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Reconsidering Causal PowersHistorical and Conceptual Perspectives$
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Henrik Lagerlund, Benjamin Hill, and Stathis Psillos

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780198869528

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198869528.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 28 January 2022

Hume on Causation and Causal Powers

Hume on Causation and Causal Powers

(p.206) 9 Hume on Causation and Causal Powers
Reconsidering Causal Powers

Peter Millican

Oxford University Press

Peter Millican addresses the issue of how to best interpret Hume’s iconic passages on causation and causal powers and aims to cut through the various interpretations by fixing twelve ‘key points’ and arguing that a reductivist reading makes best sense of them. With these twelve points regarding Hume’s theory fixed, Millican turns toward adjudicating between reductivist, subjectivist, and projectivist interpretations. First, Millican attacks subjectivist interpretations on the grounds that they emphasize melodramatic passages in tension with Hume’s more considered claims, especially the first definition of necessity. Millican backs up the critical comments about subjectivism with a plausibly Humean account of what his ‘impression of power or necessary connexion’ might be. Then he turns to projectivist interpretations. Here, he argues that projectivist readings can be accommodated by the reductivist reading he is defending. After that, he turns to the ‘New Hume’, who allegedly accepted ‘thick’ causal powers, which push beyond the two definitions of cause. However, Millican emphasizes that Hume did accept causal powers in some thinner sense, powers that reduce to causal structures in the world that allow the discovery of laws and enable predictive success.

Keywords:   David Hume, causation, powers, necessity, necessary connexion, cause

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