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of mathematics, that does not proceed upon postulata for which we can give no proof, except that of their self-evidence; and if, therefore, we must acknowledge our ignorance' because we are unable to tell what those postulata are founded upon,
the clearest and most perfect of sciences is reduced to one confused mass of chaotic uncertainty. But surely no conclusion appears more unphilosophical than, that we know nothing, because we are not omniscient, or that we have no power at all, because we are not omnipotent.* Human understanding may certainly be comprehensive, without being boundless; and the mere fact that it has some limits is not equivalent to its having no extent.
We are now prepared to say a word or two, by way of positive argument, in favour of the common notion relative to cause and effect. According to Hume's doctrine, every effect is so
distinct and arbitrary' an event, that it cannot be concluded to have been connected with any antecedent event--inasmuch as our idea of conjunction---the term which he almost invariably employs to express the relation under view,--includes nothing more than a juxtaposition in time and in place. If, however, we scrutinize the subject more narrowly, and mark the circumstances which attend any given instance of cause and effect, we shall, if we mistake not, observe such a mutual change both in the antecedent, and in the consecutive, event, as impresses on the mind an inference of connexion, with a cogency of evidence which it is absolutely incapable of resisting. To adopt an example which is employed by Hume on all occasions; when one billiard-ball is impelled against another, it is demonstrable, that the second gains exactly as much motion as the other loses. Now human understanding is not able to resist the conclusion, that, between these two balls, there was some connecting principle
some conductor -or some sort of medium, call it what you will --by which a certain quantity of motion has been transferred from the one to the other. Whether it be a subtile fluid, like electricity;--or whether there be a species of volition in one or in both of the balls,--we can never be able to determine; but that, in some way or other, these two objects have contrived to pass a given ratable quantity of motion from one to the other, is as conclusively evident as that they have each a separate and independent existence. Between all causes and effects the circumstances indicative of a connexion are not so unequivocal as those between the im
* No conclusions can be more agreeable to scepticism, than such as make discoveries concerning the weakness and narrow limits of human knowledge.' Of the Idea of Necessary Connexion, Part II.
pulse of the one ball, and the motion of the second; but in almost every instance of the same sort, there are diagnostics sufficiently apparent to convince the mind, that the first event was absolutely necessary to the production of the other. *
But the ascertainment of this connexion is, in all cases, greatly subsequent to our belief of its existence: and it becomes, therefore, another part of Hume's inquisitive' philosophy, to discover that principle of our nature which leads us to believe, that certain objects and events are somehow endowed with inherent efficiency to produce certain other objects and events. This question is totally different from that which we have just done examining; though the author before us very strangely confounds the two, in the statement he gives of Hume's conclusions on the subject. “We are indebted (says he, p. 43.) to the sagacity of that philosopher, for the first satisfactory elucidation of the all-important fact, that our knowledge of cause and effect does and can embrace nothing more, than a perception and belief, of the uniform antecedence of one event, and sequence of another.'t Now, it is a plain matter of fact, that the existence of our belief in a necessary connexion is never once called in question throughout the Inquiry; and that the great object of the arch-sceptic' was to ascertain, whether human reason had any part in the formation of such a belief. His great principle is,—that in all reasonings from experience there is a step taken by the mind (namely, the conclusion that an object which has, in time past, been followed by a particular event, will also, in time to come, be followed by a like event) which is not supported by any argument or process of the understanding;' and in the language of Locke's philosophy, he calls for the medium, the interposing ideas, which join propositions so very wide of each other?' He takes great pains to establish the thesis,—that there is a vast difference be
* The language even of Hume himself is sometimes quite as strong as this. One of his definitions of cause is,—where if the first object had not been, the second never had existed.' p. 88, Inquiry. And again “ 'tis universally allowed, (says he) that matter, in all its operations, is actuated by a necessary force, and that every natural effect is so precisely determined by the energy of its cause, that no other effect, in such particular circumstances, could possibly have resulted from the operation of that cause.' Inq. p. 93. This seems to be admitting, --if not a necessary connexion,—at least a necessary conjunction: and provided we agree about the thing (p. 58) 'tis needless to dispute about the terms.'
# It is very seldom that Hume employs the words antecedence and consequence. The term conjoin, in all its variations, is his usual expression of the idea we have of cause and effect.
See Duncan's Logic, b. iii. chap. i. sec. 1. Remote Relations Discovered by Means of Intermediate Ideas.
tween our belief of past effects from certain causes, and our anticipation of similar effects from similar causes. · From a body of like colour and consistence with bread, (says he, p. 46.) we look for like nourishment and support. But this surely is a step or progress of the mind, which wants to be explained. When a man says, “I have found, in all past instances, such sensible qualities conjoined with such secret powers:' And when he says, “ Similar sensible qualities will always be conjoined with similar secret powers;' he is not guilty of a tautology; nor are these propositions in any respect the same.' Now, for our own parts, we cannot perceive the wide' difference here attempted to be shown; and we are inclined to think that—so far from being in . no respect the same'—the two propositions of Mr. Hume would be completelytautologous' in the languages of those nations, who have no idea of distributions into moods and tenses. Such languages do exist. The Nootkian is an example: and whenever the members of that tribe express themselves, either in their own or in any other tongue, they uniformly reduce all voices to the active-all moods to the indicative--and all tenses to the present. Of this fact our readers will find abundant proofs in Jewitt's Narrative of a Three Years' Residence among that Tribe. When Maquina, for example, told the Armorour that his life should be spared upon the condition of his swearing to be a slave for life, John I speak-You no say, No: You say, No-daggers come; *he involved the indicative and the subjunctive moods, as well as the present and the future tense;—and yet it is all crowded into one mood and one tense. Perhaps we could not have adduced a better example to prove that the mind, in the case supposed, does not take so • wide' a 'step' as Hume would represent; inasmuch as human understanding, it appears to us, could not so easily pass from one of his propositions to the other, unless they were in many respects the same.'
