Quotations from Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sections 7-12

David Hume (1711-1776): Necessity, Causation, Freedom, & Religion 

Necessary Connection

10.  It argues more wisdom to contrive at first the fabric of the world with such perfect foresight that, of itself, and by its proper operation, it may serve all the purposes of providence, than if the great Creator were obliged every moment to adjust its parts, and animate by his breath all the wheels of that stupendous machine. (VII)
11. We are got to fairy land, long ere we have reached the last steps of our theory [of the universal operation of the Supreme Being] (VII).

1.       There are no ideas, which occur in metaphysics, more obscure and uncertain, than those of power, force, energy or necessary connexion, of which it is every moment necessary for us to treat in all our disquisitions. ( VII)

2.       When we look about us towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connexion; any quality, which binds the effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequence of the other. We only find, that the one does actually, in fact, follow the other. (VII)

3.       [T]here is not, in any single, particular instance of cause and effect, any thing which can suggest the idea of power or necessary connexion. (VII)

4.       The motion of our body follows upon the command of our will. Of this we are every moment conscious. But the means, by which this is effected; the energy, by which the will performs so extraordinary an operation; of this we are so far from being immediately conscious, that it must for ever escape our most diligent enquiry. (VII

5.       A man, suddenly struck with palsy in the leg or arm, or who had newly lost those members, frequently endeavours, at first to move them, and employ them, in their usual offices. (VII)

6.       [C]onsciousness never deceives. (VII

7.       How indeed can we be conscious of a power to move our limbs, when we have no such power; but only that to move certain animal spirits, which, though they produce at last the motion of our limbs, yet operate in such a manner as is wholly beyond our comprehension? (VII)

8.       We only feel the event, namely, the existence of an idea, consequent to a command of the will: but the manner, in which this operation is performed, the power by which it is produced, is entirely beyond our comprehension. (VII)

9.       [W]e only learn by experience the frequent Conjunction of objects, without being ever able to comprehend anything like Connexion between them. (VII)

Liberty & Necessity
Necessity: All events are causally determined; i.e., necessated by antecedent events.
Freedom: Some human choices are free.
Incompatibility: An event is free only if not causally determined. 

INC & FW & -ND
INC & -FW & ND
-IND & FW & ND

Absolute (or Libertarian) Freedom: freedom to do otherwise period; categorically & unconditionally
Hypothetical Freedom:
Free to do otherwise if I had so chosen. A voluntary act is caused in the right way (not uncaused)

14.  Actions are, by their very nature, temporary and perishing; and where they proceed not from some cause in the character and disposition of the person who performed them, they can neither redound to his  )honour, if good; nor infamy, if evil. (VIII)
15.  A man who is robbed of a considerable sum; does he find his vexation for the loss anywise diminished by these sublime reflections? (VIII)
16.  From this circumstance alone, that a controversy has been long kept on foot, and remains still undecided, we may presume that there is some ambiguity in the expression, and that the disputants affix different ideas to the terms employed in the controversy. (VIII)

1.       [A]ll men have ever agreed in the doctrine both of necessity and of liberty, according to any reasonable sense, which can be put on these terms; and that the whole controversy, has hitherto turned merely upon words. (VIII)

2.       Our idea, therefore, of necessity and causation arises entirely from the uniformity observable in the operations of nature, where similar objects are constantly conjoined together, and the mind is determined by custom to infer the one from the appearance of the other. These two circumstances form the whole of that necessity, which we ascribe to matter. Beyond the constant conjunction of similar objects, and the consequent inference from one to the other, we have no notion of any necessity or connexion. (VIII)

3.       It is universally acknowledged that there is a great uniformity among the actions of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains still the same, in its principles and operations. The same motives always produce the same actions: the same events follow from the same causes. (VIII)

4.       But philosophers, observing that, almost in every part of nature, there is contained a vast variety of springs and principles, which are hid, by reason of their minuteness or remoteness, find, that it is at least possible the contrariety of events may not proceed from any contingency in the cause, but from the secret operation of contrary causes. (VIII)

5.       [T]his experienced uniformity in human actions is a source whence we draw inferences concerning them. (VIII)

6.       It seems almost impossible, therefore, to engage either in science or action of any kind without acknowledging the doctrine of necessity, and this inference from motive to voluntary actions, from characters to conduct. (VIII)

7.       The same prisoner, when conducted to the scaffold, foresees his death as certainly from the constancy and fidelity of his guards, as from the operation of the axe or wheel. (VIII)

