Cause and Effect in David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Cause and Effect in David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Length: 853 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Cause and Effect in David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding


In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume states, “there is not, in any single, particular instance of cause and effect, any thing which can suggest the idea of power or necessary connexion” (Hume, 1993: 41). Hume establishes in section II that all ideas originate from impressions that employ the senses (11). Therefore, in order for there to be an idea of power or “necessary connexion,” there must be impressions of this connection present in single instances of cause and effect; if there are no such impressions, then there cannot be an idea of “necessary connexion” (52). To illustrate his statement, Hume examines four situations: bodies interacting in the world, mind causing actions of the body, mind causing ideas of ideas, and God as the source of power. I will highlight Hume’s reasons and outline his arguments to establish that there is no “connexion” between cause and effect on the basis of single instances.

Hume’s first reflection focuses on worldly bodies. Assuming that a “necessary connexion” exists between cause and effect, this effect could be determined, without prior experience, through reasoning, upon observation of the cause alone. We, however, observe the body and we observe the effect on the body or system but “the power or force, which actuates the whole machine [universe or chain of effects] is entirely concealed from us, and never discovers itself in any of the sensible qualities of body” (42). Hence, this situation demonstrates no impression of, and therefore no idea of, “necessary connexion” in “single instances of their (bodies) operation” (42).

The second reflection in...


... middle of paper ...


...out being ever able to comprehend any thing like connexion between them” (46). He expresses that this conjunction through similar experience is what allows us to relate cause and effect relatively accurately.

On the other hand, Hume entertains the situation that “it is God himself, … which we erroneously attribute to our own power and efficacy” (47). Hume argues that “there must arrise a strong suspicion … (when we arrive at) conclusions so extraordinary, and so remote from common life and experience” (48). Further, Hume illustrates that no matter how ignorant we are “of the manner in which bodies operate on each other” we are equally ignorant of the supreme mind; we should reject the more unintelligible prospect (48).

Works Cited

Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. 2nd edition. Hackett Publishing: Indianapolis. 1993.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume

- David Hume wrote Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding in 1748, right in the middle of the Enlightenment and on the eve of the Industrial and Scientific Revolution. So it only makes sense that some of the ideas and comparisons used are slightly outdated, but science, if anything, helps his argument regarding causality. Hume is ultimately concerned with the origins of causality, how we are able to gain knowledge from causality, and if we can even call the knowledge derived from causality real knowledge....   [tags: David Hume, Enlightenment]

Better Essays
1049 words (3 pages)

Essay on David Hume and Future Occurrences

- In An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume demonstrates how there is no way to rationally make any claims about future occurrences. According to Hume knowledge of matters of fact come from previous experience. From building on this rationale, Hume goes on to prove how, as humans we can only make inferences on what will happen in the future, based on our experiences of the past. But he points out that we are incorrect to believe that we are justified in using our experience of the past as a means of evidence of what will happen in the future....   [tags: Philosophy Hume Philosophical Essays]

Free Essays
1020 words (2.9 pages)

Hume's Ideas on Cause and Effect Essay

- Hume and Cause and Effect Cause and effect is a tool used to link happenings together and create some sort of explanation. Hume lists the “three principles of connexion among ideas” to show the different ways ideas can be associated with one another (14). The principles are resemblance, contiguity, and cause and effect. The focus of much of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding falls upon the third listed principle. In Section I, Hume emphasizes the need to uncover the truths about the human mind, even though the process may be strenuous and fatiguing....   [tags: Empiricists, Empiricism]

Better Essays
684 words (2 pages)

Metaphysics as Addressed by Kant and Hume Essay

- Metaphysics as Addressed by Kant and Hume In the Prolegomena, Kant states that reading David Hume, "awakened him from his dogmatic slumber." It was Hume's An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding that made Kant aware of issues and prejudices in his life that he had previously been unaware of. This further prompted Kant to respond to Hume with his own analysis on the theory of metaphysics. Kant did not feel that Hume dealt with these matters adequately and resolved to pick up where Hume had left off, specifically addressing the question of whether metaphysics as a science is possible....   [tags: Papers Kant Hume Philosophy Essays]

Better Essays
1383 words (4 pages)

Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume Essay examples

- The way in which a concept comes to exist in one’s mind is itself a concept worth examining. Many philosophers have looked for the origin of thought in the human mind, and many different reasons for this origin have been put forth. As a philosopher, it is only fitting that Hume would propose his own framework for human thinking. For Hume, perceptions are developed either as the understanding of the outside world, or as recollections of these events or alterations of these memories within the mind¹....   [tags: Empiricists, Empiricism, 2015]

Better Essays
1294 words (3.7 pages)

David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion Essay

- ... As an empiricist and a skeptic, he calls to “let us become thoroughly sensible of the weakness, blindness, and narrow limits of human reason.” (131) Philo believes that because humans have been historically ignorant about science and the universe, that humanity especially has no right to speculate about theology. He continues by calling out the “contradictions which adhere to the very ideas of matter, cause and effect, extension, space, time, motion; and in a word, quantity of all kinds, the object of the only science that can fairly pretend to any certainty or evidence....   [tags: skepticism, philosophy]

Better Essays
1522 words (4.3 pages)

Essay about An Analysis of David Hume's Affirmation

- David Hume makes a strong affirmation in section IV of an Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Hume states, "I shall venture to affirm as a general proposition, which admits of no exception, that the knowledge of this relation is not, in any instance attained by reasonings a priori; but entirely from experience." In this statement, when discussing "knowledge of this relation," Hume is referring to the relation between cause and effect. This argument can easily be dismissed as skeptical, for it puts all knowledge of this sort in doubt....   [tags: Empiricists, Empiricism]

Better Essays
753 words (2.2 pages)

Inconsistencies in Hume's Empirical Thought Essay

- Inconsistencies in Hume's Empirical Thought   In his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume attempts to uncover the ultimate truth about where our knowledge comes from.  This leads him to suggest that all our ideas and knowledge arise from outward experiences and sensations.  He attempts to prove this by solving the "problem of induction."  I disagree with Hume's ideas, and in this essay I will explain why.  I shall begin by explaining the problem of induction, and the sceptical doubts Hume raises concerning the inductive process.  I will then explain how Hume solves the problem.  Finally, I will conclude by offering a critique of Hume's doctrine, and explain why I find it to...   [tags: Philosophy Religion Essays]

Better Essays
2250 words (6.4 pages)

Essay on David Hume on Miracles

- Hume’s empiricist ideology clearly informed his position on the topic of miracles. In the following, I will examine Hume’s take on empiricism. From this it will be possible to deduce how Hume’s empiricism played a prominent role in influencing his belief on miracles. First, what were the principles of Hume’s empiricism. Hume claims that everyone is born with a blank slate (tabula rasa). The tabula rasa receives impressions which are products of immediate experience. For example, the color of the computer screen I am looking at represents an impression....   [tags: Empiricists, Empiricism]

Better Essays
1330 words (3.8 pages)

David Hume’s Two Definitions of Cause Essay

- David Hume’s Two Definitions of Cause David Hume’s two definitions of cause found in both A Treatise of Human Nature, and An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding have been the center of much controversy in regards to his actual view of causation. Much of the debate centers on the lack of consistency between the two definitions and also with the definitions as a part of the greater text. As for the latter objection, much of the inconsistency can be remedied by sticking to the account presented in the Enquiry, as Hume makes explicit in the Author’s Advertisement that the Treatise was a “work which the Author [Hume] had projected before he left College, and which he wrote and published not...   [tags: Philosophy Essays]

Better Essays
3277 words (9.4 pages)