Hume on Cause & Effect

Read Hume's Treatise on Human Nature.

Philosophy superstar David Hume said that our belief in cause and effect is lazy thinking. We think that just because we stop feeling thirsty after drinking water that the cause was drinking the water and the effect was the satisfaction of thirst. He wrote, "we cannot penetrate into the reason for the conjunction." He is saying that we do not know what the link, if there is one at all, is.  I kick a ball.  An observer will not know how the kick made the ball move.  All they will see is a ball changing positions.  You never see the actual power the actual cause.  You see the foot kicking and the ball moving and link the two together as cause and effect.  You infer a causal relationship. You infer that they are conjoined.  You think there is a glue connecting cause and effect. Cause and effect are not easy for just because people always die when you say hello to them does not mean you are the cause.

If event a causes event b then it follows that when a happens b will happen as well.  Hume denied this reasoning.  He said you no way of being sure that b really will follow a tomorrow.  His problem was that if you see cause and effect you have no way of really being sure they are connected.  Seeing them together or experiencing them as one leading to the other does not mean there is any real or necessary connection.  For Hume, we never see causality but we think we do for we have a habit of associating a and b because b follows a.

You pour water from a glass. You are the cause and the water on the floor is the effect. One without the other makes no sense. Or does it?
Believers then ask how he could say miracles do not happen for he denied that we really can know how cause makes the effect.

Hume could answer that if we are not as sure as we think we are that a brings about b then that is even worse and is one of the reasons why we are never sure.

Suppose we knew the cat always gets sick after eating tuna.  Our knowledge is weakened if it is possible that a miracle or spell can create exceptions or stop the sickness forever.  So magic and miracle make the uncertain far worse.
Hume did not say that miracles are impossible only that it is daft to believe in them. It was the improbability and unbelievability he focused on and based his argument on. The cause and effect material has nothing to do with this.
Also, all religion claims that miracles are based on the notion of cause and effect. All religion teaches that. It is believed that God directly causes a miracle. So God is the cause and the miracle is the effect. Religion does not see the miracle as an uncaused event but as the activity of say God.
If miracles happen out of nowhere and don't need a God or a supernatural power to do them then they are just random magical events. Miracles are useless shows of power if they are not an effect caused by a supernatural cause. We should be frightened to believe in random miracles for who knows what this randomness might bring!
One random event is a collection of events. Every event is a collection of events. So if miracles look like they are following a pattern and give a sensible message that does not mean they are intended. They could still be random in the following sense. A random event (meaning events) could be the creation of a randomness without any pattern or it could be the creation of a pattern. But one is still as random as the other for it came from randomness. A pattern has NOTHING to do with showing something isn't random or causeless.
Is it true that miracles depend on cause and effect? Religion only assumes there is a cause. Perhaps there is no cause!
That takes us to this reasoning, "Chemotherapy treats cancer. We cannot take that as a fact for God may cease to allow it to help.  We just assume.  It may work by hidden energies though we think we know how it works.  It is a conduit of divine power, that power is the real cure."

Assuming chemotherapy helps treat cancer is dangerous. It trivialises how good chemotherapy is and trivialises those it has helped. To assume is effectively no better than a denial that it is any good. You might as well deny it. Assuming means you don't know if you think it works or not but choose to act as if it does.  Follow the science and deny that there could be a hidden factor.  Don't let religion use the fact that we don't fully understand anything to allow God stuff to creep in.
The believers as good as deny cause and effect in desperation to make miracles look credible. They as good as deny they believe in the very cause and effect they believe in. Would you trust such people?  They need to be bold and admit.

The religionist should say miracles might rely on cause and effect and they might not. The religionist has no right to say they do depend. Religion says they do depend.  Religion is just built on half-truth.
Are miracles claiming to be evidence that cause and effect really is lazy thinking? The answer is yes even if we do not see that implication. It is still there. We need to reject the notion of miracles in order to have a working hypothesis of nature. We need to assume that nature is not altered by supernatural forces. We need to assume cause and effect.
Hume asserted that the thought that the future will always be like the past is lazy thinking. If I say that aspirin cures my headache, I am saying it because I perceive it has happened and so it will happen if I take a pill now.

Religion pounces on that to say, "Then if dead men stay dead in the past, that doesn't mean God can raise a man from the dead right now". But Hume is not even thinking of the supernatural here but only what nature itself says. Hume's assertion does not challenge natural cause and effect only that we know what effects will come. What he means is, the past always shows change so you cannot say the future will be like the past. So instead of thinking the future will be like the past realise that the only sense in which that is true is that the future can keep changing. Nothing else.
David Hume declares that if causes and effects exist then "causes and effects are discoverable, not by reason, but by experience". So he uses this idea to say that we cannot be rational and believe in miracles. We see by experience that dead people stay dead. Thus a follower of this principle tends to say we should not believe that Jesus Christ rose. He disputes not the resurrection but its believability. Let's rephrase. It is not saying that Jesus didn't rise. It is only saying that if he did, and if there is evidence, we still cannot believe. There are things we cannot be expected to believe and that is one of those things. If miracles and magic don't fall into that category then nothing does.
Christians object that if science makes a new discovery contradicting previous scientific positions, then Hume's argument forbids us to accept the new discovery. But the answer is that we are still not getting away from past experience but from our interpretation of that experience. People decades ago thought a brick was solid. We now know it is mostly empty space. We always knew that our senses could tell us something was solid when it was not. It is not true that our past experience told us the brick was solid but only that we perceived it to be.
There is a world of difference between saying a strange or unexpected event is magical/miraculous or natural. We know that we must expect unexpected things within nature! The Christian objection deliberately misses that point.
Even if cause and effect is demanded by reason then it is still accepted by us largely because of experience and not reason. Nobody is really able to tell you that it must happen and lay out the logical reasons.
That shows that our nature is to accept that past experience proves that a miracle is unlikely and so we are entitled not to believe and unentitled to believe. To believe in a miracle requires a bit of self-corruption.

Believers in miracles play every trick they can to dodge Hume's disproofs of the reasonableness of believing in miracles.  They say that Hume assumes something like law when he considers how nature works in a reliable predictable way. They argue that law implies a lawgiver.  That is nonsense for even blind forces need laws to exist and be blind in the first place.  You can have blind laws and agent-made laws. They say his arguments against miracles are valid but not if there is a God who creates all the laws and everything. So miracles are only possible if solely down to God.  Hume is making fewer guesses and assumptions than they are so Hume is the reasonable one.  He means regularity not law.  And if someone is altering nature or more likely simulating an alteration who says it has to be a God?  Man alters nature too so if there is a paranormal ghost it can do it too.  Hume in his analysis of cause and effect avoided making too many assumptions.  Believers make too many and that is not a sign of respect for cause and effect.  It is a sign of disregard.

Hume did lay down rules for the study of cause and effect which shows he did accept the validity of cause and effect. It is like belief laced with doubt. He wrote that “there can be no such thing as chance in the world.” Chance is only seeming chance not real chance. So if chance produces what looks like a miracle effect it is not really chance.  It is only a miracle from our perspective for we do not and cannot see the whole process that produced it.

Laws can be blind or set up by agents.  When religionists think of laws they mean laws set up by God.  When atheist scientists think of laws they mean blind regularities.  So do we have an overlap them for both sides can test to see what temperature or so is there like they can test anything of a science nature?  The overlap is only in the method not the theory.  There is no way to think of anything that is there or real without bringing a theory into it.  What the religious person does then is NOT science - but a simulation.
There are no errors at all in Hume's reasoning.

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