12/ 23/ 10

It might be fruitful to compare Hume’s critique of causality to Aristotle’s distinction between knowing  that something is and what it is. On Aristotle’s account, the “that” is a fact of the matter and the “what” is one that attains to the cause, and so both Hume and Aristotle see facts as alientated from causes.

Aristotle, however, says that if we could just see the moon interpose itself between the earth and sun that we would just see the cause of an eclipse, and so for him at least some causes are facts, but it is not clear that such causes are included in what Aristotle calls knowledge that something is so. We would only distinguish that and what because they are usually separated for us, and science most of all seems necessary to deal with the alienation of facts and causes. And so we might see Hume’s critique of causality going as far as all things that are capable of being advanced or treated  of by the natural sciences, though there is a dispute whether all causes (or even all natural causes) are such.

In a word: if we could just see the moon interpose itself, would the cause of an eclipse be a scientific fact for us? This seems doubtful. The cause of my own shadow is not a scientific fact, either because the cause is found withotu investigation or because the sort of investigation involved is not one that raises to the level of what we call science.

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