300 years of Hume: From “On the Association of Ideas”

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Though it be too obvious to escape observation, that different ideas are connected together; I do not find that any philosopher has attempted to enumerate or class all the principles of association; a subject, however, that seems worthy of curiosity. To me, there appear to be only three principles of connexion among ideas, namely, Resemblance, Contiguity in time or place, and Cause or Effect.

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, section III

Hume makes it obvious here that the set of associations is a superset of the set of causations. In other parts of the Enquiry, the distinction is less clear.

Peripheral aside: Pace Tufte, the statement “correlation is not causation” is correct. The concept that we call correlation is not the same as the concept that we call causation. See above!


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