Did Hume hold a regularity theory of causation?


Authors
Justin Broackes
Brown University
Abstract
In The Secret Connexion1 Galen Strawson argues against the traditional interpretation of Hume, according to which Hume’s theory of meaning leads him to a regularity theory of causation. In actual fact, says Strawson, ‘Hume believes firmly in some sort of natural necessity’ (p. 277). What Hume denied was that we are aware of causal connections outrunning regular succession, and that we have a ‘positively or descriptively contentful conception’ of such powers (p. 283); he did not deny that there are such powers, or that they are what we are talking about when we talk about causation. Strawson has four central lines of argument. His ‘most direct evidence’ (p. 2) against a regularity interpretation consists of (1) passages where Hume refers to hidden powers underlying the regularities of which we are aware. Strawson’s broader motivations for rejecting the traditional interpretation are (2) that the regularity theory is in itself quite absurd, and (3) that it is incompatible with Hume’s ‘non-committal scepticism’. And the method which he uses to defend his interpretation against pressure from the theory of ideas is (4) to develop some comments of Hume’s on ‘relative’ ideas into something like a further theory of content to supplement the theory of ideas. Strawson develops almost the strongest case I can imagine for his claims. I shall try to explain why he leaves me unconvinced.
Keywords Hume  causation
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DOI 10.1080/09608789308570875
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References found in this work BETA

The Search After Truth.Nicholas Malebranche, Thomas M. Lennon & Paul J. Olscamp - 1982 - Philosophy of Science 49 (1):146-147.
The Search After Truth.Nicolas Malebranche - 1991 - In Aloysius Martinich, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Early Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell.

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Citations of this work BETA

Half-Hearted Humeanism.Aaron Segal - 2015 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 9:262-305.
Hume's Explanations of Meaningless Beliefs.Louis E. Loeb - 2001 - Philosophical Quarterly 51 (203):145-164.
Hume's Explanations of Meaningless Beliefs.Louis E. Loeb - 2001 - Philosophical Quarterly 51 (203):145-164.
Hume's Reflective Return to the Vulgar.James R. O'Shea - 1996 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 4 (2):285 – 315.

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