and that attracted my attention, for he had some substantial arguments.

As Reid sees it, Hume starts with the assumption that if we are to learn what causation is we must first determine from what aspect of our sensory experience the concept of causation is derived; as Hume would put the point, we need to determine from what impression our idea of causation is copied.

However, Hume then takes himself to discover that there is nothing in our sensory experience corresponding to our ordinary notion of the causal relation.

Ordinarily, we think that causes necessitate their effects; causes see to it, as it were, that their effects will come to pass. But we don't have sensory awareness of this necessitation.

Thus, Hume holds, causation must be something different from what we take it to be ordinarily. But what is it? To answer this question, we must determine from what sensory experiences we derive the idea of causation.

It turns out, as Reid reads Hume, that the sensory experiences that give rise to our idea of causation are sensory experiences of what Hume calls constant conjunction . The heating of the water is regularly followed by the water's boiling.

To say that the one event causes the other is just to say that the two events always co-occur, or that there is a brute law linking them; it isn't to say that the first event necessitates the second, in any meaningful sense.

The necessitation that we ordinarily take to be involved in causation is really in our heads; it is nothing more than our expectation of the boiling given the heating, for instance, an expectation that we are habituated to have after seeing the relevant sorts of events conjoined.

Then Reids comes with his criticism: he attacks Hume on his idea of Constant Conjunction.

The first objection: What to do with someting that is singular in nature, or the first thing of its kind.. It could have no cause. Reid's point is that if the relation of causation is really that of constant conjunction, then the first time that two types of event are conjoined, the first cannot be the cause of the second; if there is no history of conjunction, there is no causation.

You see two things happen in conjuction for the first forget about it.....then after a while you see it again for the "first" can we conclude to causation then?

The second objection. to quote Reid himself: It follows from [Hume's] definition of a cause, that night is the cause of day, and day the cause of night. For no two things have more constantly followed each other since the beginning of the world.

We never saw a better constant conjunction. Hume must deny that the two are actually constantly conjoined, or, rather, he must insist that the constant conjunction between the two of them is not of the right sort for the relation between them to be one of causation.

How happy we were with the skeptic interpretation of causation by Hume. And now we have to face these two arguments against it and musrst accept that constant conjunction is neither necessary nor sufficient for the presence of a genuine law.

I didnt know Thomas I do..he spoiled my party with Hume...(^_^)
So constant conjunction observed isnt a sufficient ground to call something a causal relation. I mean it isnt a sufficient justification for my opinion, that the one even necessitates the other.

We see the first billiard ball hit the second, and we see the second move; but we don't see the movement of the first assure, or necessitate, the movement of the second. And suggesting that we have an experience of constant conjunction won't do, according to Thomas Reid...thank you....what next ????

I only can think...Poor Arabella...she loved Hume's theory on causation.....

Main Resources:
Philip Stokes, Philosophy: 100 essential thinkers
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition

