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David Hume and Necessary Connections

  • T. Foster Lindley (a1)


David Hume's claim that necessary connection is essential to causality was at the expense of a useful causal distinction we sometimes note with the words ‘necessity’ and ‘contingency’. And since, as J. L. Mackie has stated, Hume made ‘the most significant and influential single contribution to the theory of causation’, subsequent writers on causality, regardless of their support for, or opposition to, Hume, have joined him in trampling this distinction. The object of this paper is not so much to undermine one of Hume's conclusions as it is to describe a use of ‘necessary’ that, while surviving in popular usage, is ignored or obfuscated in the literature on causality.



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1 Mackie, J. L., The Cement of the Univers, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 3.

2 Hume, David, A Treatise of Human Nature, (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1949), I, iii, 78.

3 Ibid., I, iii, 80.

4 Ibid., I, iii, 163–164.

5 Ibid., I, iii, 164.

6 See ‘Necessity’, The Oxford English Dictionay, (Oxford University Press, 1971).

7 Just as bistable devices (e.g. coins) are stable in two positions, ‘unistable’ and ‘multistable’ are here used for devices stable in one position and devices stable in many positions, respectively.

8 Hume, David, Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding, SelbyBigge (ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963 impression), 61.

9 Ibid., 56.

10 Ibid., 97.

11 Stove, D. C., Probability and Hume's Inductive Scepticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 117.

12 Hume, Enquiries, op. cit., 74.

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David Hume and Necessary Connections

  • T. Foster Lindley (a1)


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