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Real Materialismand Other Essays$
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Galen Strawson

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199267422

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199267422.001.0001

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David Hume: Objects and Power

David Hume: Objects and Power

(p.415) 18 David Hume: Objects and Power
Real Materialism

Galen Strawson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Hume is not a ‘Humean’ about causation. His key thesis is epistemological; he claims that all we can know of causation is regular succession. His claim is not ontological; he does not hold that regular succession is (knowably) all that causation is. The ontological claim is dogmatic metaphysics, and is as such wholly incompatible with Hume's scepticism. The same goes for the view that he is a phenomenalist about physical objects. He makes an epistemological claim about all we can know about objects, not about what objects are, let alone about what objects knowably are. It's true that Hume defines causation as regular succession, but he uses ‘definition’ like his contemporaries Burke and Priestley when they write (respectively): ‘A definition may be very exact, and yet go but a very little way towards informing us of the nature of the thing defined’, and ‘A definition of any particular thing cannot be anything more than an enumeration of its known properties’.

Keywords:   Hume, causation, regularity theory of causation, definition, natural necessity, phenomenalism, constant conjunction

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