## Humean Causation as Habit & Evolution

• 2.3k
Are these "priors" not temporally prior? If the "prior" is necessary for the existence of the thing, then isn't the prior necessarily temporally prior to the existence of the thing

Right, but it's not the the temporal priority that is sufficient, it's the nature of the prior. If the universe was filled only with inert gasses, then their prior existence would not lead to any chemistry.
• 4.6k
Sufficiency is irrelevant. The question was whether there is a type of priority which is not a temporal priority. Augustine suggested that there could be something which is logically prior to something else, without being temporally prior to it. The claim was that in the case of efficient cause, the cause is logically prior to the effect, but not temporally prior to the effect, the cause and effect are claimed to be simultaneous.
• 11.3k
Yes, the creation of the line is simultaneous with the movement of the pencil, the two are the same thing.
Yep, exactly. The cause is the movement of the pencil, and the effect is the creation of the line.

However, the creation of the line is necessarily temporally prior to the existence of the line.
Yes, but the creation of the line does not cause the (continued) existence of the line. There are other happenings which ensure that the line's existence continues, and these don't have to do with its creation. The line must be sustained into being, and that's different from being created.

So yes, the becoming of the thing is temporarily prior to its being. So what? :s

It can be demonstrated quite easily. Try it yourself. There is no line until after the pencil moves. Prior to movement the pencil is at a point and there is no line. After the pencil moves there is a line. The line does not appear until after the pencil moves.
Take it another way. The pencil is the cause of a point on the paper. The pencil touching the paper, and a point appearing on the paper are simultaneous, not temporarily separate.

In the case of the latter, if you have a logical argument which demonstrates that there is a type of priority which is not a temporal priority, then produce it.
Yes, there is a priority in terms of potency and act. The line (or point or whatever) is a potency of the pencil which actually exists. This logical asymmetry between the two is what guarantees the logical priority of one over the other. That is why the pencil can cause the line, but the line cannot cause the pencil.
• 1.6k
So I think Kant's point still holds. I see that the judgement does have absolute necessity, though it may lack universality. — Agustino

That's an issue for Kant because his position ascribes the universal quality to it. Supposedly, it is the necessary connection lost between casual states in Hume's argument: the absence of a universality law which accounts for how they hold.

Without universality, "causality" disappears. No longer can we begin with a rule of form (e.g. the sun rises in the morning) which will pick out a necessary event in existence. We might have a sun that does not rise, no matter how often we've seen one rise. Causes an effect are still so, but they are only present in terms of what the states themselves do, rather than an extra layer of "causality" where logic determines a necessary relationship.

One is left with the Humean position Kant is attacking-- a world of interacting states which have no necessity by logical form. Only when existence is taken into account ( this sun, at this moment ) do the necessary logical expressions of state appear (e.g.the sun that rises necessarily rises. Outside of this, it is not defined whether a sun rises or not).
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That's an issue for Kant because his position ascribes the universal quality to it.
I don't think so. This is what Kant says:

"Now, in the first place, if we have a proposition which contains the idea of necessity in its very conception, it is a if, moreover, it is not derived from any other proposition, unless from one equally involving the idea of necessity, it is absolutely priori [...] Necessity and strict universality, therefore, are infallible tests for distinguishing pure from empirical knowledge [...] But as in the use of these criteria the empirical limitation is sometimes more easily detected than the contingency of the judgement, or the unlimited universality which we attach to a judgement is often a more convincing proof than its necessity, it may be advisable to use the criteria separately, each being by itself infallible."
• 11.3k
So you and @unenlightened haven't yet shown that Euclid's first postulate isn't a priori, since its absolute necessity is still there, unshaken. And as indicated above, Kant thought that either universality or necessity are sufficient, by themselves, to indicate a priori nature.
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Right... but that's the problem: the "causality" Kant is talking about is not an empirical state. We don't, as Hume was at pains to point out, observe "casualty" in the world. Our encounters are with the states.

