Hume, Causation, and Agency

The European Legacy 18 (4):414-419 (2013)
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Abstract

Hume inherits the spectator model of experience and knowledge, and inflates it to displace any other kind of experience-based knowledge. Thus he construes our knowledge of causation as no more than an observer’s knowledge of one thing’s following on, or attending, another. Construing causation in that way, he rules out consideration of our experience as agents and our knowledge of causation as efficacy, or making things happen. Yet if we did not understand causation as efficacy, we could not understand what it is that Hume says we cannot understand; we could not appreciate its proposed replacement by his one-thing’s-attending-on-another account of causation; we could not see that his proposed one-thing’s-attending-on-another account of causation is not an account of causation. Hume’s ultimate aim appears to be the exclusion of agency from the world, whether the agent is personal, material, or divine.

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