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  1. Similar books and articles
  2. David Hume
  3. Peter J. E. Kail, On Hume's appropriation of Malebranche: Causation and self - PhilPapers
  4. Early Modern Transformations of a Scientist and his Science

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Items related to Cognition and Commitment in Hume's Philosophy. Cognition and Commitment in Hume's Philosophy. Don Garrett. Publisher: Oxford University Press , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:.

Synopsis About this title It is widely believed that Hume often wrote carelessly and contradicted himself, and that no unified, sound philosophy emerges from his writings. Review : A significant contribution to Hume studies. Fogelin, Dartmouth College From the Back Cover : There exists alongside the celebration of Hume's work for its philosophical brilliance and elegance of style considerable disagreement over the meaning of Hume's most famous doctrines, the precise nature of his philosophical greatness, and the value of his contributions for contemporary philosophy.

The impression gives force and liveliness to the idea, and thereby turns that idea into a belief; this belief, in turn, can give force and liveliness to other ideas. Hume thinks that associative links due to causation transmit a higher degree of force and liveliness than those due to resemblance or contiguity T 1. Transmitting force and liveliness among associated perceptions—especially, among those associated due to causation—is a fourth basic function of the inclusive imagination.

In the Treatise , Hume uses it, together with the principles of association of ideas, to explain several important mental phenomena, including probable reasoning and sympathy. Sections 4b and 4c , below, discuss these phenomena. Shortly after writing these sections, Hume seems to have changed his view about the nature of belief. This suggests that he no longer identified belief with a higher-than-usual degree of force and vivacity.

Later, in the first Enquiry , he refrained from explicitly likening beliefs to impressions, in respect of their force and vivacity E 5. How significantly did he change his views?

Commentators disagree: for two different perspectives, see Owen , —4 and Wilbanks , 29— Hume claims that this basic function of the inclusive imagination explains why those who believe in external objects that cause their impressions tend to believe that these objects also resemble their impressions: they add the relation of resemblance to that of causation in order to complete the union between the external object and the impression T 1.

Similarly, this function explains why we believe that sounds, tastes, and smells have spatial locations. But we typically experience the taste and smell of an olive, say, at the same time as experiencing the olive itself; and we take the olive to cause its taste and smell. Because of our tendency to complete the union of related objects, we imaginatively add the relation of spatial contiguity to those of temporal contiguity and causation.

Projection plays an important role in his theories of causal necessity and moral value. Section 4d , below, discusses it.

Similar books and articles

This section focuses on four important examples: abstract ideas, probable reasoning, sympathy, and projection. Hume says that every idea is individual or particular. However, we are not restricted to thinking of one particular thing at a time. We can grasp thoughts like all dogs are mammals and all triangles are shapes. If an idea represents just one particular object, then how can we do this—how can we think of all the particular dogs that exist, or all the particular triangles? He explains how this happens by appealing to the association of ideas. If it occurred on its own, this idea would represent just this one particular dog.

But when it occurs in partnership with a word that is also associated with many other ideas of particular dogs Spot, Rover, and so forth , the idea of Fido serves as a proxy for those other ideas T 1. Hence, it serves as a representation of all dogs. First, it involves contiguity. Second, it involves resemblance. Because Fido, Spot, Rover, and other dogs resemble each other in many important ways, we come to associate the same term with each of them. Also thanks to this resemblance, an idea of one of these dogs tends to be followed by one or more ideas of the other dogs.

Hume thinks that this helps one idea to serve as a proxy for the others. He presumably thinks that his own account of abstract ideas undermines this reason: it shows that the inclusive imagination can explain our abstract ideas; so, there is no need to posit an additional faculty of pure intellect. For example, we all believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. So, our belief that the sun will rise tomorrow must be due to probable reasoning : we must have reasoned our way to this belief, based on other things that we have observed. Hume distinguishes two main kinds of probable reasoning, which he calls proofs and probabilities T 1.

For example, we have no doubt that the sun will rise tomorrow. So, the piece of probable reasoning that leads us to this conclusion is a proof.

David Hume

For example, when I have a headache, I believe with some confidence that taking acetaminophen will cure it. But I do not believe this with complete certainty: taking acetaminophen usually cures my headaches, but not always. So, the piece of probable reasoning that leads me to conclude that taking acetaminophen will cure my current headache is a probability.

For examples of the inclusive sense, see T 1. Hume observes that our ordinary actions and our scientific inquiries—including those that he himself conducts, as a scientist of man—depend on probable reasoning and the beliefs that it produces. Therefore, it is especially important to him to explain how our minds carry out this kind of reasoning.

He argues that probable reasoning is a non-basic function of the inclusive imagination, built up from two basic ones: association, and the transmission of force and vivacity among associated perceptions. In order to explain this piece of reasoning, Hume breaks it down into three parts T 1. In general, Hume avoids the question of how our sensory impressions are produced, so he leaves this part of our reasoning unexplained.

