[hist-analytic] Hume Is Where The Heart Is
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Tue May 26 10:24:58 EDT 2009
I won't discuss directly R. B. Jones's recent post in the "Davidson's Hume"
thread but point to a few things:
Like Hume in this section, Kant says that although the statement "Every
effect has a cause" is analytic, "Every event has a cause" is not; ...
I thought there _was_ an article by an Oxonian title "Every event has a
cause" (I thought Warnock, perhaps) but can't find the reference.
Back to Davidson's analytic:
The cause of b caused b
(Reasons, Causes -- and Causal Relations)
it's good to consider the 'non-analyticity' as per above of "every event
has a cause". Also, what I called conjunction reduction: one may want to say
that an event has more than one cause one may reduce a possible
'conjunction' and treat the oddity as 'implicatural'.
But in this post, I'd rather re-consider Aristotle -- Grice -- and another
figure which Grice lists as 'great': Hume.
In the second lecture on "Aspects of Reason", Grice considers various
'uses' of the word 'cause'. The book is available partially as googlebooks, and
it contains some diagrams:
Basically, Grice works with _three_ formulae, all of which contain the
'cause' operator, which I symbolise with "C" for cause and "E" for effect:
For a nongeneral C, C causes E to be the case (that E).
C is (a) cause (for x) to E (not E to be the case (that E)).
X's thought that (to) C not cause of X's E-ing, nor (invariably) cause for
x to A.
The bracket "(a)" is to represent that sometimes 'cause' is mass-noun, but
sometimes it's not. Grice considers some variants, some of which he calls
Grice seems to be happy with the reasoning:
The bridge's girders were made of cellophane
A bus drove onto the bridge
Therefore, the bridge collapsed.
I offered this example to my Aristotelian colleague, Michael Chase, and he
said, "Stuff and nonsense" (we were trying to make Aristotelian _sense_ of
this). As he pointed out: For Aristotle, _things_ have causes, not
_events_, which is _not_ a good Humean start, if you ask me.
Then, it's "primarily" or primary substances that have the FOUR causes: the
material: cellophane girders
The design may be counterproductive: i.e. designing the girders in a _form_
such that cellophane fulfils the form ("formal cause") is not a good idea.
A zig-zag design for a bridge is neither.
The 'efficient cause' is the engineer for the bridge, but not for the
_collapse_ of the bridge.
Finally, (this _has_ to come 'finally') is the final cause. For the
uncollapsed bridge it is to transport people and goods across a stretch of water.
Now, the event of the collapse of the bridge for Aristotle may be
'necessary' and 'contingent', but it would not have the four causes. If contingent,
it may be due to a number of factors, etc.
Grice touches the 'problem' of 'cause' as used by H. L. A. Hart. He writes:
my love of cricket caused me to neglect my work.
But it would be 'odd' to say
my love of cricket caused me to play cricket yesterday
-- Grice does not expand on this 'oddity' which is surely implicatural. He
keeps referring to the 'vernacular sense of 'cause'', which can confuse the
When Davidson suggested a 'conversational-implicature' explanation for the
'implication' of _belief_ behind 'intention':
I intend to build a house
I believe I can do it.
Grice protested (reported by Pears, "Motivated Irrationality"). Grice
thought the conversational-implicature explanation was,
"too social to be true".
So one may imagine that a similar objection may be operative for 'cause'.
So what H. L. A. Hart detected about 'cause' being used in certain contexts
but not others may be part of the _entailments_ of dicta containing
'cause', and not mere 'implicatures'. (But I wouldn't buy that argument).
Finally, Grice considers a tricky example
A dandelion growing leaves
The cause, he notes, is: the dandelion derives its energy from
photosynthesis'. This, he claims, looks like an Aristotelian 'final cause', but with
Hume, he would deny them _in that scenario_ (in 1977). For the simple reason
that a dandelion 'doesn't have wants'. ("so to have leaves cannot be the
final cause"). He goes on to suggest that 'final cause' does play an
essential (er) role in _ethics_, though, when we _have_ to be concerned with
(Reading the "Metaphysics of Value" chapter in his later, "Conception of
Value", one may challenge that when he allows for things like "the tiger
tigerises", "it's the tiger's tigerising that _causes_ the tiger", -- but I
guess the tiger _may_ have wants, so there).
Grice remained an Ariskantian. And perhaps in the discussion of Davidson's
Hume it may do to reconsider Kantian considerations of CAUSATION as an 'a
priori' synthetic constraint of our understanding of things (but remaining
'phenomenal' rather than 'noumenal'). Ends, on the other hand, apply to
In Grice, the rationalism is meant as 'irreverent', he explains in "The
Life and Opinions of Paul Grice". It was almost anathema in the Britain (or
Oxford) of his day -- even when there was quite a strong tradition of the
exegetical type dealing with Kant in the utmost rationalistic fashion.
I usually refer to Strawson's The Bounds of Sense for a reading of Kant,
but people say they can't swallow so much loaded reading. I disagree, and
find the book a good landmark in the history of Oxford philosophy (not
necessarily being conceptual analyses of vernacular idioms -- and hey, it was the
notes from his LOOONG seminars on the topic).
Ayer even, the enfant terrible of (logical) positivism or verificationism
retreated to subtler issues when he joined L. J. Cohen in a proceeding of
the Aristotelian Society for yet another symposium on "The Causal Theory of
Perception", which sounds like a slightly un-humean thing for one to do.
J. L. Speranza
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