PHIL 437A: Study Questions for Week 3 (Oct. 13-15): Causation and Belief
1. Explain the following distinctions:
(a) intuitive/demonstrative knowledge
(c) resemblance/contiguity/cause and effect.
(d) contiguity/priority in time/constant conjunction.
2. What is Hume's distinction between knowledge and probability? What is Hume's distinction between knowledge and belief?
3. Why does Hume think that there is arithmetical knowledge but not geometrical knowledge?
4. Hume's investigation of the idea of cause. Why does he conclude that being a cause is not a quality of an object? What are the impressions of sense from which the idea of cause is derived? What part of the idea of cause does not correspond to an impression of sense? What is its source?
5. Hume on temporal priority. What do we mean by the asymmetry between cause and effect? According to Hume what is the explanation of the asymmetry between cause and effect. Give an example of a relation that is generally understood as a causal one, even though we cannot distinguish in our perception between the time of the occurrence of the cause and the time of the occurrence of the effect. How would Hume explain our belief in the asymmetry between cause and effect in your example?
6. It is possible for something to begin to exist without a cause? What is Hume's view? Consider his argument and how an opponent might respond to it?
7. According to Hume, what distinguishes memory from the imagination? Is this true? Keep this question in mind as we consider the varieties of "reasoning" that involve the imagination. Ultimately, we will want to distinguish the imagination's thoughts that are optional from those that are irresistible.
8. Hume thinks we can distinguish the products of memory and imagination. How? Is he correct? How would Hume explain the phenomenon of false memory?
9. What is Hume's theory of belief?
10. Hume on causal inference. What does Hume mean when he says that there is no object which implies the existence of any other? According to Hume, what is involved in causal inference? Consider his example of flames causing heat. Think about your belief that flames cause heat. Does his explanation fit how you came to have that belief?
11. Hume on necessary connection. What does Hume mean that "the necessary connection depends on the inference, instead of the inference's depending on the necessary connection"? On Hume's account, is there really any idea of necessary connection in objects? If not, how was I able to refer to that idea in the previous question? [This is a deep question for Hume.]
12. Hume on induction. What principle would be required in order for the faculty of Reason to be able to infer an effect from a cause? Why does Hume believe that Reason could never establish that principle?
13. What is Hume's explanation of causal reasoning? Why does he call it "reasoning" if Reason does not do it?
14. According to Hume, what is the idea of cause an idea of? Is that what you thought your idea of cause was an idea of? Hume's seems to be committed to holding that we could misunderstand the content of one of our own ideas (i.e. the idea of cause). But if we are not infallible about the content of our own ideas, how is knowledge of them possible?
15. Inference to the best explanation. Hume never considers that Reason might infer from facts about phenomena to causal explanations of those facts. Why not? Does this invalidate his entire argument about causal reasoning?
16. How does Hume distinguish between belief and incredulity? What is the force of an idea? Could we have an idea of force without an idea of cause?
17. Given Hume's account of the concept of cause, what does he mean when he says: "'Tis the present impression, which is to be consider'd as the true and real cause of the idea, and of the belief which attends it."(T 184.108.40.206)
18. What does Hume mean when he says that all probable reasoning is a species of sensation (T220.127.116.11)?
19. Hume on the unconscious role of memory in inference. What does Hume mean by saying that past experience (via memory) may produce a belief concerning causes and effects by a "secret operation" (T 18.104.22.168)? Explain the example he provides? On his own account of causal inference, could we ever acquire a belief in a "secret cause" of the kind he describes? Explain.
20. According to current psychological theory, we are born with the ability to recognize faces without any conscious inference? Why would our ability to recognize faces without any conscious inference raise a problem for Hume's psychology? How would Hume explain face recognition?
21. What is Hume's explanation of learning a cause from one instance?