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Roczniki Filozoficzne

Volume 12, Issue 1, 1964

Andrzej Wawrzyniak
Pages 39-51

Hume's Idea of Causal Relation

Hume's analysis of the causal relation is the first serious attempt to characterize its modern acceptation. The author studies Hume's analysis of the causal relation and the definitions of cause given by the Scottish philosopher, in the context of his whole system, taking into account later presentations of the latter (works by J. Laird, N. K. Smith, A. Leroy, J. Passmore and others). The essential theses of the article can be summarized as follows: 1. Hume analysed the causal relation from the standpoint of a theoretician of knowledge. Doing so, he made no metaphysical statements; thus he did not deny the existence of real causal relations, he only denied their cognoscibility. 2. He considered the element of necessity as essential to the causal relation. Following the distinction between philosophical and natural causal relation, he differentiated necessity, seen as regular succession of phenomena (objective aspect of necessity) from necessity as psychic compulsion, due to the association of perceptions (subjective aspect of necessity). His efforts to reduce the latter to the former appear unjustified, even unnecessary, on the basis of the argumentation provided by his system. 3. The cause has been defined by Hume as a necessary and sufficient condition for the occurrence of the consequence. The causal relation can be expressed in the formula: if C occurs, then and only then E always occurs, in which C and E mean variables running through a set of phenomena remaining in such a relation of reciprocal dependence. 4. In Hume's definition of cause, the term „object" means „phenomenon"; this is due to the unsubstantial character of the being considered as cause, as well as to its mood of existence as happening or process.

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