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Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy$
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Walter Ott

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570430

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570430.001.0001

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The Definition of Causation

The Definition of Causation

Chapter:
(p.238) 27 The Definition of Causation
Source:
Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy
Author(s):

Walter Ott (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570430.003.0028

Hume offers two definitions of causation. These are neither cointensive nor coextensive. This chapter surveys some attempts to reconcile them before dissolving the problem altogether. Since causation is both a philosophical and a natural relation, it has a dual nature; it is, in other words, systematically ambiguous. This is not a fault in Hume's view but a vital element in its plausibility. The chapter goes on to ask whether Hume is a subjectivist or a projectivist about causation: does he think that all causal claims merely report our own reactions, or does he think that we are mistakenly projecting causal connections onto the world? There is no coherent way to conceive of causation as characterizing mind‐independent entities; but neither is there any reason to think that the subjectivity of causal claims robs them of their truth‐evaluable status. Although many of Hume's weapons were forged by his intellectual progenitors — the theory of relations, the argument from nonsense, and the “no necessary connection” argument, most importantly — Hume recasts them, and turns them against their realist inventors.

Keywords:   definitions, subjectivism, projectivism, Malebranche, Hume

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