Understanding Cause and Effect is Based on Experience

Were a man, such as Adam, created in the full vigor of understanding, without experience, he would never be able to infer motion in the second ball from the motion and impulse of the first. It is not anything that reason sees in the cause, which make us infer the effect. Such an inference, were it possible, would amount to a demonstration, as being founded merely on the comparison of ideas. But no inference from cause to effect amounts to a demonstration, as being founded merely on the comparison of ideas. But no inference from cause to effect amounts to a demonstration. Of which there is this evident proof The mind can always conceive any effect to follow from any cause, and indeed any event to follow upon another: whatever we conceive is possible, at least in a metaphysical sense: but wherever a demonstration takes place, the contrary is impossible, and implies a contradiction. There is no demonstration, therefore, for any conjunction of cause and effect. And this is a principle which is generally allowed by philosophers.

It would have been necessary, therefore, for Adam (if he was not inspired) to have had experience of the effect, which followed upon the impulse of these two balls. He must have seen, in several instances, that when the one ball struck upon the other, the second always acquired motion. If he had seen a sufficient number of instances of this kind, whenever he saw the one ball moving towards the other, he would always conclude without hesitation, that the second would acquire motion. His understanding would anticipate his sight, and form a conclusion suitable to his past experience.

It follows, then, that all reasonings concerning cause and effect, are founded on experience, and that all reasonings from experience are founded on the supposition, that the course of nature will continue uniformly the same. We conclude, that like causes, in like circumstances, will always produce like effects. It may now be worth while to consider, what determines us to form a conclusion of such infinite consequence.


Adam would not know that one billiard ball hitting another would cause a chain reaction.

Folksonomies: philosophy empiricism

/family and parenting/children (0.699667)
/science (0.675610)
/law, govt and politics (0.610050)

Reasoning (0.969908): dbpedia_resource
Logic (0.863982): dbpedia_resource
Causality (0.808171): dbpedia_resource
Concepts in metaphysics (0.721103): dbpedia_resource
Metaphysics (0.696946): dbpedia_resource
Perception (0.611156): dbpedia_resource
Ball (0.590487): dbpedia_resource
Theorem (0.577607): dbpedia_resource

 Treatise of Human Nature
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Hume , David (1739), Treatise of Human Nature, Retrieved on 2021-10-14
  • Source Material [www.gutenberg.org]
  • Folksonomies: enlightenment philosophy reason