David Hume

If one event always follows another we believe the first causes the second. But it is impossible to prove, empirically or logically, that the second event happened because the first did. Causal necessity is an illusion: “The mind is carried by habit, upon the appearance of one event, to expect its usual attendant, and to believe that it will exist.” By force of habit we project necessity on to constant conjunction.

Immanuel Kant

It is true that a causal connection cannot be proved. But this connection is not, as Hume claimed, a mental habit which we derived empirically from impressions of constantly conjoined events. Causal necessity is an a priori mental precondition of all possible experience. The mind, via the understanding, applies it categorically and universally to every judgement of objects of sense.

My crude summary of both of their views

One way or another the mind is responsible for the notion of causality, which we can't prove exists independent of the mind.

Is that a fair summary?

2 Answers 2


Hume took sceptism as far it is logically possible in the analysis of causality to show that logically, causality (in the then understood framework of knowledge) could not be understood as it is commonly understood. Hume, as the quote above showed, sought the roots of causality in human psychology.

Kant, understanding the thrust of Hume's questioning and sceptical spirit, accepted Hume's criticism, and went further than Hume did in his answer. Rather than seeking the root of causality in human psychology, he went deeper into the substrate of consciousness, and found causality to be rooted in the intuition, which is a technical word in his vocabulary, meaning the conditions which allow even experience to be possible.

If we follow Freud, and think of human psychology to be divided into the conscious and subconscious, where the conscious is that part of of human psychology open to our selves or others, and the subconscious is the realm of hidden motivations, then Kant's intuition lies underneath the subconscious. It directly apprehends sensual data and turns them into intelligible data to the mind.

So, yes; one could say that Kant's and Hume's views do differ. But only because Kant moved on further along the road that Hume opened up.

  • 1
    Think you mean intuition not inuition. But Kant and Hume agree causality is in the observer which is what the asker asks.
    – virmaior
    Feb 3, 2014 at 7:23
  • Nice answer as usual. But as currently phrased this answer will lead people to believe that "inuition" is a technical word distinct from "in t uition". I don't think that's your intent. Is it?
    – senderle
    May 4, 2014 at 13:33

I think that they agree causality is not out there but rather in subjects. Where they don't is what that means. For Hume, it seems to be a bad inference we make from data and untrustworthy. For Kant, it is a category of the understanding and merely its use that goes wrong.

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