Friday, September 28, 2018

The Flew that Didn't Get Airplay Part 1

Reading the book makes me now suspect that hardly anyone has actually read it.

"Despite these commendations, I have long wanted to make major corrections to my book Hume’s Philosophy of Belief. One matter in particular calls for extensive corrections. The three chapters “The Idea of Necessary Connection,” “Liberty and Necessity,” and “Miracles and Methodology” all need to be rewritten in the light of my newfound awareness that Hume was utterly wrong to maintain that we have no experience, and hence no genuine ideas, of making things happen and of preventing things from happening, of physical necessity and of physical impossibility. Generations of Humeans have in consequence been misled into offering analyses of causation and of natural law that have been far too weak because they had no basis for accepting the existence of either cause and effect or natural laws.

Meanwhile, in “Of Liberty and Necessity” and “Of Miracles,” Hume himself was hankering after (even when he was not actually employing) notions of causes bringing about effects that were stronger than any that he was prepared to admit as legitimate. Hume denied causation in the first Inquiry and claimed that all the external world really contains is constant conjunctions; that is, events of this sort are regularly followed [Page 58] by events of that sort. We notice these constant conjunctions and form strong habits associating the ideas of this with the ideas of that. We see water boiling when it is heated and associate the two. In thinking of real connections out there, however, we mistakenly project our own internal psychological associations.

Hume’s skepticism about cause and effect and his agnosticism about the external world are of course jettisoned the moment he leaves his study. Indeed, Hume jettisons all of his most radical skepticism even before he leaves his study. There is, for instance, no trace of the thesis that causal connections and necessities are nothing but false projections onto nature in the notorious section “Of Miracles” in the first Inquiry.

Again in his History of England Hume gave no hint of skepticism about either the external world or causation. In this Hume may remind us of those of our own contemporaries who upon some sociological or philosophical grounds deny the possibility of objective knowledge. They then exempt from these corrosions of universal subjectivity their own political tirades, their own rather less abundant research work, and above all their own prime revelation that there can be no objective knowledge."

--Flew, There Is A God, page 57-58,

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