[hist-analytic] Davidson's Hume

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Tue May 26 12:02:35 EDT 2009

It is useful, perhaps, to compare

'the cause of b  caused b'


'the number of planets is greater than eight'

As long as 'the number of planets' is purely referential then if there is
analyticity, it could be argued that this is an example, since it "means"


but a lot depends on whether 'the number of planets' is, purely, referential.
Similarly, we need to know if in the first sentence 'the cause of b' is, purely,
referential. If it is, then it looks like it might be analytic; but the existence of
a cause, unlike, the number nine is not a matter of necessity, waving 
endless debate on 'necessary''; There is, however, another perspective.
Isn't Donnellans referential employment of definite descriptions a use of
a purely referential expression, even though they are not proper names? 
Suppose, just suppose, that we say that it is. Still, it is a contingent fact, 
I believe, that what caused b, the cause of b, might not have been the
cause of b - imagine other world cases of preemption (Lewis) for example.
In other words, I believe there is a reading of 'the cause of b caused b' which
is not such as to make it a necessary truth. Here we connect descriptions
logically, without connecting events. This tug of war between descriptions
and events is at the heart of Davidson's support of Hume. Another neglected
consideration: How are we to interpret sentences such as 'the cause of b
caused b' where we are talking about not events of a kind but particulars.
I have grown vey skeptical of the regularity theories of causation; I don't 
think the debate will revolve around the semantics but, rather, the ontology
of events causes, etc.



--- On Mon, 5/25/09, Roger Bishop Jones <rbj at rbjones.com> wrote:

From: Roger Bishop Jones <rbj at rbjones.com>
Subject: Re: Davidson's Hume
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk
Date: Monday, May 25, 2009, 11:41 AM

On Sunday 24 May 2009 18:23:08 Jlsperanza at aol.com wrote:
>In a message dated 5/23/2009 8:43:11 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
>rbj at rbjones.com quotes from S. Bayne:
>>>But does the fact that this means that it is logically  necessary that the
>>>cause of b caused b is not so obvious. Let's take  a look.
>and comments:
>>The bit you quote from Davidson, after the correction  offered
>>by Aune seems OK,
>>It's not clear from your message what  Davidson concluded from this,
>>e.g. did he make the inference you question  above?
>I wonder, too.
>I find that in the relevant page in "Reasons, Causes...", he uses
>      'the cause of b caused b'
>as _analytic_, which I'd take as 'logically necessary'.

Well that seems to contradict Aune and support Steve's qualms.

On that basis, I should (more definitely than Steve) say
that Davidson is wrong, unless it were logically necessary
that every event has a unique cause (which I can't swallow).

However, if the sentence is read in plain English, rather
than as a surrogate for something one might say in
predicate logic, then its possible that it might
have been intended to express a conditional.

     the cause of b (if it has one) caused b

and I would concede the analyticity if that were the
intention (and hence the speakers meaning).

However, if the claim is attenuated enough for it
to be analytic, then it will have insufficient
force to be a problem for Hume.
So the only hope for Davidson is equivocation
(I don't think this is the same as gerrymandering).
He must use the weak interpretation subtly in
establishing the claim, and then glide effortlessly
into the stronger one when it comes to using
it against Hume.

Roger Jones
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