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Hume’s and Kant’s

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Hume’s Principle of Induction
In the Treatise of Human Nature and Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume aims to fundament his argument concerning induction as the foundational stone of his philosophy. Consequently, induction became his most influential and known argument and an important part of the rationalist philosophy. Nevertheless, there is not much consensus on how Hume should be interpreted. This means there are two possible interpretations of Humes process of induction. The first one considers Hume as a thorough skeptic who considers that all the possible arguments regarding matter of fact and existence as completely worthless. This view portrays Hume as a negative Phyrronian who tries to undermine our potential knowledge of the world (Millican 3). On the other hand, the other perspective places the English philosopher in the other extreme as a non-sceptic who tries to show the implausible consequences of the rationalism position that most of the philosophers around him took.
Therefore, to provide a clearer version of the argument, as well as a thorough explanation of the idea, this essay shall use both versions of the argument of induction found in Hume’s books. Here we shall place both arguments side by side and comment on both, explaining them and showing what has been the so-called “Problem of Induction” Although Hume never used the word “induction”, he enquired on whether causal relations between objects existed or not. To him, these connections are the only way on which the mind could go further than the impressions given by our senses.

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Hence, for this to happen must exist a relation between the causes and the objects as it could be the only way to transcend mere sensations.
“’Tis easy to observe, that in tracing this relation, the inference we draw from cause to effect is not derived merely from a survey of these particular objects, and from such a penetration into their essences as may discover the dependance of the one upon the other … When we pass from a present impression to the idea of any object, we might have separated the idea from the impression, and have substituted any other idea in its room. ‘Tis therefore by experience only, that we can infer the existence of one object from that of another. The nature of experience is this.” (Hume, Treatise 1, III)
Hence, what Hume wants to show here is how these objects we perceive are part of a relation between a first cause and the effect created. Nevertheless, the novelty in Hume’s thought was separating the faculties of understanding from the soul, effectively separating mind and soul. Moreover, when speaking about essence, Hume aims to show how there is a necessary connection between things that links them and makes possible a relation between cause and effect (Shanks 95). However, the great dilemma this argument poses is how we can prove that this situation exists as it cannot be proved deductively because it is contingent, and only necessary truths can be proved in such way. Conversely, it cannot be proved inductively because he is asking about a general principle. As a result, he elaborates.
“… we call the one cause and the other effect and infer the existence of the one from that of the other. In all those instances, from which we learn the conjunction of particular causes and effects, both the causes and effects have been perceiv’d by the senses, and are remembered: But in all cases, wherein we reason concerning them, there is only one perceiv’d or remember, and the other is supplied in conformity to our experience.” (Hume, Treatise 1, III)
Consequently, all the principles the mind can imagine come from the imagination since there is nothing more than what the reason can provide us. That way, Hume shows how our senses are the ultimate judges of what we perceive or remember. Therefore, they are not just organs that receive, but also part of our understanding. This means that Hume’s perspective concerning the first principles is largely anthropological as it places the human understanding in a place formerly reserved to God or to causes that existed beyond our understand. Which largely relates to his idea of creating a “science of man” on which these answers can be found within our understanding and without logical ruses. Moreover, to be truly able to understand the relationship between cause and its effect is through an operation of reason that is not determined by reason. Hence, having admitted that there are certain first principles on which we require believing and that cannot be proved, it seems difficult to believe the rationale behind believing in things we cannot prove. To solve that, Hume considers that all those connections that the human mind can conceive are possible and those it cannot, impossible(Vickers 1).
Therefore, if his deduction parts from the understanding that our imagination and our reason are the organs from which we perceive reality, everything that is perceivable, happens.
Consequently, there must exist a principle of uniformity in the nature that allows us to believe that something that is there will remain there even if we leave. This means that nature has to be uniform as it is the only reference point we have to explain the phenomena of the senses. However, although this places all the weight of Hume’s thought in nature and requires a first cause like an Aristotelian system, served the author to explain the causal relations between objects.
“Objects have a certain coherence even as they appear to our senses; but this coherence is much greater and more uniform, if we suppose the objects to have a continu’d existence; and as the mind is once in the train of observing a uniformity among objects, it naturally continues, till it renders the uniformity as compleat as possible” (Hume, Treatise, 2, IV)
This implies that to create inferences regarding the things that surround us we would have to use experience to understand all the phenomena presented. This means that every idea comes from an impression and those impressions come from our minds, which means that every single impression comes from the belief that nature is uniform. Hence, these processes of induction or casual inference although that serve the purpose of allowing humans to associate and relation their perceptions, do not show us the relation between objects and their causes by mere reason but from imagination. Hence, making it impossible to really know what surrounds us without having to resort to nature as the final point of reference, presenting a dilemma that Hume tries to resolve in the Enquiry saying that although the external objects as they appear to the senses do not show the causal connection of things, they let us see a reflection of them in the operations our mind does to find them (Hume, Enquiry, 51)
Kant’s Copernican Revolution and the Problem of Induction
Kant’s thought is considered a breakthrough that destroys all the notions of modern philosophy as he tries to fundament al those principles that modernity and scholastics considered unmovable and canonical. Consequently, to Kant, the only possible way to be able to lay foundations to his metaphysical project was to instead of considered ourselves affected by the objects, we should consider we affect the objects (Rastovic 20). To put it simply, he considered we have to shift our glance from the objects and focus it on man. Therefore, instead of humans revolving around objects, that humans are the center and that objects move around them. Moreover, although Kant never called his intellectual effort “Copernican turn”, it was the name that made this approach popular. In Kant’s words
