David Hume’s Two Definitions of Cause Essay

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David Hume’s Two Definitions of Cause

David Hume’s two definitions of cause found in both A Treatise of Human Nature, and An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding have been the center of much controversy in regards to his actual view of causation. Much of the debate centers on the lack of consistency between the two definitions and also with the definitions as a part of the greater text. As for the latter objection, much of the inconsistency can be remedied by sticking to the account presented in the Enquiry, as Hume makes explicit in the Author’s Advertisement that the Treatise was a “work which the Author [Hume] had projected before he left College, and which he wrote and published not long after. But not finding it successful, he was
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By using the content of the Enquiry against the claims of Robinson and Garrett, we can establish that what Hume said is what he meant, and what he would be content to stand by.

Hume’s Enquiry is written as an evolving body of philosophical work that revises itself when needed, as it goes along. The format must be understood to fully appreciate the content. That being said, it is necessary to work through the concepts that led to Hume’s discussion of causation. The most suitable place to start is Hume’s Copy Principle. The Copy Principle is Hume’s empirical claim that all our ideas are mere copies of impressions drawn from the senses. Whereas the impressions are vivid and lively, the ideas pale in comparison. Hume uses an account of pain to illustrate this principle. “Everyone will readily allow, that there is a considerable difference between the perceptions of the mind, when a man feels the pain of excessive heat, or the pleasure of moderate warmth, and when afterwards recalls to his memory this sensation, or anticipates it by his imagination.” (Hume 1772, 12) One might think of the difference between a photocopy and an original to visualize the comparison between an idea and the impression that caused it. The photocopy will never have such sharp contrast or clarity that the
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