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Critically discuss the adequacy of Hume's constant conjunction thesis as an analysis of cause and effect

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Introduction

Critically discuss the adequacy of Hume's constant conjunction thesis as an analysis of cause and effect. David Hume was an empiricist because he believed that nearly all our knowledge derives from experience. (Except for what he calls "relations of ideas", such as the truths of geometry and arithmetic but has little to say about them) Hume does not only argue that our ideas derive from impressions i.e. sensory and emotional experiences but that the connections we make between ideas also derive from experience. Principally the most important "principle of connexion" between ideas is the notion of cause and effect. He believed that our knowledge of cause and effect is entirely derived from sense experience. Furthermore when we know that something is closely linked to something else. Hume's constant conjunction thesis is the view that one event follows another. In other words, A is always followed by B. Hume gives the example that when you eat bread you know that it will be followed by the bread nourishing you. ...read more.

Middle

In other words, that in some way our ideas follow a sequence/ chain. One thing follows another in some kind of order and direction. Why can't we work out the effect from seeing the cause? According to Hume we can only know the effect of something by experience only and can't be worked out beforehand. He claims that by using reason i.e. the mind, that it can never possibly find the effect of the supposed cause even if examined. He held that we can discover the causes of things to a certain extent, but the discovery of the ultimate causes of things is something which will for ever elude us. Hume also challenges the reader and asks; if there is anything a priori what is it then? It seems quite complicated to think of something we could know a priori. So it seems that cause and effect as Hume proposes can only be known thorough experience only and that even though we experience A causing B , all we have actually observed is the constant conjunction of A and B- an from this we assume A caused B. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hume's psychological theory is one of repetition, based on resemblance or similarity that when we see something happening once we assume it will happen again. The kind of repetition pictured by Hume can never be perfect. As Popper points out, the cases he has in mind cannot be cases of perfect sameness but only of similarity. Thus they are repetitions only from a certain point of view. In other words, ( what I think Popper is trying to say but I'm not sure) instead of waiting for repetitions or regularities to form some kind of pattern that we can all agree and follow we keenly impose our own regularities upon the world without constructing solid premises thereby jumping to conclusions. Being a theory of trial and error these conclusions can later be proved wrong. The big problem is the lack of description about the secret powers of things; the only thing we are told is that they're unknown to us. This may well be the missing piece of the puzzle. If we were to know the secret powers of things maybe it would help us to understand more about cause and effect. ...read more.

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