David Hume, against the current

“The animal snatches the whip from the master and whips itself to become the master”, F. Kafka

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In the annals of the history of Western philosophy, I have david hume as the original empiricist par excellence. Instructed by a blind man from birth, unable to see and therefore to know what colors are, he concludes that without experience there is no proper human knowledge. As he stated in his Treatise on Human Nature (1738-1740), human knowledge is based exclusively on sensory impressions and imaginative, unreal ideas. No more no less.

Until then Hume could be considered as another philosophical thinker of the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition. After all, for him too there is nothing in the intellect that is not previously in the bodily senses of the only member of the animal kingdom that is rational. However, such a statement is inaccurate.

The novelty of the author of the aforementioned Treatise is revealed by his questioning of the principle of causality and the revaluation of induction.

(2.2 Causality and induction). According to Hume, causation proceeds from two contiguous phenomena in space and/or time in which the effect “necessarily” follows the cause. Let’s say by way of example, A (fire) necessarily precedes B (heat). Both phenomena are empirical, perceptible; and, with regard to them, we speak of a cause-effect relationship because one (A) precedes the other (B) due to a certain inherent property of the one who acts as the cause that, as such, necessarily affects the one who assumes the role. effect paper.

So far what is usually repeated to fatigue. Notwithstanding which, Hume argues that the conviction or evidence of causality (to such a cause, such an effect) is not empirical but rather imperceptible, since it only depends on the habit and mental habit of seeing them associated sequentially. According to the aforementioned example, we are used to feeling heat every time we bring our hands close to the fire, but we never factually perceive that a perceptible phenomenon causes another. At best, we experience that one (fire as cause) occurs before and followed by another (heat or effect).

Thus, with regard to the double cause-effect, the only thing we capture sensorially is the evidence of a “constant conjunction” of certain events that are usually followed respectively by the same factual phenomena. As many times A occurs, B will follow and, therefore, we mistakenly assume the necessity that the second will always be caused by the first.

Where is the detail of the preceding? The establishment of the respective sequential association of A and B, according to Hume, is not subject to the perception of the causality that reconnects them, but to the regularly sequential factual occurrence of both events in time. And, if we were to express the same thing, but making use of contemporary statistical vocabulary, that perception is not linked to any causality other than always circumstantial probabilities of occurrence.

Now, why is it a subjective impression or association, perhaps statistical, but not beyond that type of occurrence? The ultimate reason is of a logical nature and no longer relative to the principle of causality.
In the empirical world under Humean magnifying glass, valid reasoning is inductive (from particular to particular) and not deductive (from general premises to a particular conclusion). But induction, followed methodologically by contemporary science, suffers from a fundamental problem. From evidence to factual evidence it rushes into the void as many times as it tries to jump to a general conclusion. This leap is a big mistake, because it overreaches by leaving the sensory field of knowledge and going -by the work and grace of the arbitrariness of human understanding- beyond the only support that supports human knowledge, -experience. Furthermore, for the author of the Treatise on Human Knowledge, the conjunction of particular phenomena in any causal investigation is incapable of reaching a general idea of ​​particulars because he does not even have some experience of the totality of particular phenomena. Valid experience is that of particular facts. Totality is always unreal, until proven otherwise.

Therefore, the induction or inductions do not end. And this is so because, when it comes to arriving at a general conclusion, he finds himself in the air, lacking foundation, in an unreal world of mere suppositions. An example clarifies this false step into the void.

Suppose we have seen a red bird, another and another. It doesn’t matter if they are a hundred red birds or a million of them. Evidently, all the observed birds are red, but this does not mean that it can be and therefore it can be affirmed that “all” of them -not only those seen- are red. Equally as far as human beings known today are concerned. They are born and die, so they are finite and mortal, but that does not mean that of those that remain to be perceived, one or more appear who are immortal or at least defeat death. Given the possible sensible eventuality of the different, it is not appropriate to close the inductive knowledge of the serial sensible by extrapolating unreal and imperceptible universal conclusions.

That is why Hume concludes that the logical induction of sensible phenomena guides through an indefinite and inconclusive sequence of particular evidence, without imposing imaginary and unknown universal conclusions as they are beyond the reach of human knowledge.

In short, what is the possible error of human knowledge located under the Humean binocular? The fallacy consists in drawing causal inferences from past experiences because, by doing so, it sophistically presupposes that future events -in fact unknown since what is to come as such is not yet of the sensory order- will reproduce or repeat what is empirically known in past and/or present tense

Given that experience is the insurmountable Rubicon of knowledge for Hume, transcending that limit leads to dogmatism and fanaticism, as irrational as arbitrary and unprovable. And the situation is all the more ambiguous, the more assertive are the conclusions drawn from what is not perceptible, thus procuring a false security cajoled in the face of the imperceptible and unknown.

Of course, who or those who remain locked in their own conviction -sustained deceitfully by way of impregnable axioms of truth- make the serious mistake of sacrificing the only thing that is present to what lies hidden. To avoid such rational missteps, the only logical procedure that is intrinsically empirical -and therefore valid- is the induction of a series of indefinite evidences in a per se unknown totality.

In short, always according to Hume, it is absurd to sacrifice what is natural in the hands of the supernatural; it is illogical to appeal to this and then go from the only world we know, the empirical, to what credulously claims to transcend the natural world in order to understand it in and from the future. From the series of known particulars only other particulars validly follow. Inductive knowledge cannot rationally be closed by an affirmation or conception depends on ‘everything’ of which as such (as universal) we do not have any sensory experience.

As we will see in a third writing, through the proper understanding of causality, as well as through serial and indefinite induction in its final indeterminacy, ideological spells -the result of bombastic unverifiable generalizations in the inconsequential real world of five inalienable senses of human nature – have been exposed since the time of David Hume to their own falsehood.

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David Hume, against the current