Hume's account of causation explains why we think specific things have causes and explains them in terms of their constant connection in our minds such that we associate them by "habit". Hume brings up the case of a billiard ball in motion hitting one at rest, when this happens we say that the moving billiard ball caused the resting billiard ball to move.

Thomas Reid, who disagrees that we learn about causation through experience, makes the objection: "Experience doesn’t show us a cause for as many as one percent of the changes that we observe; so it can never teach us that there must be a cause for all of them."

So what justification does he have for moving from a specific event having a cause to events in general having a cause?

  • The way you stated it it seems that Reid agrees with Hume that causation is nothing but habit of association rather than makes an objection. Hume does not move from special to general, his point is that general is presumed, special is lumped under it, and the only "justification" for this is mere habit. Is this HW? – Conifold Feb 19 '18 at 3:49
  • I'll amend my original post to properly reflect Reid's view. Reid's position is that our account of causation is an a priori truth that does not need experience. This is not HW – Axel Foley Feb 19 '18 at 4:09
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    Also Hume says in the Enquiry: "The first time a man saw the communication by impulse, as by the shock of two billiard-balls, he could not pronounce that the one event was connected: but only that it was conjoined with the other. After he has observed several instances of this nature, he then pronounces them to be connected. What alteration has happened to give rise to this new idea of connection? Nothing but that now he feels these events to be connected in his imagination." In his explanation here, it seems to me he moves from special to general – Axel Foley Feb 19 '18 at 4:09
  • It is the habit that does the moving, not Hume. It is not that there is some logical induction from special cases to generalizations. He says that it is a habit of our minds, "nothing but how we feel", to associate like events and turn these associations into expectations of future occurrences. I also think you are confusing Reid with Kant, it was Kant's idea that causation is a priori, Reid believed in real "efficient causation", see SEP on Reid. – Conifold Feb 19 '18 at 4:22
  • Maybe you can help me understand where I've gone wrong. As I understand it, according to Hume, the mind notices similar kinds of events/objects constantly accompanying another and this observation leads to a new internal impression, of which causation is a copy. Is this not correct? And yes I might have been confusing Reid with Kant. – Axel Foley Feb 19 '18 at 4:34

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