Re: Hume

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Sat Nov 15 2003 - 01:09:25 EST

--- Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM> wrote:
> The idea that Hume's position on causation has never
> been satisfactorily,
> challenged leaves out of account the last 30 or 40
> years of the philosophy
> of science.

What science does or how it should be done can never
solve a philosophical or logical problems. Science is
neither philosophy nor mathematics. I think most of
your objections are taken care of, may be not
completely satisfactoily, in my answers to other
messages. Cheers, ajit sinha
  About midcentury realist challenges to
> logical empiricism began
> to take hold for the good and substantial reason
> that the propositions on
> offer, including Hume's approach to causation,
> didn't correspond to what
> scientists actually do.  Nancy Cartwright, for
> example, in "The Reality of
> Causes in a World of Instrumental Laws," argues that
> although philosophers
> have believed in laws and denied causes, explanatory
> practice in physics is
> just the opposite -- we argue from effect to cause
> against a background of
> our best available knowledge to find concrete causal
> processes.  The
> inference is not to the best explanation but to the
> most probable cause.
> Bhaskar's powerful critique of Hume in A Realist
> Theory of Science (1975)
> was mentioned in a previous post.  Bhaskar argues
> that the Humean concept of
> cause can't make sense of experimental activity --
> the sequences of events
> Hume's account presupposes are mostly produced in
> the closed system of a
> laboratory, and the Humean can't give an account of
> what explanations hold
> outside the experimental laboratory where such
> regularities rarely occur.
> Moreover, reflection on experiment shows that it is
> not about sequences of
> events at all.  Those are produced by the activity
> of the experimenter -- ie
> the experimenter puts litmus paper in acid and turns
> the paper red -- but
> the experimenter doesn't produce the causal process
> that caused the
> transformation.  In other words in the Humean
> account causal processes are
> confused with and collapsed into the sequences of
> events that permit us to
> identify them.
> Harre and Madden in Causal Powers (1975) also
> provide an important critique
> of Hume. They show that Hume's argument depends on
> conflating logical
> necessity -- something true in all possible worlds
> -- with natural
> necessity -- a relation that holds between a
> generative structure and its
> effects that can only be discovered a posteriori.
> The fact that it is
> logically possible for nature to change its course
> and for a stick of
> dynamite to turn into a stone doesn't say anything
> to the point about
> whether, given dynamite of the proper composition
> and structure, a stick of
> dynamite will explode when detonated.  It is self
> contradictory to say that
> the nature of dynamite is such that it both does and
> does not explain its
> power to explode.
> There's methodological significance here, as Harre
> and Madden emphasize by
> recounting the story of Moliere's imaginary invalid:
>  opium puts people to
> sleep because it has a "virtus dormitiva."  Put a
> Humean on the case:
> "Following Hume's account of the empirical meaning
> of a causal statement,
> the man who wanted to know more about the action of
> powerful particulars,
> say soporifics, could proceed only by collecting
> more cases of similar
> phenomena until he had enough to convince himself of
> the lawfulness of the
> statement of concomitance -- for example, had formed
> the psychological habit
> of expecting drowsiness to follow ingestion of
> opium."
> It's been done in social science.
> On the other hand, given a robust realist account of
> causation a scientist
> "will not collect further statistics but begin[] an
> exhaustive chemical
> anlaysis of the potent entity, trying to find out
> what sort of stuff it is,
> i.e. what its nature is.  Then he tries to follow it
> through the body after
> ingestion and tries to ascertain how it acts upon
> the central nervous
> system, the higher centers, and so on.  He
> undertakes quite a different sort
> of investigation from the strict Humean.  He does
> what scientists actually
> do." (Causal Powers 91).
> In other words, looking for a "virtus dormitiva" is
> better science, and, by
> the way, which approach did Marx follow?
> Richard Boyd is another contemporary philosopher of
> science who provides a
> sustained and satisfying critique of Hume based on
> the practices of science:
> "There is indeed considerable evidence that almost
> all the significant
> features of the methodology of recent science rest
> ultimately upon knowledge
> of unobservable causal powers and mechanisms (cites
> omitted), and thus that
> the empiricist reservations about experimental
> knowledge of unobservable
> causal powers and mechanisms are profoundly
> mistaken."  The basic idea is
> that scientists actually do posit causal structures
> and processes and then,
> relying on the best background theories available to
> them, design
> experiments and explanations.  The success of the
> endeavor is good evidence
> for the structures and processes proposed, whether
> unobservable or not.
> ((Boyd, "Observations, Explanatory Power, and
> Simplicity:  Toward a
> Non-Humean Account.")
> The Boyd and Cartwright articles can be found in
> Philosophy of Science
> (1991) edited by Boyd, Gasper and Trout.
> Value is an unobservable causal structure, and Marx,
> economics or social
> science more generally without cause makes less
> sense of the world than we
> can afford.  So getting past Hume's legacy is
> important for us.
> Howard
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Rakesh Bhandari" <rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU>
> Sent: Friday, November 14, 2003 1:15 PM
> Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Hume (just citations)
> > Interesting discussion underway.
> >
> > On a Marxist theory of causality, see Anjan
> Chakrabarti and Stephen
> Cullenberg
> > Transition and Development in India, pp. 31ff
> >
> > On Althusser's distinction between transitive and
> expressive causality,
> see
> > Robert Paul Resch Althusser and the Renewal of
> Marxist Social Theory.
> >
> > Rakesh

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