Notes from reading Hendel’s Phil. of Hume

  • In reading Hendel’s Study of the Philosophy of David Hume, I came across some points of interest for our group. Guarding against verbosity Ill state them in a bare form with little explanation.
    •    Hume’s great insight is that man is vastly presuming when using cause and effect
    •    What immediately opened him to the inquiry into human nature was his discovery about cause and effect. He made his discovery about causation arguing with himself concerning religious beliefs
    •    Descartes and Malebranche took up philosophy where Augustine had left it, arguing from the Infinte to its necessary existence
    •    The skeptical attitude is a state of mind preparatory to a methodical knowledge. Doubting defends philosophy against errors
    •    Malebranche deems all anthropomorphism in religion is the first step towards a naturalism that dispenses with god
    •    We make assumptions that the external world exists precisely as we preceive it and the things conjoined in our perceptions are actually causes and effects in reality. These are prejudgments or prejudices
    •    Malebranche taught Hume a religious skepticism raising objections where Berkeley supposed certain knowledge
  •   Theories of cause:
    •   Hobbes: all space and times are indifferent in themselves, so that a cause is necessary to determine any particular object to its specific time and place.
    • Samuel Clarke: Everything must have a cause for a reason, if it lacked one, it would cause itself and thus exist before it existed.
    •   Locke:  varies Clarke’s argument saying that whatever is produced without any cause is produced by nothing, which cannot be because nothing cannot produce something.
    • Hume sees such arguments as fallacious and sophistical as they are assuming the very point in question: whether we find it necessary to attribute a cause to order of any kind. His thought is the principle we employ so universally(i.e. causality) for the attainment of knowledge has no justification before reason itself.
    • Beattie: Can we conceive a thing beginning to exist, and yet bring ourselves to think that a cause is not necessary to the production of such a thing? If we cannot, then is the contrary of this maxim(i.e. causality), when fairly stated, found to be truly and properly inconceivable.
    • Kant‘s argument in the critique is relevant to why a cause is necessary. His transcendental deduction is a response to Hume’s  argument that showed a logical deduction to be impossible. Kant could not refrain from anger at the stupidity of the critics of Hume(e.g. Beattie) who were wielding their bludgeon of common sense upon the most acute genius(Prolegomena A 10-1). Always proving things Hume never disputed., and assuming the very point he was bringing into question.
    • The question is not that of the felt necessity of a cause for things, but the character of the necessity that we all feel. The character seems to be non-rational.

4 thoughts on “Notes from reading Hendel’s Phil. of Hume

  1. Great rough taxonomy on causation. This is crucial for historical context.

    What Handel work is this from? I’m not familiar.

    It’s interesting how Hume’s skeptical naturalism makes Berkeley’s idealism untenable to him, while retaining his nominalist conclusions. Curious stuff.

    That last bullet point – ‘The character [of causal necessity] seems to be non-rational.’ – that’s a point under Kant, right?

    1. Charles Hendel: Studies in the Philosophy of David Hume

      Yea the last point does go under Kant but I though it was a good general point to keep in mind so we dont fall into the same error.

      1. Ah, I guess I could have read the title of the Hendel book the first time above.

        It’s ironic how Kant – champion of the subjective – espouses a position that down-plays ‘felt necessity’.

        1. I see it as Kant agreeing with Hume that causation is not a matter of fact(quid facti). And by its being nonrational, I take him to mean we are not going to arrive at causation a priori w/o some revolutionary hypothesis in philosophy i.e. his Copernican Turn. From that perspective he can now explain the felt necessity as quid juris. That is, his subjectivism is not such than anyone could simply deny the ‘felt necessity’. Rather it is that for creatures like us, its only right we feel it, even if there is no proof of a ‘world in itself’ determined by a principle of causality.

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