PHIL 437A: Study Questions Week #4 (Oct. 20-22): Necessary Connection and Skepticism about Bodies
1. The puzzle of the necessary connection. Why does Hume think we cannot observe a necessary connection among objects?
2. Why does Hume think it is a mistake to take our experience of own willing of actions as a basis for an idea of causal efficacy? Does Hume's account of how we mistakenly come to believe in causes work for our belief in the efficacy of our choices?
3. Hume's solution to the puzzle involves understanding the role of the idea of cause in our inferences. Explain Hume's account of causal inference.
4. What is Hume's definition of cause? According to Hume, what is the simple impression from which the idea of the necessity of a causal connection is derived?
5. A circularity problem? In T 126.96.36.199 Hume's account of the source of the idea of cause is that our experience produces a new impression in us. Hume describes this feeling as a feeling of determination of the mind to pass from one object to its usual attendant (and later as a propensity to pass from the one object to the other. But note that Hume is using causal terms (e.g., produces, determination, propensity) to explain the origin of the idea of cause. This seems objectionably circular. Is it?
6. In T 188.8.131.52 Hume makes an analogy that you
may not understand if you are not familiar with Part 4 of the Treatise. The analogy is between causes and secondary
qualities, such as color.
7. Hume claims that all our beliefs about causes are the result of observed constant conjunctions and observations of temporal priority. Is this true? Do we have causal beliefs not based on observation of constant conjunctions? Do we have causal beliefs not based on observations of temporal priority (i.e., where we cannot distinguish in perception between the time the cause occurs and the time that the effect occurs)?
8. Does Hume contradict himself? In T184.108.40.206, Hume says "I perceive that such a relation [his version of causal relation] can never be an object of reasoning . . . ." But in the next section, he gives rules for causal reasoning. And earlier he had said that causal reasoning is a "true species of reasoning" (T 220.127.116.11 n. 20). How are we to understand this apparent contradiction?
9. The Normative Puzzle. In T 1.3.14, Hume is explaining our concept of necessary connection and its role in our reasoning. This is part of Hume's descriptive project. In the next section, Hume provides some rules by which we may know when objects are causally related. This is a normative project. (a) Explain why it is normative. (b) Explain why it was a mistake for Hume to use the word "know" in describing the project. What should he have said? (c) Does it make sense for Hume to make normative claims about causal reasoning? If causal reasoning is not really reasoning at all, but a kind of psychological determination of the mind, how could it make sense to recommend better ways of doing it?
11. In T 18.104.22.168 Hume says that like effects imply like causes. Does Hume ever acknowledge exceptions to this generalization? If so, give an example.
13. Hume thinks that his theory is supported by the observation of non-human animals (beasts). According to Hume, how does the observation of animal behavior help us to draw conclusions about their minds? Why does Hume think his theory is the only one that can explain causal reasoning in both humans, including "children and the common people in our own species" and non-human animals?
14. Why is Hume's philosophy referred to as empiricist?
17. According to Hume, can we have any idea of objects that exist external to our perceptions? Why or why not?
18. What does Hume mean by "all knowledge degenerates into probability"(T 22.214.171.124)?
19. What does Hume mean when he says that "belief is more properly an act of the sensitive, than of the cogitative part of our natures"(T 126.96.36.199)?
20. According to Hume, how does human nature save us from skepticism?
21. Why does Hume say: "We may well ask, What causes induce us to believe in the existence of body? but 'tis vain to ask, Whether there be body or not?"(T 188.8.131.52) According to Hume: What is a body? What are the causes that induce us to believe in body? This question raises a deep puzzle about Hume's philosophy: How could we ever come to have the idea of body? This issue is pursued in the next question.
22. What does Hume mean by continued existence? On Hume's, could anyone ever acquire the idea of existing when not perceived? If so, how? What does he mean by distinct existence? On Hume's view, could anyone ever acquire the idea of existence external to my perceptions? If so, how? According to Hume, what is the feature of experience that he uses to explain our belief in continued existence? What is the feature of experience that he uses to explain our belief in distinct existence? Why doesn't Hume regard them as good reasons to believe in continued and distinct existence? Pay particular attention to his examples in T 184.108.40.206.
23. Why does Hume think we cannot get the idea of continued or distinct existence from the senses? Why does he think we cannot get it from reason? Where does it come from? How?
24. You should be able to give a summary of Hume's view of the role of senses, memory, reason, and imagination in our beliefs about the continued and distinct existence of bodies.
25. What are the vulgar opinions that Hume rejects about external objects? What are the experiments that Hume uses to cast doubt on the vulgar opinion?
26. What is the opinion of double existence? Why does Hume reject it?