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The Powers That Be

  • E. H. Madden (a1) and P. H. Hare (a1)


The Humean tradition claims to show that the direct perception of causal power is in principle impossible. One argument for this conclusion is very simple: One cannot perceive what is not there; ‘causal power’ entails ‘necessary connection’; there are no necessary connections between matters of fact; therefore one cannot perceive causal power. The heart of this argument, of course, and the backbone of the Humean tradition, is that there are no necessary connections between matters of fact. This contention is supported by the familiar Humean dialectic. If there were a necessary connection of any kind between C and E, then the conjunction of C · ˜ E would be self-contradictory. However, all events are complete in themselves and never alone require that any other event will or must result from them. It is very strange to think of water freezing when heated or air pressure decreasing with depth, but no matter how foreign these conceptions may seem there is nothing self-contradictory about them. Since the assertion of C · ˜ E is never self-contradictory, it follows that there can be no necessary connection, logical or “causal”, between them, and hence there is no causal power that we could directly perceive.



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1 Madden, Edward H., “A Third View of Causality,” Review of Metaphysics, September, 1969. Cf. Lamprecht, Sterling P., The Metaphysics of Naturalism (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1967), pp. 129–45, and Ayers, M. R., The Refutation of Determinism (London: Methuen, 1968), pp. 80101.

2 Cf. Hume's Treatise, Book I, Part III, Section XIV, and Enquiry, Section VII.

3 Cf. Lindsay, A. D., Intro, to A Treatise of Human Nature (New York: Dutton, 1964), and Lamprecht, S., “Empiricism and Epistemology in David Hume,” in Studies in the History of Ideas, Vol. II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1925).

4 Lamprecht, S., The Metaphysics of Naturalism, p. 144.

5 Cf. Ducasse, C. J., Nature, Mind and Death (LaSalle, 111.: Open Court, 1951), pp. 113-18.

6 James, W., Some Problems of Philosophy (New York: Longmans, Green, 1916), p. 213.

7 James, W., Essays in Radical Empiricism and A Pluralistic Universe (New York: Longmans, Green, 1947), pp. 185-86.

8 Ibid., p. 168.

9 Some Problems of Philosophy, p. 199.

10 A number of writers in addition to James and Whitehead have been advocates of direct perception of causal necessities without being able to avoid the inferential predicament: Schiller, F. C. S., “Humism and Humanism,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, VII (1906–07), 93111; Boyce Gibson, W. R., “The Experience of Power,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, XII (1911–12), 65104; Stout, G. F., “Mechanical and Teleological Causation,” Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume XIV (1935), 4665; Stout, G.F., Mind and Matter (New York: Macmillan, 1931), pp. 1536; Ushenko, A. P., “The Principles of Causality,” Journal of Philosophy, L (1953), 85101; Hartshorne, Charles, “Causal Necessities: An Alternative to Hume,” Philosophical Review, LXIII (1954), 479-99.

11 Whitehead, A. N., Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect (New York: Capricorn Books, 1959), pp. 3059.

12 James, W., Some Problems of Philosophy, pp. 218-19.

13 Lamprecht, S., The Metaphysics of Naturalism, pp. 136-37.

14 Michotte, A., The Perception of Causality (New York: Basic Books, 1963), esp. “Commentary” by T. R. Miles, pp. 373–415.

15 Hamlyn, D. W., The Psychology of Perception (New York: Humanities Press, 1957), pp. 7682.

16 Ayer, A. J., The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge (London: Macmillan, 1964), p. 186.

17 Whitehead, A. N., Process and Reality (Cambridge at the University Press, 1929), pp. 188-89.

18 Weinberg, Julius, “The Idea of Causal Efficacy,” Journal of Philosophy, XLVII (1950), 399.

The Powers That Be

  • E. H. Madden (a1) and P. H. Hare (a1)


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