Skepticism about causal reasoning Essay

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Skepticism about causal reasoning

Arguing as a matter of fact any object presented before an individual and the reason for its existence, and likewise forming a sum of expectations of its effects rely mainly on either the process of experience or intuition. Hume makes a distinction between two kinds of objects for rationalization: 1) those that are concerned with the relation of ideas and 2) those that are born from the mind as a matter of fact (Hume, 2005).

The first kind includes suppositions that are “discoverable by the mere operation of thought without dependence on what is anywhere existent in the universe” (Hume, 2005). The second is the province of human reason where the reality and existence of an object as a matter of fact hinges upon our ability to infer its nature purely on causality. Causality is the relation of cause and effect, where one is distinctly the effect of the other or that one is caused by another we are able to draw a distinct and familiar connection between the two.

The inventory of causes and effects accumulated and stored in our memories form an amalgamation of ideas which thereby produces experience (Hume, 2005). Experience allows us to ascertain probabilities of truth and reality of some object as a cause of an event from a distant past or location. Experience, in relation to cause and effect, acquires persuasive weight when a substantial number of instances always produce the same effect and therefore, there is the irrefutable probability that the same effects will accrue from the same cause.

It would take a madman to debunk an otherwise harmonically demonstrable reality. However, Hume opines that cause and effect are distinct from the other and that the “mind can never possibly find the effect in the supposed cause by the most accurate scrutiny and examination”. Why must the mind be forced to rely upon a single preference to a uniform effect of a particular cause from out of the myriad conceivable possibilities that can equally be inferred from the same event?

Effect is veritably an event on its own quite removed from an analysis of the cause. There is one long, arbitrary road one must travel between two points. Conclusions that are drawn from various experiences of the operations of cause and effect are not founded on reasoning or of any process of understanding (Hume, 2005). It is human nature to find comfort and security in the authority of experience and the great guide of human life.

The question of why there is a strong reliance for one instance is a curious matter. If reasoning favors one conclusion over a thousand instances then it would have hardly be able to conceive of any instance at all in the first place. This is to say that where the instances are equal in weight and to reason “seem fully as consistent and natural” then the instance so favored is no different from the instances ignored.

On this point, Hume argues that the disparate treatment of ideas is not a result of reason but that of custom. Custom is the great guide of human life: “it is that principle alone which renders our experience […] and makes us expect a similar train of events with those which have appeared in the pass” (Hume, 2005). It is the habitual and mechanical journey undertaken from cause to effect and the propensity to repeat the process not grounded on reasoning or process of understanding (Hume, 2005).

The jump from one point to another informed by custom and not reason is perhaps the same underlying principle as in the case of religious belief and our firm, albeit capricious and whimsical, reliance on its traditional tenets. The realm of religious belief viz. custom is infinitive and limitless bounded only by one’s imagination and thought. One may believe in most anything, however strange, bizarre and unreasonable, even heretical when weighed in the scales of extant orthodoxy or doctrinal standards.

It is brought about by the customary conjunction between certain objects and perpetuated in history and individuals. Upon perusal of history and of ideas, the individual is inescapably led to adopt the same kind of inferential experience privy to the others. The moment that the idea crosses the individual’s mind that there is an existing mythical system to which events perceived through his senses are explained, the same individual begins to accrue other pieces of evidence from the operations of nature to buttress that belief.

Any other explanation to a certain event is altogether ignored and totally rebutted. Notwithstanding the concomitant social pressure and other psychological factors by which man is inherently inclined to believe in the irrational, the individual begins to fashion arguments in such a way that nature becomes available to him and that events otherwise complexly intertwined makes sense merely on the belief of the a priori cause—god. Such invention or conception by man, as argued by Hume, is entirely arbitrary.Man sits on the certainty of matters of fact, irrefutable truths and reality not open.

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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

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  • Date: 21 April 2017

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