cause-effect-hume


When strange or anomalous events happen to us, we try and try to find the cause.  It can bug us until we feel satisfied with an answer that makes sense to us, and it’s really hard sometimes to just accept that we might never know “why”.

Still, we keep trying and trying and the wheels in our heads keep going until we feel at peace with some explanation.

But can we really know the cause of any life events?


“A” LEADS TO “B”, BUT “B” DIDN’T HAPPEN!

 

In the West, many philosophers have questioned and evaluated long held assumptions about causality. The 18th century philosopher David Hume, in particular, asserts that causality cannot be observed, but “is only an imputation that we read into events.”.  

 

In other words, although we may claim that two events have a cause and effect relationship, we can only infer this relationship and it cannot be epistemologically proven.  According to Hume, the main factor preventing us from examining our beliefs about causality is that we view the nature of events within a very specific thought paradigm.  

 

Specifically, when a cause fails to produce an expected effect, we look for new, undiscovered causes for this anomalous effect rather than questioning our underlying beliefs about the nature of the events themselves.  

 

Let’s say someone believes that lots of money leads to happiness. The cause is money and the effect is happiness.

Let’s say that person came into a lot of money, but doesn’t experience happiness.  

Instead of questioning their underlying beliefs about money and happiness, they may rationalize to themselves that it’s because they don’t have enough.  So they try to get more money, yet their problem persists because they haven’t examined their core cause and effect beliefs.


STOP TRANSFERRING THE PAST TO THE FUTURE

 

Hume explains that we search for well-defined causes because as humans, we have a bad habit of transferring the past to the future.  This is part of how we learn, but it doesn’t work so well with life events.  This is because no two events ever have the exact same causes or conditions to make it happen.  Hume emphasizes that we must include and give weight to rare events because these are the exceptions to the rule.  

They are the events that show us where our beliefs and thoughts are limited.   


“B” DIDN’T HAPPEN, SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

 

It is when these unexpected events happen in our lives that we have an opportunity to learn.  These moments provide us with an opening for new ideas to emerge.  For our minds to expand.  When we’re presented with a new or strange idea that doesn’t mesh with our usual way of thinking, remember that this is a precious moment when we can expand our minds and be introduced to new possibilities that are floating out there in the world.

 

Hey,

there was a time when the earth was flat, and we were the center of the universe.