The Humean analysis of causation reads as follows:
"We may define a cause to be an object, followed by another, and where all the objects similar to the first, are followed by objects similar to the second." (Inquiry)
A counterfactual condition is typically added to this, popularized by Lewis, so that the revised Humean causation generally reads as follows:
- If A had not occurred, B would not have occurred.
- If A had occurred, B would have occurred.
- A and B both occurred.
The general objection that is made to the Humean analysis of causation is to say that there are clear examples in which the Humean analysis either fails due to its ignoring of cases that don't favor its conditions, or in its failed presuppositions that causation is primarily observed in distinct temporal events.
The first sort of objections include what are known as 'finks' and 'antidotes'. Finks were popularized by C.B Martin's example of an electro-fink, which prevents the typical effect of 'B' (current running to conductor), and even causes unprecedented effects that the given cause 'A' (touching the wire with a conductor) could not give in itself. The reason this poses a possible threat to the Humean analysis of causation is because the Humean philosophy of regularities states that the occurrence of 'A' would result in the occurrence of 'B'. Lewis responds to this objection with the 'Reformed Conditional Analysis', which essentially stresses the would in his first and second statements. That is to say, Lewis reiterates that the given cause A would have resulted in effect B if its properties were not affected by another counterfactual cause, such as the electro-fink. I think this response is somewhat adequate, so 'finks' aren't to be answered to.
On the other hand, I am curious about the other line of objections, namely 'antidotes'. The objection of 'antidotes' are best explained in the following example: Let's say someone is poisoned. The properties of poison which allow it to kill a person are in no way affected by an antidote, which is unlike the previous example of the electro-fink (which directly affects the wire's properties). Rather, the antidote affects the physiology of the body. So here we find an example of some causation in which the cause A (poison) does not result in the effect B (death), but in no way was the cause A affected so as to alter its properties (which is the condition of the Reformed Conditional Analysis.) If the underlying criticism of Hume is in skepticism over what can truly be known of causality, this would in turn render the Humean analysis descriptively inadequate and contrary to what is truly observed.
The second string of the general objection against Hume includes examples that seem to do away with a 'trigger' event or temporally divided causes and effects, upon which Hume believes that we conceive of causes and effects (this is evidenced in the typical simplistic illustration he gives to understand causation, in the billiard ball). One such example includes General Relativity's spontaneous manifestation of gravitational powers which are in continuous interaction with space-time (Molnar 2003). Another example includes two books causing each other to stay upright by their leaning on each other, and a magnet staying on a fridge. Rather than interpreting such causes as "an object, followed by another", or two separate events that yield some regularity, we are able to simply analyze interactive forces occurring upon each simultaneously so as to produce in one state a certain effect (for books, of staying upright rather than falling down, and for the magnet, of staying on the fridge rather than falling off).
If Hume's attempt is to demonstrate the inability of the mind to conceive, directly or indirectly, of causal powers, it seems that Hume doesn't have much of a backing granted these objections, which compel rather justified inference of belief in causal powers. However, how does the proponent of Humean analyses of causation answer to such objections?
(Forgive the length of this question. The intent involved was to provide an extensive explanation of my understanding of Hume and more modern alternatives to his general theory of causation such as those named 'counterfactual', and to explain thoroughly the objections made, as I see them.)