Kant is after more than this, some logical connection, some pure and infallible knowledge which amounts to a necessitating of a causal relationship, such they our not just states doing their own random dance. The empirically defined account, the presence of states in relation, is exactly what Kant finds inadequate and is seeking to get beyond.
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the "causality" Kant is talking about is not an empirical state.
Does Kant ever say it is? No. He agrees with Hume that causality is added by the mind. And in some sense, Kant absolutely has to be right. Modern neuroscience does back up the idea that we do create a model of the world, which is what we actually perceive. For example, phenomena such as the phantom limb, etc. illustrate precisely this, that causality (at least to a certain extent) is added by the mind.
• 1.6k

For sure: that's the issue. In both cases, "causality" is viewed as some sort of logical force, with Hume noting it's not apparent in empirical observations, so rejecting it as an account of the empirical.

The problem is precisely that Kant doesn't view "causality" as as an empirical matter. In doing so, he supposes cause and effect functions by the means of a logical universal (rather than states just doing whatever they do at "random" ). It means he takes that logical universal (the model of the world) is doing the work of being the states in question, that those states are so by this logical rule rather than just in terms of the states themselves.

Your account of Kant's epistemology/ontology is iffy. Kant doesn't take our models literally are the things with see. For Kant, our models are not constitutive of things we experience, of the things-in-themsleves. My model "the sun will rise tomorrow" is never the sun that rises. It's not that our experience of the sun constructs the sun, but instead that our experience of the sun is our construction (literally our existence, rather than anything we might be aware of).

In his account of phenomena, Kant's is pointing out our experience is us, such that any account of secret knowledge which is both phenomenal (for us) but beyond us is incoherent. He's pointing out our knowledge can only be our own, not claiming our minds create the things we encounter.

Unfortunately, this is not any sort of account of either causality or ontology. Kant's mistake (or maybe more so, the mistake of many readers of Kant) was to fail to properly recognise he was talking about us, about our knowledge, rather than the actions of things we perceive. Cause and effect does not need us to occur. Our minds, in the sense of being awareness of logic meaning, are not involved at all. It's other things which are doing it-- the sun, a ball thrown through a window, someone's body producing a state experience of a limb which isn't there, etc. The doing of cause and effect is another life entirely.

Thinking about causality in terms of the things, we find Hume's rejection of "causality" is coherent. If other things are cause and effect, then they don't need our models to be defined. They will be what they are, expressing their logical relations on account of there own being-- a sun which rises will be so no matter what humans might think or model, same for a sun which does not rise. Neither state of a sun is defined by our models. "Causality" isn't needed to form causal relationships. The action of one state bringing about another, appearing as a correlation, is always enough.
• 4.6k
So yes, the becoming of the thing is temporarily prior to its being. So what?

You were claiming that the two, the efficient cause, and the effect, are simultaneous. That seemed very odd to me, so I thought I'd bring this to your attention. Now you seem to agree with me, they are not simultaneous, one is temporally prior to the other.

Take it another way. The pencil is the cause of a point on the paper. The pencil touching the paper, and a point appearing on the paper are simultaneous, not temporarily separate.

But now I see that you are still trying to argue otherwise. "The pencil touching the paper" is a description of an activity, and this activity is necessarily prior in time to what is referred to as "a point appearing on the paper". They are not simultaneous. Try it yourself. You will never get the point to appear simultaneously with the pencil touching the paper, because until the pencil moves out of the way you will not see a point on the paper.
• 11.3k
You were claiming that the two, the efficient cause, and the effect, are simultaneous. That seemed very odd to me, so I thought I'd bring this to your attention. Now you seem to agree with me, they are not simultaneous, one is temporally prior to the other.
No, I don't agree with you. I've just rephrased:

The cause is the movement of the pencil, and the effect is the creation of the line.
The cause is the movement of the pencil, and the effect is the creation of the line, not its being. This is because its being depends on other - indeed temporarily posterior - causes relative to its creation. Of course, those causes, relative to its being, will also be simultaneous.

