David Hume The Question Beggar Philosophy
Hume claims that because casual power has yet to be observed in nature it does not exist, rather it is an inclination of the mind to ascribe causal powers to objects in constant conjunction.
In this paper I have mapped out Hume's position on causal relationships.
Once his position has been established, I will show that his argument contains a logical fallacy because his premises do not have the necessary proof to entail the conclusion.
The erroneous structure of his argument begs the question because it is composed of persuasive definitions, assumptions and lack of evidence.
In section 7 of the "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding", David Hume claims that the relation between cause and effect is not observable in nature; one event follows another but we can never conceive of the relation between event A and event B (195).
He then puts forth that event A and event B seem to be "conjoined not connected." He established in section 2 of the Enquiry that all of our ideas are composed of impressions (sensory experiences), and that any idea which cannot be broken down into impressions is meaningless in philosophical reasoning.
Because the causal power which conjoins event A and event B is unobservable by our senses, the terms associated with causality, which imply that one event produces another, are meaningless in philosophical discussion (195).
He also concludes that when we see two constantly conjoined events we typecast them together.
So, we predict that in the future event A will always be followed by event B because it has happened habitually before.
If event A and B are constantly conjoined then in our minds we make it a custom in which one is the cause and one is the effect.
He concludes that the tie between event A and event B is unconceivable by our mind and thus all we can know is that the events are constantly conjoined and that there is no observable causal power.
Hume does not provide real evidence for his argument; he just invites the reader to accept his conclusion because according to his criterion causality is meaningless.
His conclusion is basically his first premise reworded: his first claim is that we cannot explain why events A and B are conjoined because that link is not observable and his conclusion is that events A and B are just a constantly conjoined phenomenon upon which our minds ascribe a causal relationship.
What both the first premise and the conclusion entail is that the causal link between event A and event B is unobservable, and thus event A and B are just constantly in conjunction.
So instead of discarding the terms associated with causality, he ends up redefining the exact thing he was trying to prove to be non-existent.
Hence, he does not offer any evidence against causal powers in nature; he just redefines what causality is according to his observations.
Hume has not given us evidence or reasons for why causation does not exist in the external world; he only defines how one perceives the causal connection between event A and B.
He completely evades the real question at hand: what binds event A to event B and not to event C? His argument leaves the reader unsatisfied because it begs the questions: do cause and effect relationships exist? and why is there no external causal connection between event A and event B? The validity of his conclusion depends on the answer to that question; Hume does not give us an evidential answer, rather he offers us a redefinition of the essential matter in question.
Hume redefines causality as two events in constant conjunction, to which our minds ascribe a necessary connection, but by redefining he does not conclude his argument he just redirects us to his first premise.
His first premise begs the question of the existence of causality and without providing support for his first premise; Hume leaves the reader begging the question.
Hence, Hume does not provide a strong argument because in order for his reader to accept his conclusion, the reader must refer to the first premise and the first premise is itself not grounded.
Therefore, Hume's argument is weak for his conclusion is entailed in its premises.
Not only is his conclusion a redefined version of his first premise, it also ignores a significant assumption that his original argument rests on.
Hume's argument is simplified as followed: all ideas which cannot be tracked down to impressions are meaningless.
Because the causal tie between event A and event B is unobservable, it must mean that there is no causal tie, for it cannot be experienced by our senses, and hence it is meaningless.
The major assumption he makes here is that causation is an observable phenomenon.
He does not provide sufficient evidence for the reader to support that assumption.
Hume's reasoning is weak when he assumes without the appropriate grounds for assumption; he should offer support for his claims not be granted the privilege to assume because then the merit of his argument is questionable.
The point Hume assumes is a controversial debate in philosophy.
By evading the question whether causality exists in the world outside of the mind or not, Hume redirects the reader's focus to his uncontroversial empirical definition of causality as merely constant conjunction.
The premise left out here is that "causal relationships do not exist in the world." Without this premise, the argument begets the question whether causal relationships exist.
By leaving out a premise Hume is once again averting the focus of his readers towards his empirical definitions of the matter.
To guarantee the truth of his conclusion-that there is no such thing as causal relationships-Hume needs to provide sufficient evidence to support his assumption.
Once sufficient evidence is provided, then Hume can uphold his conclusion; until then the reader is left begging the question.
Because Hume's argument consists of persuasive redefinition, presupposed assumptions and no real evidence, his argument is weak.
By redefining the matter of causality, he does not solve the problem of identifying the causal link between conjoined events; he just redefines the situation to avoid the problem at hand.
He makes the assumption that causal relationships are observable events, without offering any proof to why that is the case; this leaves his assumption groundless.
By not stating an important premise he evades a question, whose answer is required to validate his conclusion.
All of these errors in Hume's argument prove that his argument is guilty of begging the question and thus is logically fallacious.