Heward Wilkinson – Why we need an a priori theory of causality

Date(s) - 06/08/2023
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

The Duke of Battersea

The thesis Heward is opposing is clearly stated by Jonathan Bennett

“Many people, whom we may loosely label rationalists, find it intolerable to say of anything that it just is the case: they cannot tolerate absolutely brute facts, and assume that any question of the form ‘Why is it so?’ must have an answer. For a rationalist, the thesis that whatever happens is caused to happen conveniently embodies his assumption that ‘Why did it happen?’ can always be answered, namely by something of the form ‘Because it was caused to happen by….’ That form of answer, though, will not satisfy the rationalist if part of what it means is: ‘F events just are, as a matter of fact, always followed by G events’; for on that analysis the answer actually increases the dose of sheer unexplained brute fact which has to be swallowed. The rationalist cast of mind, in short, generates the assumptions both that determinism must be true and that causal explanations and causally based predictions cannot have an inductive basis.”
(Jonathan Bennett: Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes, 1971, p. 265)

Heward says he cannot yet solve this problem but he will offer arguments for why it almost certainly is soluble in due course.
What would an a priori theory of causality look like? What would it not look like?
Many different kinds of causality
Whether there are negative a priori arguments but not positive ones. Whether Hume’s own arguments are cases in point.
Why is induction immune to causal scepticism, etc?
Constructive types of a priori argument in Kant, Whitehead, Moore, Wittgenstein and John Wisdom
Whether in Hume, Kant, and such modern thinkers as Heidegger, Pirsig, and Levi-Strauss, there is a concept of primordial causality which we cannot grasp yet have an inkling of, which is relevant to this argument. Colin McGinn (The Mysterious Flame) on our bedrock epistemic limitations. But how does he know?
Whether post-Modern and intentionalistic theories of meaning and historicity are likely to be key to the solution?

We meet in The Duke of Battersea, but Heward Wilkinson is not London based and will present his talk on Zoom.  For details see SLPC Zoom Meeting

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