But now I see that you are still trying to argue otherwise. "The pencil touching the paper" is a description of an activity, and this activity is necessarily prior in time to what is referred to as "a point appearing on the paper". They are not simultaneous. Try it yourself. You will never get the point to appear simultaneously with the pencil touching the paper, because until the pencil moves out of the way you will not see a point on the paper.
They are simultaneous. The fact that I don't see the point on the paper without moving the pencil out of the way does not indicate that there is no point that has appeared there, only that I do not see the point. Those are two different things. I don't need to see the point for it to be there.
• 4.6k
The cause is the movement of the pencil, and the effect is the creation of the line, not its being.

Oh sorry, I misunderstood. I wouldn't agree with this. The "movement of the pencil", and the "creation of the line" are one and the same thing. They are two different ways of describing the very same event. One cannot be the cause, and the other the effect, if they are the very same thing.

This is because its being depends on other - indeed temporarily posterior - causes relative to its creation. Of course, those causes, relative to its being, will also be simultaneous.

We are talking about efficient causes here. According to Newton's first law, if a thing has being, there are no other efficient causes required to maintain that being. This is called inertia. If your claim is that in order to maintain its being, there are other causes required, which are simultaneous to its being, then these are not efficient causes, because efficient causes would be described as forces acting to change the being of the object. Therefore you argue by equivocation, assuming that since there is a type of cause which is simultaneous to the being of a thing, then efficient cause is also simultaneous to the being of a thing.

However, it is clearly demonstrable that if an efficient cause is associated with the becoming of a thing, then it is temporally prior to that thing. And if the thing is the effect of the cause, then the cause is temporally prior to the effect.

They are simultaneous. The fact that I don't see the point on the paper without moving the pencil out of the way does not indicate that there is no point that has appeared there, only that I do not see the point. Those are two different things. I don't need to see the point for it to be there.

Do you know what the word "appear" means? To be visible. If you cannot see the point it does not appear. To claim that the point is there, before you can see it, is an unjustified assumption, just like your claim that the cause is simultaneous with the effect, is an unjustified assumption.

You still have done nothing to support this illogical claim that the efficient cause is simultaneous with the effect. You have demonstrated that this claim is derived from an equivocation between two ways of using "cause", and your demonstration, your attempt to justify the claim, is made by referring to something physically impossible (that the point appears before the pencil moves). So your claim remains illogical
• 11.3k
They are two different ways of describing the very same event.
That they are one event is clear by the simultaneity of cause and effect. However this isn't to say that what is the cause in this case is the same as the effect.

One cannot be the cause, and the other the effect, if they are the very same thing.
They aren't the same thing. The proposition "movement on pencil on paper" isn't the same as the proposition "creation of a line".

According to Newton's first law, if a thing has being, there are no other efficient causes required to maintain that being.
No, that's called pseudo-science. Newton's first law says nothing about the being of objects/things.

inertia
:s

Do you know what the word "appear" means? To be visible.
Right, it could mean that. It could also mean to become present. If I say a ghost appeared in the house, I don't mean that I saw the ghost necessarily, I simply mean that it became present there or started to exist at that position in space.

You still have done nothing to support this illogical claim that the efficient cause is simultaneous with the effect.
Yes I have. I even explained to you the mechanism by which the cause is logically prior to the effect via the act/potency distinction.
• 1.6k
They are simultaneous. The fact that I don't see the point on the paper without moving the pencil out of the way does not indicate that there is no point that has appeared there, only that I do not see the point.
Usually, the pencil has to move before the paper is marked. That's because the mark is made by the pencil leaving behind part of its graphite tip on the paper. For that to happen, a force is needed that breaks the bonds that bind the graphite that will make the mark to the rest of the tip. That force is created by moving the pencil sideways which, by the operation of friction, stretches the bonds to the point where some break.

A similar analysis applies when the motion of the pen is just up and down rather than sideways.

The only instance in which the pencil does not have to move before a mark arises is when particles of graphite freely fall off the tip without being subject to a force. This could happen with a very flaky pencil tip. But in that case the pencil does not even have to touch the paper for a mark to appear.
• 2.8k
But since Hume was an empiricist, isn't he ceding ground to rationalism here by saying we have a sentiment toward causality? He's admitted there's something fundamental in our thought processes which we use to make sense of the world that doesn't come from sensory experience.

