[hist-analytic] Davidson's Hume

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Sat May 23 21:19:17 EDT 2009

Prof. Aune may be right, but I need a little more from him, I think. Let me restate my view.Davidson wants to argue that for Hume something more like
descriptions than events are to be regarded as causes. This view,
he remarks, is "fortified by Hume's claim that causal statements
are never necessary." So the question becomes: how does the
description interpretation of cause get "fortified" by denying
the necessary connection, some allege, between cause and
effect. Davidson's claim is that this is because taking events as
causes, not descriptions, leads to the necessity of causation, whereas the description need not affirm it. So how does the 
event approach lead to the necessity of causation? Davidson
says "For if events wee causes, then a true description of of
some event would be 'the cause of b', and, given that such
an event exists, it follows logically that the cause of b
caused b. (Notice the lack of quotes; we are in the extensional
mode). But Aune overlooks a second modal element that
gives credence to his claim that the descriptive approach
"fortifies" the Hume's position. That second modality is
the one that describes 'the cause of b caused b'. Look at it this
way: suppose we deny this. Suppose we say

"It is not the case that the cause of b caused b."

This would be a contradiction, or close. True, what follows "logically" is something like what Aune proposes,(the business about 'If an event of causing b...etc. though I'm not so sure Davidson is errs. Central to our disagreement, perhaps, is that on the event view causation must be necessary, but if
Hume is right it can't be, and therefore a descriptive approach
is more acceptable. It is in THIS sense that Hume is 'fortified'. 
Now I might be pursuaded by Prof. Aune; it would not be the
first time. But one thing he must do for me to budge is explain
how on his view Hume's position is fortified by a descriptive
approach. Notice Davidson's use of 'fortified', a tricky word,
deliberately placed with an intended nuance. We need to know
from Prof. Aune what that nuance is, if I'm wrong - which I 
may very well be.

On my interpretation Davidson wants to show that if we take
events as not being necessary, then the claim that causation
relates necessarily can be shown to be , in this case the absurdity that
if a causes b it must necessarily cause b. Here's why. If the 
relata are events, then there is a description for any caused event,
b, such that this description entails this logical connection; but,
since the causal relation is not a logical one, this must be ruled
STeve--- On Sat, 5/23/09, Bruce Aune <aune at philos.umass.edu> wrote:

From: Bruce Aune <aune at philos.umass.edu>
Subject: Re: Davidson's Hume
To: "steve bayne" <baynesrb at yahoo.com>
Cc: hist-analytic at simplelists.com
Date: Saturday, May 23, 2009, 1:49 PM

I think Steve has misunderstood Davidson.  Davidson says, "Given that an event of causing b exists, it follows logically that the cause of b caused b."  This assertion does NOT imply that it is logically necessary that the cause of b caused b."  What is logically necessary according to Davidson's claim is the conditional, "If an event of causing b exists, then the cause of b caused b."  But Davidson does make an error here.  The relevant necessary conditional needs a stronger antecedent, "If there is one and only one cause of b."  This antecedent allows us to infer that the cause of b caused b.


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