In the ability to move our body. Hume


In this section of An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding,
Hume attempts to create an outline for necessary connection and causation and
provide an apt definition of cause.

Hume begins with the claim that mathematical
sciences have an advantage over the moral sciences. This advantage is that the
ideas in the mathematical sciences are “always clear and determinate”
(Enquiry VII, 1). For example, an
oval is distinct from a circle, but virtue and vice (i.e., right and wrong) are
not distinct from one another (VII, 1). Hume claims that moral ideas introduce
ambiguity in our reasoning (VII, 1). Terms such as power, force, energy, or
necessary connection are obscure and uncertain. Hume wishes to understand and remove
the obscurity surrounding these words. He argues that all ideas and complex
impressions are initially formed by simple impressions (VII, 4), but even
simple impressions have some ambiguity (VII, 4). To understand simple ideas, we
must be able to trace them to where they are derived (VII, 5). According to
Hume, there is no simple impression that can support a necessary connection
between two objects.

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Hume examines our impressions of
interactions between two bodies (i.e., objects), between mind and body, and
within the mind. In each case, he argues that we cannot perceive any
impressions of necessary connection. Firstly, Hume discusses the body-body
interaction of billiard balls. He states that we can observe that when one
billiard ball strikes another, the motion of the second billiard ball follows
that of the first ball. However, we are unable to see the act of causation
(VII, 6).

Next, Hume examines the interaction
of free will and the movement of our limbs. He points out that even though we
are aware of our ability to move our body, we are not aware of the connection
between our will and the ability to move our body. Hume claims that the
relationship between body and mind is not fully understood since we can control
some parts of our body, such as our tongue and fingers, but not other parts,
such as our heart or liver (VII, 12).

Hume then examines mind-mind
interactions. He suggests the mind has greater control over some things than
others, and this is something that we have learned through experience. For
example, a healthier mind has greater power than a troubled, less healthy mind
(VII, 19). Hume says that because we learn these things from our experiences,
it seems that we are observing similar, repeated scenarios, rather than some
necessary connection between two entities (VII, 21).

Hume also suggests that some people
think that God is the ultimate cause of change (VII, 21). He states that many
philosophers reach this conclusion whenever they question interactions such as
the ones he mentioned. Hume is unable to understand how philosophers reach
these conclusions, which he thinks are illogical and unsupported (VII, 24).
Furthermore, he ponders how one can perceive the mind of God when we haven’t
fully understood the way in which our minds work.

Hume sums up by creating two
definitions of cause. His first definition defines cause as “an object,
followed by another, and where all objects similar to the first are followed by
objects similar to the second” (VII, 29). His second definition defines a
cause as “an object followed by another, and whose appearance always
conveys the thought to that other” (VII, 29).

Hume’s argument in section VII of the
Enquiry is very intriguing. Considering the three different types of
interactions, Hume shows that there is insufficient evidence of a necessary
connection. If we were able to conclude necessary connection by reason alone,
then we would not require any experience to show us that two events are
connected. But Hume can show us, in each interaction, however, that only
through experience we can see a connection. Moreover, it is the repeated
observation of a situation that allows us to infer a relationship of some
sort.  For example, in every single case
where one billiard ball strikes another, we observe the movement of the second
billiard ball as soon as the first ball hits it. This observation leads us to
infer that there is some connection between the collision and the movement of
the two balls, despite that fact that we cannot observe the relationship
directly.

However, Hume’s conclusion of
causation is a belief in matters of fact. His conclusion is neither logical
knowledge nor mathematical knowledge. Fundamentally, Hume’s conclusion is based
on the operating mechanism of the mind. That is, it is based on past experiences
regarding a particular interaction of two entities (i.e., I can infer what will
happen once I see those entities interacting in the same way again). But
according to Hume, such a belief in matters of fact is always contingent (i.e.,
that is, it is true in some possible world). It would then follow that his
conclusion is also contingent, and cannot be justified by reason. Therefore,
given his intriguing take on causation, Hume ultimately contradicts his
conclusion.

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