No, because it is not rational, but sentimental. 'Reason is and ought to be the servant of passion. '

That 'ought' is loose talk on Hume's part, which I interpret charitably to mean that one might have a passion to make reason the king and passion the servant. And if that passion is strong, it will prevail, but one can only regard reason as the king of passion by wilfully ignoring the passion that put the puppet reason on the throne.
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I don't understand what passion has to do with causality.
• 2.8k
There is a passion to find a pattern, a passion to predict.
• 4.6k
Yes I have. I even explained to you the mechanism by which the cause is logically prior to the effect via the act/potency distinction.

I saw no such explanation. What you said is this:

Yes, there is a priority in terms of potency and act. The line (or point or whatever) is a potency of the pencil which actually exists. This logical asymmetry between the two is what guarantees the logical priority of one over the other. That is why the pencil can cause the line, but the line cannot cause the pencil.

This provides no argument that the cause is simultaneous to the effect. What you seem to be saying is that the potential for the effect is simultaneous with the actual cause. But your conclusion is just a category error. It's like saying that the potential for sunrise tomorrow morning exists simultaneously with the actual setting of the sun tonight, therefore the sunrise is simultaneous with the sunset. Do you see the category error of mixing actual and potential in this way?
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There is a passion to find a pattern, a passion to predict.

A passion isn't a concept. We have a concept of causality. Hume wasn't able to provide a good explanation for how we arrived at such a concept.

As has been noted earlier in this thread (in correction to something I posted), correlation isn't causation. So you can't derive the concept of causation from constant conjunction.
• 2.8k
A passion isn't a concept. We have a concept of causality.

Nobody thinks a passion is a concept. We have a passion for pattern, a passion to predict, we are creatures of habit. Cause is a handy concept that appears to justify, and appears to rationalise, but does not - unless you want to disappear down Kant's rabbit hole. Hume says we are creatures of passion primarily not rationality; don't expect him to derive shit, he's busy pointing out how underivable it is.
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Hume says we are creatures of passion primarily not rationality; don't expect him to derive shit, he's busy pointing out how underivable it is.

That still fails to explain how we came up with the concept of causality. Saying that it's a habit of mind is not explaining how the concept could form.

And since Hume was an empiricist, he has nowhere else to go.
• 609
That still fails to explain how we came up with the concept of causality. Saying that it's a habit of mind is not explaining how the concept could form.

And since Hume was an empiricist, he has nowhere else to go.

It’s been a while since my reading of Hume, and I’m not about to reread his works to present this. And yes, given my heavy alignment with Darwinian evolution, I may have misinterpreted his writing at the time due to this bias.

On a few rare occasions, Hume drops this bomb-word of “instinct”. Long-term memory sometimes being faulty, till I find out otherwise I’ll uphold what I remember: on even fewer instances he mentions this (you’ve got to place him in his proper time) rather heretical hypothesis that we humans share instincts with lesser animals. (I bet some will find it heretical even today on this forum.) And I recall his explanation for why we develop habits of (causal) association being just that: its instinct.

… OK, for what it’s worth just found this one summary online after a brief search:

Section IX of the Enquiry is a short section entitled "Of the Reason of Animals." Hume suggests that we reason by analogy, linking similar causes and similar effects. He suggests that his theories regarding human understanding might then be well supported if we could find something analogous to be true with regard to animal understanding. He identifies two respects in which this analogy holds. First, animals, just like humans, learn from experience and come to infer causal connections between events. Second, animals certainly do not learn to make these inferences by means of reason or argument. Nor do children, and nor, Hume argues, do adults or even philosophers. We infer effects from causes not by means of human reason, but through a species of belief, whereby the imagination comes to perceive some sort of necessary connection between cause and effect. We often admire the innate instincts of animals that help them get by, and Hume suggests that our ability to infer causal connections is a similar kind of instinct.

From: http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/understanding/section9.rhtml
• 198
That still fails to explain how we came up with the concept of causality. Saying that it's a habit of mind is not explaining the concept.

The word "concept" is ambiguous, as are "relations among ideas" and "matters of fact".
Must the content of a concept be thinkable, or are concepts only demonstrable on a case by case basis?

