David Hume writes "All belief of matter of fact or real existence is derived from some object, present to the memory or the senses, and a customary conjunction between that and some other object." What does Hume mean here? In what way, if any, does this view differ from the ordinary conception of how we understand knowledge of cause and effect?

  • See Hume : Causal Inference : "Causal inferences are the only way we can go beyond the evidence of our senses and memories. In making them, we suppose there is some connection between present facts and what we infer from them. If the connection is established by an operation of reason or the understanding, it must concern either relations of ideas or matters of fact. Hume argues that the connection can't involve relations of ideas." – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 31 at 13:17
  • "Since we're determined— caused —to make causal inferences, then if they aren't “determin'd by reason”, there must be “some principle of equal weight and authority” that leads us to make them. Hume maintains that this principle is custom or habit: 'whenever the repetition of any particular act or operation produces a propensity to renew the same act or operation … we always say, that this propensity is the effect of *Custom'. (EHU 5.1.5/43) It is therefore custom, not reason, which “determines the mind … to suppose the future conformable to the past” (Abstract 16). – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 31 at 13:20
  • What is the citation for the Hume quote? – Mark Andrews Feb 2 at 20:26

Simply stated; Hume contended that because we, as humans, live and live only in the present, we only know the past in terms of what we have seen happen before and we only know the future in surmise. Because of being locked into the present we cannot determine if any portion of our experience involves cause and effect or for that matter, any other arrangement whatsoever. Thus we can only assume a 'customary conjunction in events'. This resulted in his famous 'skepticism' in the possibility of human knowledge.


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    If you have references and quotes from Hume this would strengthen your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. For example, would you have a quote from Hume showing that he believes we live only in the present? Presenting that quote would strengthen your answer. – Frank Hubeny Mar 26 at 17:16
  • Thanks Frank, For that response I simply abridged from Genevieve Lloyd's transliteration of Hume's position in her 'Part of Nature' – Charles M Saunders Mar 26 at 18:36

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