Hume's "Two Definitions" of Cause and the Ontology of "Double Existence"

Hume Studies 10 (1):1-25 (1984)
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Throughout this paper my objective will be to establish and clarify Hume's original intentions in his discussion of causation in Book I of the Treatise. I will show that Hume's views on ontology, presented in Part IV of that book, shed light on his views on causation as presented in Part III. Further, I will argue that Hume's views on ontology account for the original motivation behind his two definitions of 2 cause. This relationship between Hume's ontology and his account of causation explains something which has baffled Hume scholars for some time,- namely, why does Hume's discussion of causation in I, iii, 14 have such a paradoxical air about it? I will show that Hume's views on causation have a paradoxical air about them because they rest on an ontology of "double existence" - an ontology which Hume describes as the monstrous offspring of two principles, which are contrary to each other, which are both at once embrac'd by the mind, and which are unable mutually to destroy each other (T 215) My interpretation will centre on the following two claims: (i) When Hume wrote Section 14, Of the idea of necessary connexion, he was primarily concerned to attack the view that the origin of our idea of necessity was to be discovered in the operations of matter or bodies. Of the suggested sources from which our idea of necessity could be thought to originate this is the source which, initially, interested Hume the most. It is, therefore, of great importance that we interpret Hume's remarks in light of this fact. (ii) Hume offers the first definition of cause as an account of causation as it exists in the material world independent of our thought and reasoning.He offers the second definition as an account of causation as we find it in our perceptions. It will also be argued, in this context, that necessity constitutes "an essential part" of both of Hume's two definitions of cause.
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