The tone this passage conveys is one of resigned dissatisfaction. Although Hume does the best that can be expected on the subject, he is dissatisfied, but this dissatisfaction is inevitable. This is because, as Hume maintains in Part VII of the Enquiry , a definiens is nothing but an enumeration of the constituent simple ideas in the definiendum. However, Hume has just given us reason to think that we have no such satisfactory constituent ideas, hence the “inconvenience” requiring us to appeal to the “extraneous.” This is not to say that the definitions are incorrect. Note that he still applies the appellation “just” to them despite their appeal to the extraneous, and in the Treatise , he calls them “precise.” Rather, they are unsatisfying. It is an inconvenience that they appeal to something foreign, something we should like to remedy. Unfortunately, such a remedy is impossible, so the definitions, while as precise as they can be, still leave us wanting something further. But if this is right, then Hume should be able to endorse both D1 and D2 as vital components of causation without implying that he endorses either (or both) as necessary and sufficient for causation. For these reasons, Hume’s discussion leading up to the two definitions should be taken as primary in his account of causation rather than the definitions themselves.
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Part II, Essay VIII End of Notes Start PREVIOUS 37 of 58 NEXT End
At St. Sebastian hospital , a presumably-reawakened John Locke stated that Jack (as far as Locke knew) did not have a son. (" The End ")
"My Own Life," autobiography, by David Hume. In Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, by David Hume, Eugene F. Miller, ed.
According to Hume, the notion of cause-effect is a complex idea that is made up of three more foundational ideas: priority in time, proximity in space, and necessary connection. Concerning priority in time, if I say that event A causes event B, one thing I mean is that A occurs prior to B. If B were to occur before A, then it would be absurd to say that A was the cause of B. Concerning the idea of proximity, if I say that A causes B, then I mean that B is in proximity to, or close to A. For example, if I throw a rock, and at that moment someone’s window in China breaks, I would not conclude that my rock broke a window on the other side of the world. The broken window and the rock must be in proximity with each other. Priority and proximity alone, however, do not make up our entire notion of causality. For example, if I sneeze and the lights go out, I would not conclude that my sneeze was the cause, even though the conditions of priority and proximity were fulfilled. We also believe that there is a necessary connection between cause A and effect B. During the modern period of philosophy, philosophers thought of necessary connection as a power or force connecting two events. When billiard ball A strikes billiard ball B, there is a power that the one event imparts to the other. In keeping with his empiricist copy thesis, that all ideas are copied from impressions, Hume tries to uncover the experiences which give rise to our notions of priority, proximity, and necessary connection. The first two are easy to explain. Priority traces back to our various experiences of time. Proximity traces back to our various experiences of space. But what is the experience which gives us the idea of necessary connection? This notion of necessary connection is the specific focus of Hume’s analysis of cause-effect.
Such ideas appeared to leave religion by the wayside, and it is not hard to see how they would excite the ire of the authorities. In fact Hume may have been more agnostic than atheist, but it made no difference at the time, and he was regularly denounced. The ever-circumspect Smith seemed to have escaped this fate, however, until "A single, and, as I thought, a very harmless sheet of paper, which I happened to write concerning the death of our late friend, Mr Hume, brought upon me 10 times more abuse than the very violent attack I had made upon the whole commercial system of Great Britain."