Suppose for example that somebody claims to not understand infinity. So we provide him with a verbal definition, say

" [1,2,3,...] represents an infinite collection, where the dots allow us to write [1,2,3,4,...] and so on"

The learner then queries

"what do you mean by 'and so on' "?

At this point all we can do is demonstrate to him a finite number of applications of our rule of infinite expansion, and hope that he continues to use our rule in the same way. To verify this, we might test his understanding of the rule of infinity on a finite supply of test questions and then breathe a sigh of relief if he passes all the tests.

But where in any of this process did we teach to him and confirm his understanding of what we want infinity to mean?

And the problem is the same when teaching what is meant by the word "necessary", for we can only teach a concept with a finite number of examples and by appealing to the words "and so on". Hence an exhaustive a priori definition of the word "necessary" cannot be given such that it's meaning is water-tight before all of its uses.

Therefore, and especially considering human fallibility, physical uncertainty and mechanical breakdown, the very notion of "necessary consequent" is not only non-demonstrable it is also under-determined thereby permitting exceptions.

Hence to say that "B necessarily follows A" is in some sense compatible with saying "B doesn't necessarily follow A".
• 1.6k

What is the "concept of causality" exactly?
It seems to this sort of objection hasn't given it much thought.

If it is our concept, then it is our experience, to account for it is to describe an event of experience of the person in question, nothing more than our "habit of mind".

The "how" terminates there: it's the fact someone experiences a concept of causality which means it this there rather than not.
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Hence to say that "B necessarily follows A" is in some sense compatible with saying "B doesn't necessarily follow A".sime

The laws of thermodynamics prohibit perpetual motion machines from being invented.

Nothing with mass can be accelerated to the speed of light.

It's impossible to know both the position and momentum of a particle with 100% certainty.

You can't build a storage device consisting of a sphere of 6.7 cm or smaller containing more than 2.6 X 10^42 bits.

You can't build a computer that carries out more than 5 X 10^50 operations per second.

You can't transmit information faster than the speed of light.

You can't perform a measurement below the Plank scale.

You can't have a temperature below 0 degrees Kelvin.

All of the above and more is necessarily the case without exception.
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All of the above and more is necessarily the case without exception.

Odd use of 'necessarily' there, to mean, 'as far as we know', or 'according to our best theory', or 'unless the rules change over the event horizon', or 'unless there are wormholes or some shit we haven't come across yet'.

I think the power of science is that it's not perfect. It's the only discipline we have that acknowledges its own fallibility. — Brian Cox
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The point is that we do have the concepts of necessity and causality, contrary to what the Humeans in this thread have been arguing.

It's not that we can't be wrong about what's actually necessary/causal, only that we can and do conceive of such things. Kant was right that causality is fundamental to our thinking.
• 609
Can anyone interested—be they Humean, Kantian, or some other—explain how the stance of “innate instinct for causal relations” differs from an “a priori understanding for causal relations”?

To me, not only is there no contradiction, but they’re one and the same metaphysical stance; only that the latter Kantian stance gives a detailed metaphysical account whereas the former Humean stance only gives a generalized, superficial metaphysical account (I remind everyone that genetics and the like were not know in Hume’s time, hence “innate instincts”, while commonly used to describe animal behaviors, were not yet understood in the neo-Darwinian sense of modern cultures).

Otherwise asked: While the Kantian stance is justified in in-depth manners and the Humean account is only offered as the only consistent explanation which comes to mind, how is an a priori understanding of the cognitive faculties as regards causation not itself an innate instinct of the same cognitive faculties?

(To be clear, I personally uphold a Kantian metaphysics when it comes to causation but also find that Kantianism only builds upon Humean understanding in at least this one regard.)
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I don't know why you think anyone has been arguing that we don't have these concepts. But we have the concept of unicorns too. Where did that come from?
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See the Sime & Willow posts above my response. Also see other posts in this thread talking about habit or passion, including yours.

What Hume was puzzled by was how we came to have a concept of causality since it's neither empirical nor a logical deduction. I've been arguing that habit in response to constant conjunction is not enough to arrive at the concept of causality.
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