My roommate has asserted that every time she breathes pepper, she sneezes. Her past experience of breathing pepper and sneezing has always reflected her future experience of breathing pepper and sneezing. She claims that if she amasses a sufficient number of similar cases where the future has always resembled the past, she has rational support for saying that the future does, in fact, resemble the past. Using Hume's Enquiry, I plan to argue from his point of view against my roommate's claim. I will first discuss the difference between relations of ideas and matters of fact, then arguing how her assertion of the cause and effect relationship between pepper and sneezing is matter of fact reasoning, something which the human mind is never justified in performing. I will conclude by discussing how habit and emotion lead me to ultimately not blame her and the rest of humankind for wanting to draw a connection between cause and effect, between the future and the past, between the pepper and sneezing.
[...] Had the demonstrative reasoning and logic key to relations of ideas been the judge in matters of cause and effect, my roommate should have been perfectly able “upon one instance,” upon first coming into contact with pepper, to find the cause for sneezing within it, according to Hume (23). However, case is far otherwise,” for it was only through experience that she finally learned to distinguish the pepper as the cause and the sneezing as the effect (23). Being, then, that she could not “find the effect in the supposed cause, [not even with] the most accurate scrutiny and examination,” she was unable to determine with the help of any logic true relation between cause and effect (18). [...]
[...] Secondly, the claim that the future is like the past is also based on the assumption of a connection between cause and effect relationships, for the breathing of pepper in the past has been said to cause the effect of sneezing. But sum of all [humankind's] experimental conclusions” has asserted that effects cannot actually be discovered in causes, that causes and effects are distinct events that are conjoined and not connected (49). My roommate may see that event follows another,” yet she is never able to “observe any tie between them” (49). [...]
[...] The assurance of expectancy which results from witnessing the constant conjoining of particular objects generates and so Hume argues that emotions are closely tied to what the human mind expects and, in turn, believes. Thus, my roommate cannot help but come to believe that pepper and sneezing are connected, yet no matter how “vivid, lively, forcible, firm, steady” her conception of pepper and sneezing is, the true connection between pepper and sneezing may be nothing but a strong sentiment of belief in the mind (32). [...]
[...] She may believe that breathing pepper results in sneezing. Believing, though, only means that she more intensely conceives sneezing to occur over the hundreds of other possible outcomes that “[attend the mere fictions of the imagination,” like sleeping or coughing (33). Belief, then, does not ensure knowledge or certainty, no matter how strongly and steadily it holds the person's mind. My roommate, [...]
[...] Thus, the mind can only know relations of ideas (since they are eternally true and demonstratively certain) and present matters of fact (since they are true insofar as they are the present state of affairs). According to Hume, cause and effect reasoning is moving from one matter of fact to another. My roommate sees the present matter of fact of pepper before her and assumes a future matter of fact that she will soon sneeze. Her assumptions are based on past experience, on the fact that the two events of breathing in the pepper and then sneezing afterward have been “constantly conjoined with each other” in her everyday life (17). [...]
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