Peter J. E. Kail, On Hume's appropriation of Malebranche: Causation and self - PhilPapers

Hume famously argues that this transition is due to imaginative association. In the past, whenever we have observed billiard balls in similar situations—one ball hurtling towards another, unobstructed, ball—we have observed the balls to collide, and the second start to move. This course of past experience has established an associative relation: a perception of billiard balls in this situation now calls to our mind an idea of the balls colliding, and the second starting to move. It is due to this associative relation, Hume claims, that the sight of billiard balls in this situation now causes us to form such an idea T 1.

This is an example of association by causation —one of the three principles of association that Hume identifies; see section 3c , above. Hume thinks that only causation can inform us about unobserved matters of fact: that is, we can only learn about an unobserved matter of fact if it is causally related to some other matter, or matters, of fact that we have observed T 1.

So, he thinks that all probable reasoning involves association by causation.

Early Modern Transformations of a Scientist and his Science

The third part of our probable reasoning is the transmission of force and liveliness to our idea, so that we believe —not just entertain the thought—that the billiard balls will collide and that the second one will start to move. Once he has established that imaginative association explains our transition from our impression of the billiard balls to this idea, this third part of our reasoning is easy for Hume to explain.

Impressions have a high degree of force and liveliness, and transmitting force and liveliness among associated perceptions is a basic function of the inclusive imagination. As a result, our idea becomes a belief. In the Treatise , he distinguishes three kinds of probability: the probability of chances; the probability of causes; and probability arising from analogy T 1. We rely on the probability of chances and the probability of causes when we do not have a large, uniform body of past experience concerning the matters of fact about which we are reasoning.


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For example, when I roll a fair, six-sided die, I do not have a uniform body of past experience concerning which face will land uppermost: in my past experience, rolling the die has sometimes been followed by one face landing uppermost, sometimes by another face landing uppermost. But if the die has four faces marked with squares, and only two marked with circles, I come to believe with some confidence that one of the faces marked with a square will land uppermost; this belief derives from the probability of chances.

Similarly, when I take acetaminophen in the hopes of curing my headache, I do not have a uniform body of past experience concerning the curing of my headache: in my past experience, taking acetaminophen has usually been followed by the curing of a headache—but not always. Again, I come to believe with some confidence that taking acetaminophen on this occasion will be followed by the curing of my headache; this belief derives from the probability of causes.

Hume argues that, like proofs, both the probability of chances and that of causes are explained by the association of ideas and the transmission of force and vivacity between associated perceptions. We rely on probability arising from analogy when we observe a matter of fact that bears some resemblance, but not a perfect resemblance, to matters of fact that we have previously observed. Suppose that I have a large body of past experience of Labradors in which, whenever a Labrador has approached me with its tail wagging, it has then greeted me effusively; suppose, also, that I have no past experience of German Shepherds, but that I now see one approaching me with its tail wagging.

Because this German Shepherd does not perfectly resemble anything that I have previously experienced, I do not have a proof that it will greet me effusively.

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But, because it bears some resemblance to the Labradors that I have experienced, I believe with some confidence that it will greet me effusively. According to Hume, this belief is due to probability arising from analogy—in this case, the analogy between the German Shepherd that I now experience and the Labradors that I have previously experienced. Hume holds that this species of probability is explained by the same basic functions of the inclusive imagination as proofs, the probability of chances, and the probability of causes T 1. When we carry out simple pieces of probable reasoning, we do so reflexively.

For example, when we see one billiard ball hurtling towards another, we immediately form the belief that the balls will collide, and that the second will start to move; we need not reflect on our past experiences, or construct an argument, in order to do so. Not all probable reasoning is like this.


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More sophisticated pieces of probable reasoning are reflective , not reflexive : they involve reflection on past experience, and the construction of arguments. But Hume explains this reflective kind of probable reasoning in terms of the reflexive kind. And we cannot begin to establish such principles, except by means of reflexive probable reasoning. So, Hume explains sophisticated, reflective probable reasoning by showing how it is built up from unsophisticated, reflexive probable reasoning; and, as we have seen, he explains unsophisticated, reflexive probable reasoning in terms of two basic functions of the inclusive imagination: association and the transmission of force and liveliness.

At the sight of a cheerful face, one tends to feel more cheerful oneself. In each case, a sentiment or feeling of the person observed is communicated, by sympathy, to the observer. First, he explains sympathy in terms of the same two basic imaginative functions: association and the transmission of force and vivacity among associated perceptions. Second, as with probable reasoning, Hume distinguishes reflexive and reflective forms of sympathy. Consider an example of the reflexive form of sympathy: you meet a joyful person, and consequently feel the passion of joy yourself.

Hume distinguishes two components within this process. But it does not yet explain why you should come to feel the passion of joy yourself.