Why History Matters: Associations and Causal Judgment in Hume and Cognitive Science

Journal of Mind and Behavior 28 (3):175-188 (2007)
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Abstract

It is commonly thought that Hume endorses the claim that causal cognition can be fully explained in terms of nothing but custom and habit. Associative learning does, of course, play a major role in the cognitive psychology of the Treatise. But Hume recognizes that associations cannot provide a complete account of causal thought. If human beings lacked the capacity to reflect on rules for judging causes and effects, then we could not (as we do) distinguish between accidental and genuine regularities, and Hume could not (as he does) carry out his science of human nature. One might reply that what appears to be rule-governed behavior might emerge from associative systems that do not literally employ rules. But this response fails: there is a growing consensus in cognitive science that any adequate account of causal learning must invoke active, controlled cognitive processes.

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Mark Collier
University of Minnesota, Morris

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