I’ve never been sure why modern materialists are so confident that David Hume has shown their position to be correct. And neither reading his work, nor explanations of him, has helped to explain it. In fact, it’s led me to the opposite conclusion.
Take, for instance, the claim that we can dismiss traditional notions of causation (and, therefore, dismiss theistic arguments like the Kalam) on the grounds that Hume “showed” that we can’t trust the common sense of causation. Of course, it’s always important to note that Hume himself didn’t take the position that he “showed”, but there is a bigger problem here.
What Hume actually showed is that, given materialism, there’s no explanation for the fact that inductive reasoning (and thereby science) actually works.
What is amazing is that so many have responded by soberly reporting that causation doesn’t exist. Clearly, causation does exist. What’s actually been proved here is that there are parts of reality that materialism cannot explain.
Surely, it is questioning materialism that is the reasonable response, and declaring “then causation must not exist” that is the appeal to magic.
And so it typically goes, so long as one isn’t deeply committed to defending materialism.
I think the same is the case for the argument that only properties exist–that there is no things that have properties. There is no cup, says Hume, only cylindricalness, solidity, height, width, and so forth.
Why does Hume think this? He gives an argument, but it is largely based in the idea that all information is received through the senses. By the time he’s done naming off all the properties of a thing, he’s exhausted the information of the senses, and so has nothing on which to claim that there is an actual object there, in addition to the properties.
And this applies to people as well as cups. But, anyone who believes that she (and not just a collection of properties) exists, will have to question Hume’s approach.
And the problem seems to be this idea that we only know what comes through our senses.
I find arguments like these excellent reductio ad absurdum arguments, which tell us a great deal about why materialism is false. That being the case, it seems to me that Hume’s name ought to be found on the lips of theists, pointing out the consequences of accepting this view.
I hope to develop these ideas further in the future. But, for now, I think it significant to point out that, as a theist, I simply don’t accept that things like causation are illusory.
And, if that is the cost of abandoning theism, I’d need a very good reason to do so.