8.       A man who at noon leaves his purse full of gold on the pavement at Charing-Cross, may as well expect that it will fly away like a feather, as that he will find it untouched an hour after. (VIII)

9.       But being once convinced that we know nothing farther of causation of any kind than merely the constant conjunction of objects, and the consequent inference of the mind from one to another, and finding that these two circumstances are universally allowed to have place in voluntary actions; we may be more easily led to own the same necessity common to all causes. (VIII)

10.   We feel, that our actions are subject to our will, on most occasions; and imagine we feel, that the will itself is subject to nothing, because, when by a denial of it we are provoked to try, we feel, that it moves easily every way, and produces an image of itself . . . even on that side, on which it did not settle. (VIII)

11.   By liberty, then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will; this is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may. Now this hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to every one who is not a prisoner and in chains. Here, then, is no subject of dispute. (VIII)

12.   And if the definition [of necessity] above mentioned be admitted; liberty, when opposed to necessity, not to constraint, is the same thing with chance; which is universally allowed to have no existence. (VIII)

13.   There is no method of reasoning more common, and yet none more blameable, than, in philosophical disputes, to endeavour the refutation of any hypothesis, by a pretence of its dangerous consequences to religion and morality. (VIII)

The Reason of Animals

[T]he experimental reasoning itself, which we possess in common with beasts, and on which the whole conduct of life depends, is nothing but a species of instinct or mechanical power, that acts in us unknown to ourselves; and in its chief operations, is not directed by any such relations or comparisons of ideas, as are the proper objects of our intellectual faculties. (IX)

  1. All our reasonings concerning matter of fact are founded on a species of Analogy, which leads us to expect from any cause the same events, which we have observed to result from similar causes. (IX)
  2. [A]ny theory, by which we explain the operations of the understanding, or the origin and connexion of the passions in man, will acquire additional authority, if we find, that the same theory is requisite to explain the same phenomena in all other animals.(IX)
  3. In all these cases, we may observe, that the animal infers some fact beyond what immediately strikes his senses; and that this inference is altogether founded on past experience, while the creature expects from the present object the same consequences, which it has always found in its observation to result from similar objects. (IX)

[A] weaker evidence can never destroy a stronger. (X)
A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence. ( X)

6.  "[N]o human testimony can have such force as to prove a miracle and make it a just foundation for any system of religion" (X)

1.       [N]o testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish. (X)

2.       A miracle may be accurately defined a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the imposition of some invisible agent. (X)

3.       There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. (X)

4.       We account for it by the known and natural principles of credulity and delusion. (X)

5.       [I]f the spirit of religion join itself to the love or wonder, there is an end to common sense; and human testimony,  in thse cirucumstances, loses all pretensions to authority. (X)

The Design Argument

1.       You . . . have acknowledged, that the chief or sole argument for a divine existence . . . is derived from the order of nature; where there appear such marks of intelligence and design, that you think it extravagant to assign for its cause, either chance, or the blind and unguided force of matter. You allow, that this is an argument drawn from effects to causes. From the order of the work, you infer, that there must have been project and forethought in the workman. If you cannot make out this point, you allow, that your conclusion fails; and you pretend not to establish the conclusion in a greater latitude than the phenomena of nature will justify. (XI)

2.       The knowledge of the cause being derived solely from the effect, they must be exactly adjusted to each other; and the one can never refer to anything farther, or be the foundation of any new inference and conclusion show only the need to assign a designer intelligent enough to create so much order as actually exist. (XI)

Of Sceptical Philosophy
In general, there is a degree of doubt, and caution, and modesty, which, in all kinds of scrutiny and decision, ought for ever to accompany a just reasoner.  (XII)

4. Morals and criticism are not so properly objects of the understanding as of taste and sentiment. (XII)

1.       It is a question of fact, whether the perceptions of the senses be produced by external objects, resembling them: how shall this question be determined? By experience surely; as all other questions of a like nature. But here experience is, and must be entirely silent. The mind has never anything present to it but the perceptions, and cannot possibly reach any experience of their connexion with objects The supposition of such a connexion is, therefore, without any foundation in reasoning. (XII)

2.       That impious maxim of the ancient philosophy, Ex nihilo, nihil fit, by which the creation of matter was excluded, ceases to be a maxim, according to this philosophy. Not only the will of the supreme Being may create matter; but, for aught, we know a priori, the will of any other being might create it, or any other cause, that the most whimsical imagination can assign. (XII)

3.       If we take into our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Consign it then to the flames: For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. (XII)

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