The Discussion

[13:26] Herman Bergson: So far on Thomas Reid..:-)
[13:26] Osrum Sands: Reid would cause her to think
[13:26] Herman Bergson: yes Osrum and he caused me to think too
[13:26] Herman Bergson: I never heard of his criticism
[13:26] Herman Bergson: but it is to the point
[13:27] Herman Bergson: Hi Rodney^_^
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: Then he primary contribution was as critic?
[13:27] Osrum Sands: but no constant conjunction
[13:27] Rodney Handrick: hi herman
[13:28] Herman Bergson: Reid was more a critic of the philosphy of his days...and a clever one too
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: His reflection on common sense and ordinary language was interesting
[13:28] Herman Bergson: yes...tho...I am not so happy with his comon sense theory
[13:29] Osrum Sands: please explaine
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: As far as Hume I think his greatest contribution was the separation of theology from the equation
[13:30] Herman Bergson: Reid used the term common sense as a kind of criterium to qualify ideas
[13:30] Herman Bergson: But I didnt find any definition of what he meant by common sense..
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: Wouldn't common sense change with each generation. What was appropriate in Reid's time may not be very sensible today.
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: but the ideas that common sense created, didnt he think that they were proven byt the appearence of the same commonsense in other languages
[13:32] Herman Bergson: that is my problem with the concept Cailleach
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: isnt common sense evolutionary?
[13:33] Rodney Handrick: the difference between right & wrong?
[13:33] Herman Bergson: gives me the creeps..what is COMMON sense
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: Sounds like the lowest common denominator...
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: That's not always going to be usefu.
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: I think common sense is much more that that Cal
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: more what is obvious
[13:35] Herman Bergson: We all have a need to think that others think like we that common sense?
[13:35] Cailleach Shan: Each person has their own definition of that t houg.
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: yes I think they do
[13:36] Cailleach Shan: So there is not really any comonality.
[13:36] Rodney Handrick: no I don't think so
[13:36] Osrum Sands: is common sense a series of processes
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: common sense to me is evaluting a situation and doing the sensible thing
[13:37] Herman Bergson: well...we have science..we cant deny that....a sensus communis...a general agreement on things
[13:38] Herman Bergson: but when you recall our lecture on inducton...also science is questionable...
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: and th more consensus you have on an idea the the weightier its truth
[13:38] Osrum Sands: but that does not make it true Aris
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: yes not absolutely
[13:39] Cailleach Shan: I don't know about that Ari... look at what happens when genocide takes place...
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: but more so the the intial observation
[13:39] Cailleach Shan: Simply because the majority agrees doesn't make it true.
[13:40] Osrum Sands: history shows that to be a MOST dangerous thing 'consencus' that is
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: Oh I am a firm believer in the majority not always being right
[13:40] Herman Bergson: no..Cailleach ..and that is the core of the epistemological question
[13:40] Osrum Sands: would hope so Aris as a keen thinker!
[13:41] Herman Bergson: On the one hand a large group of the scientific community adopts a theory....and yet it is questioned
[13:41] Osrum Sands: Science once said the would was flat etc
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: and rightfully so, hence the thresshing out for the truth
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: one should beat the truth until it confesses
[13:42] Cailleach Shan: Science as I understand it puts up a proposition and then tries to disprove it to test if there is any truth or not.
[13:42] Osrum Sands: haha
[13:42] Cailleach Shan: lol... same thing really.
[13:42] Herman Bergson: Yes..Cailleach..but it isnt such a simple process
[13:43] Herman Bergson: When we meet Thomas Kuhn you'll learn about that
[13:43] Osrum Sands: now theres a 'just war'
[13:43] Cailleach Shan: mmm... Do you consider 'common sense' to be the same as logic?
[13:43] Rasana Destiny: got to go have a great night all
[13:43] Herman Bergson: that's the point....I would say NO
[13:43] Cailleach Shan: Bye Rasana.
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: I think one must apply logic to arrive at authentic common sense
[13:44] Cailleach Shan: mmm..can you show me the difference?
[13:45] Herman Bergson: the concept of common sense is a kind of psychological concept to me....a kind of unquestioned agreement on things
[13:45] Osrum Sands: can there be a destination or is it a journey, a process
[13:45] Herman Bergson: but there is no justification for that agreement..
[13:45] Osrum Sands: that is can you 'arrive' at common sence
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: I may be wrong (?) but I see common sense as a chameleon
[13:46] Rodney Handrick: Chamelon?
[13:46] Osrum Sands: which argument Prof
[13:46] Cailleach Shan: I think it's a generalisation for justifying your own choices...:)
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: yes based on the facts of the situation it will be modified
[13:46] Herman Bergson: yes..Aristotle...that is what I fear too
[13:47] Osrum Sands: good point Cail
[13:47] Cailleach Shan: A bit cynical though...
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: it may be my curtural upbring but I only see common sense as a positive
[13:48] Herman Bergson: the words have apositive connotation for sure
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: you know many of the cliches about using common sense
[13:49] Herman Bergson: well...let my summarize...
[13:50] Herman Bergson: causation explained as constant conjuction is not a sufficient argument to expalin it
[13:50] Herman Bergson: that is what Reid pointed out
[13:51] Herman Bergson: He leaned on a concept of common sense in his epistemology...but to me it explains nothing
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: and the analogy of night following day in relation to causation is stunning
[13:51] Herman Bergson: yes Aristotle...and we have to deal with it..
[13:52] Herman Bergson: Fortunately we still have a bunch of philosophers to come..
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: yes
[13:53] Herman Bergson: Next one deals with other matters..Voltaire...we'll see what he will bring us
[13:53] Rodney Handrick: Yes...Voltaire
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: I see that he is older that Hume or Reid
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: by 14 years
[13:54] Herman Bergson: lol..and is he wiser....we'll see
[13:54] Rodney Handrick: I think so...
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: it makes you wonder about generational perspective
[13:54] Osrum Sands: Herman was the day night thing yours or Reid's
[13:55] Herman Bergson: No..not mine.....Reid's
[13:55] Osrum Sands: well he is not that wise at all
[13:55] Rodney Handrick: Generational perspective? That's important...
[13:55] Osrum Sands: as we know neither cause either
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: I think that was his point
[13:55] Osrum Sands: ok
[13:56] Herman Bergson: but they are in constant conjuction yet
[13:56] Osrum Sands: yes
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: indeed and that will not change
[13:56] Osrum Sands: hope not
[13:56] Herman Bergson: causality stays a problem to explain
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: yes hopefully
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: lol
[13:57] Osrum Sands: I like the issue of origional causality
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: huh?
[13:57] Osrum Sands: issue or problem
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: I got to say Rodney your hats are a hoot!
[13:57] Cailleach Shan: lol not much common sense there Rodney.
[13:57] Rodney Handrick:
[13:58] AristotleVon Doobie: rofl
[13:58] Herman Bergson: OK...class dismissed..^_^
[13:58] Cailleach Shan: Thanks Herman...
[13:58] AristotleVon Doobie: Thanks Mr Bergson
[13:58] Herman Bergson: debate continues on Rodney's hats

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-02-12 17:34:41

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