Causal Inference, Associationism, and the Understanding

In Stability and justification in Hume's Treatise. New York: Oxford University Press (2002)
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Locke confines ”sensitive knowledge” to objects we presently perceive or that we remember perceiving. Hume's causal theory of assurance, the claim that the relation of causation extends assurance beyond memory and present perception, is a constructive attempt to remedy this severe limitation in the scope of Locke's third degree of knowledge. Throughout Part iii and well into Part iv of Book I, Hume endorses causal inference and also distinctions among degrees of probabilistic evidence. As even Beattie recognized, Hume is not advancing the skeptical problem of induction in Treatise I.iii.6; rather, Hume's objective is to show that inferences about unobserved causes and effects of objects that have been perceived are due to a faculty of association, not to ”reason” construed as a nonassociative faculty. Distinctions between justified inferences and unjustified ones are in turn drawn within the imagination or faculty of association.



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Louis Loeb
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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