Passage from "The immortality of the soul" by David Hume

Where any two items x and y are so closely connected that all alterations we have ever seen in x are accompanied by corresponding alterations in y, we ought to conclude—by all the rules of analogy—that when x undergoes still greater alterations, so that it is totally dissolved, a total dissolution of y will follow.

How is that scientific? Does a strong correlation between two things imply that both things are always connected?

  • Is "common sense" view about the mechanism of the world and is at the core of Hume's philosophy of cause and induction : we "perceive" strong correlations and we assume that they are the product of rules (laws of nature) that necessarily links the correlated facts. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Apr 10 at 8:42
  • a necessity which we cannot prove i presume since it is just an assumption. so Hume's philosophy is kind of axiomatic? – Luyw Apr 10 at 9:30
  • "axiomatic" ? Every philosophy try to support some "general principles" usimg argument. Very few philosophers (see Spinoza) try to deduce them from axioms. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Apr 10 at 9:47
  • "we "perceive" strong correlations and we assume that they are the product of rules (laws of nature) that necessarily links the correlated facts." that's axiomatic as i see it – Luyw Apr 10 at 10:07
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    The quoted passage is not mathematically or scientifically accurate. If y = ax + b (a & b are constants), then changes in x are accompanied by corresponding chages in y (delta y = a*delta x), but y is not 0 when x is 0. This is the equation of numerous scientific processes. – user287279 Apr 10 at 12:04

Welcome to PSE.

To begin, Hume does not offer this argument from analogy as a 'proof' but only as 'strong'. Also he has in mind not a correlation merely 'strong' (or frequent) but a correlation exceptionless in experience: 'all alterations which we have ever seen in the one, are attended with proportionable alterations in the other'.

More than that, Hume is a sceptic. 'The analogy from nature' assumes not in fact his own position but that of those who believe in the uniformity of a law-governed, causally determined nature. The analogy is pressed on those who hold this view. Hume himself, in his sceptical critique of induction, takes no such view of nature - as Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, IV.14-23 makes plain.

  • Why would he target a specific audience despite potential criticism? Was he proving a point that I missed? – Luyw Apr 10 at 12:26
  • Hume is assuming a position which he believed was endorsed by science and common sense. He has in mind not so much a specific audience - or readership - as the entire generality of humankind. Hume is arguing from premises he believes to be false and drawing out consequences that, given their position, science and common sense ought to accept. – Geoffrey Thomas Apr 10 at 13:32

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