“We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success in the tasks of metaphysics if we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge. This would agree better with what is desired, namely, that it should be possible to have knowledge of objects a priori, determining something in regard to them before their being given. We should then be proceeding precisely on the lines of Copernicus’ primary hypothesis. Failing of satisfactory progress in explaining the movements of the heavenly bodies on the supposition that they all revolved round the spectator, he tried whether he might not have better success if he made the spectator revolve and the stars to remain at rest. A similar experiment can be tried in metaphysics, as regards the intuition of objects.” (Kant, xxi)
Consequently, this anthropological effort, like Hume’s of “anthropologizing” the philosophical thought as a way to stop seeking knowledge outside of experience, seems quite controversial as it seems to indicate that he wanted to turn this mental matter into something natural and explainable. In a way, it can be perceived as a revival of the Aristotelian tradition of returning to natural philosophy through logic. Hence, when Kant proposes his revolution, he is only shying away from his predecessors’ philosophical systems who considered mind, along with the senses and the imagination as passive faculties that only received stimuli but did not process them as it already possesses a series of innate ideas for its analysis (McCormick 1). Therefore, in those traditions, mind can be perceived a theater that needs to be filled with perceptions that appear as soon a sensation evokes said perception that the body already has. Thus, since Kantian model of empirical knowledge is founded in the fact that the only way to have experiences of the world is through mental representations of said things, it is impossible to consider mind as a clean slate and our senses as mere perceptive organs that only register but do not analyze what they receive.
For this reason, experience must come to aid as the best way to analyze these experiences that constantly appear. However, there exist the issue of the particularity of experiences. Since every experience is particular to the mind that experiences, it is almost impossible to regulate them into a cohesive corpus. Therefore, here is where Kantian categories as pure concepts of the understanding that are applicable a priori to every situation and experience, they can serve to explain all the phenomena that simple reason is not able to interpret. However, given the fact that Kant refused to speak about the categories any further, many doubts around still exist. Also, this forces us to renounce to see nature as determined since what changes is not nature but our perceptions. Hence, presupposing that nature laws are a priori refers to the contingent nature of our understanding capabilities. Hence, it is our judgement who creates these almighty categories to explain the causal processes found in our experience.
On the other hand, the categories, although constructs, are necessary constructs that allow us having the possibility of experience. Accordingly, following Hume’s thought, Kant involves the principle of cause and effect into the three analogies of experience, encasing it as one of the three categories of possible experience. As Kant would put it “All alterations take place in accordance with the law of the connection of cause and effect rather than any particular causal law” (Kant B232).” However, these categories are only possibilities of experience rather than experiences per se. This means that the categories only are nothing but hollow experiences that serve as a framework for real empirical experiences. For instance, to have factual experience of the phenomena around us we would have to use the natural laws that come from those “real” experiences of the human mind and experience (Sharp 12)
Hence, Kant considers that these judgments concerning the nature of experience are used to add necessity to the natural laws to serve as a regulative principle that allows us to approach to the phenomena. Subsequently, this calls us to distinguish between reality of noumena and phenomena. Phenomena are the appearances that constitute our experience while the noumena are what Kant presumes are the things themselves that constitute reality. Therefore, all our synthetic a priori judgments about reality exist in the phenomenal, as they can be assessed and proved by concepts of the human understanding. Conversely, noumenal reality corresponds to the things in itself, which being independent of our experiences and reality cannot be explained in ways that human understanding can reach. For this purpose, Kant’s use of the Copernican turn rejects Hume’s skepticism by considering as flawed the premises surrounding Hume’s assertion that the causal relations cannot be proved. However, since Hume’s suppositions were largely empirical while Kant’s are metaphysical, it is understandable that the German philosopher might have seen the impossibility of demonstrating or examine these matters of fact Hume proposed as a flaw in his thought. On the same hand, Kant only considers that true understanding of these phenomena can only exists a priori. For instance, even if we decide to stop ordering our perceptions chronologically, we could not as the only way we have to explain events is through time, which means that there are a series of principles we need to structure reality. As Kant would say
“Appearances certainly provide cases from which a rule is possible in accordance with which something usually happens, but never that the succession is necessary; therefore, a dignity pertains to the synthesis of cause and effect that cannot be empirically expressed at all, namely, that the effect does not merely follow upon the cause but is posited through it and follows from it.” (Kant, B127)
Therefore, these principles exist because of a necessity. There is no way to imagine said principles as false because they are part of our perception of reality. Therefore, in cases such as the principle of cause and effect, where the principle does not refer to the world but to the human understanding it must exist as a phenomenon that can be assessed scientifically by empirical observation like someone who observers how it rains.
Works Cited
Hume, David, and L. A. Bigge. An Enquiry concerning the Human Understanding. Oxford: Clarendon, 1894. Print.
Hume, David, and L. A. Bigge. A Treatise of Human Nature. 2d ed. Oxford: Clarendon ;, 1978. Print.
McCormick, M. “Immanuel Kant.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/kantmeta/#H3>.
Millican, P.J.R. “Hume, Induction, and Probability.” Http://www.davidhume.org/papers/millican/1996PhD.pdf. University of Leeds, 1996. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.davidhume.org/papers/millican/1996PhD.pdf>.
Rastovic, M. “Kant’s Copernican Revolution.” Philosophy Study 2.1 (2011): 19-26. David Publishing. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Shanks, D.R. “Hume on the Perception of Causality.” Hume Studies 11.1 (1985): 94-108. Hume Society. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Sharp, C. “Kant’s Response to the Problem of Induction.” Https://repositories.tdl.org/ttuir/bitstream/handle/2346/8555/Sharp_Curtis_Thesis.pdf?sequence=1. Texas Tech University, 2008. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Vickers, John. “The Problem of Induction.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 15 Nov. 2006. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/#HumInd>.

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