Hume's Reality: A Lesson in Causality

In David G. Murray (ed.), Proceedings Metaphysics 2003 Second World Conference. Foundazione Idente di Studi e di Ricerca, (2003)
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In Book I, III §9 of the Treatise, Hume makes the claim that “[all general] belief arises only from causation” (T 107). Following, he makes the even stronger claim that all general beliefs are to be thought of as beliefs in reality, and thus, all belief in reality is dependent on pre-established beliefs in both specific causal relations and the causal relation in general (T 108). In the first part of this paper, I explain Hume’s motivation behind both claims, while in the second part, I argue that to some extent, Hume is correct; our belief in “reality”—a notion to be defined—is fundamentally dependent on a pre-established belief in the general notion of cause and effect and a cache of specific causal relations. Thus, epistemologically speaking, we must conclude that our notion of “reality” is intrinsically causal (note that this reading has been corrected/augmented in Rocknak 2013).

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Stefanie Rocknak
Hartwick College


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