Does Hume propose that what people interpret as casual connections could instead be explained by coincidence?

I want to know if this is an accurate understanding.

Hume says something to the effect of: We believe we know there is a causal connection between certain object and event if we’ve observed a co-occurrence between them countless times in the past (a), and we know the laws of the universe remain the same (b). We need to assert that the laws of the universe remain the same, or else the co-occurrence could be due to a changing of natural law without cause (which would be coincidental for it to align with our observations).

We have no problem knowing a, but b is more challenging. The common sense reason of how we know b is that we know that the laws of the universe are static, or will be the same today as previously.

Hume concludes that this reasoning for why the laws of the universe will be the same now as they were before is flawed and circular because it requires reasoning that because the laws are static, then they are static, so the belief in causal connection is not warranted.

  • looks like a business man rewriting chat gpt -1 sorry
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 3:25
  • ps are you my evil twin?
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 3:41
  • @prof_ghost Yes, I am your evil twin. Do you think this is an accurate understanding of what Hume was thinking?
    – BigMistake
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 3:58
  • i don't recall much about hume, beyond how he thought there was nothing in a constant conjunction that suggests it has to happen (iirc)
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 5:40
  • There are three major interpretations of what Hume says. On the traditional one, there is no causation, but there is objective regularity and we read causation into it; on the skeptical one, we have no grounds to propose anything about causation; and on the realist one, we have "instinct" that guesses correct metaphysics but no way to justify it rationally. On neither of the three is there anything like "coincidence" and it is unclear what the word would even mean in this context. Hume either proposes nothing at all or something other than coincidence.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 6:28

1 Answer 1


Coincidence has a number of meanings. One expresses the idea of being at a common place in time and/or space. Another expresses the idea of an accidental or unrelated correspondence, or even a fluke. We can surely rule out that second meaning as a substitute for causation, given that only an immeasurably unlikely succession of flukes could account for the degree of unwavering consistency we find in the laws of nature. Hume would not have proposed the first kind of coincidence as an explanation of causes- indeed, it would be a very vacuous explanation to say that A caused B because the two coincided. Hume's point was that if we see A seeming always to cause B, perhaps seeing that connection because the two are always coincident, then we conclude cause and effect, but we have no absolute proof of it. Hume does not deny cause and effect, but he denies that we can have certainty about it.

  • If “all the scenes of nature were continually shifted… we should never… have attained the least idea of… a connection.” If a continual shift created a reliable co-occurrence, the shift itself was either caused by one of the occurrences, or the shift producing a co-occurrence was coincidental. If this is true, to be skeptical of cause means you take on the only other available explanation of coincidence.
    – BigMistake
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 17:13

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