But it is confessed, at the same time, that they are not exactly identical; and we think it may also be conceded to Hume, that the mind here takes a step, for which a philosopher might reasonably demand an explanation. If the mind be not engaged by argument to make this step, it must be induced by some other principle of equal weight and authority. What that principle is, may well be worth the pains of 'inquiry.'+ Now, we apprehend, that every step of the mind from one proposition to another, is an act of inference, or reasoning,
* Page 30. † Sceptical Solution of Sceptical Doubts, Part II.
| Hume himself almost uniformly uses this very word to denominate the intellectual operation in question. See the Inquiry, pp. 52, 53, et passim. Conclusion is another word which he often uses for the same purpose. We
and that the principle' here alluded to must, when discovered, be considered as that intermediate idea which join the propositions mentioned in our last paragraph.-We think, too, in the first place, that the principle in question is not experience. • Experience (says Hume, Sec. IV. Pt. II. and we suppose no one will object to the definition), can be allowed to give direct and certain information only of those precise objects, and that precise period of time, which fell under its cognizance. But we have nearly as much confidence in anticipation, as in memory; and it behoves us to inquire, therefore, by what peculiarity of the human constitution we are led to apply past experience to future phenomena? The Sceptical Doubter resolves the question by supposing, that the reiterated conjunction of two events, in the way of cause and effect, imparts to the mind a custom or habit of expecting the one, upon the appearance of the other. This supposition, again, is founded upon another supposition, — that the mind could not, from one instance only of the conjunction of two events, be led to anticipate the second on the future appearance of the first. “No man (says Hume) having seen only one body move after being impelled by another, could infer, that every body will move after a like impulse. 'Tis only after a long course of uniform experiments in any kind, that we attain a firm reliance and security with regard to a particular event.' And he accordingly asks for the sake of information,' why the mind cannot draw, from one instance, a conclusion which is thus drawn from a hundred instances, that are acknowledged to be precisely similar to that one? Now the misfortune was, that our sceptical inquirer here laboured under a false conception of the fact. No part of our constitution is more the subject of common remark, than the propensity of the mind to consider even casual conjunctions as examples of cause and effect,—and to look for the future sequence of any particular event, which in only a single past instance, we have observed to succeed another particular event. The author before us has
suppose Locke, and perhaps Reid, would call this mental step by the name of judgment. And yet the latter defines reasoning to be the power (we should call it the act) of inferring, or drawing a conclusion.'-Essay VII. on the Intellectual Powers, cap. 1.-We are inclined to think that, strictly speaking, there is no formal inference in the case; and that, in the language of the last mentioned philosopher, our understanding here takes a step without the intermediation of its crutch:' but since Hume represents the mind as going, in the way of inference, from the past to the future,—which, according to all just lexicography, is but a definition of reasoning, -and since we pretend to do little else than to combat the sceptic on his own ground, we shall take it for granted that, by some medium or other, the mind actually draws a conclusion, when we expect similar effects from similar causes.
occasion to make the same remark, p. 48; and indeed, it is, as he says, so notorious' a truth, that we can hardly conceive how it should have escaped the sagacity of Hume. The supposition of custom, therefore, is inadequate to account for the phenomenon; for custom depends, of course, upon the repetition of similar instances. * We must have recourse, then, to some more comprehensive principle; and, for our own parts, we can see none which satisfies us so well as that which was first propounded, in a formal way, by Turgot; afterwards alleged by Reid; and subsequently illustrated and insisted upon more fully, by his disciple, Mr. Stewart;—the principle, namely, that, in all our reasonings about contingent truth, we rely implicitly upon the continuance and stability of the laws of nature. We may add, that, besides the quotation in our last note, even Hume himself has frequent occasion to observe the reliance here alluded to,-though he nowhere seems to consider it as an ultimate general principle of intellectual philosophy. “Every part of mixed mathematics (says he, Sceptical Doubts, Part I.) goes upon the supposition, that certain laws are established by nature in her operation.'— All our experimental conclusions (he observes again, Part II.) proceed upon the supposition, that the future will be conformable to the past.'—* All inferences from experience (id. ibid.) suppose, as their foundation, that the future will resemble the past. –These, and several other similar passages, which might be adduced, are sufficient to show us, that the author had now and then a glimpse of what we consider as the true “foundation' of all our reasoning about contingent truth:-And it is something in confirmation of the doctrine we have espoused, that the language here transcribed is almost identical with that which Mr. Stewart employs when treating of the same subject.
* Even Hume is, in one place, obliged to distort the meaning of the word habit, in order to warp his theory to fact. See Inquiry, sec. ix. *When we have lived any time, (says he) and have been accustomed to the uniformity of nature, we acquire a general habit, by which we always transfer the known to the unknown, and conceive the latter to resemble the former. By means of this general babitual principle, we regard even one experiment as the foundation of reasoning: No proposition is certainly more unquestionable, than that habit is the result of repetition, and is confined to those precise objects with which that repetition is conversant; nor any thing appear to us more inconceivable than this doctrine concerning a general habit.' When he calls it a “principle' we agree with him; and have only then to accuse his self-contradiction, and to retract what we said in the text about the failure of his sagacity. See p. 47. of the Essay under consideration, where our author adopts the language of Hume again.
† See Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, Vol. II. (Boston edition,) pp. 37, 38, 39, et seq. And also our Number for January, 1815, pp. 47-8-9. VOL. IX.