[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
 bridge itself:

    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
willful  agents.

(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
noumena  themselves.

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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