Cause and Effect

A.J. Ayer

  • Hume and the Problem of Causation by Tom Beauchamp and Alexander Rosenberg
    Oxford, 327 pp, £15.00, August 1981, ISBN 0 19 520236 8
  • The Science of Legislator: The Natural Jurisprudence of David Hume and Adam Smith by Knud Haakonssen
    Cambridge, 240 pp, £17.50, September 1981, ISBN 0 521 23891 9

On the flyleaf of Messrs Beauchamp and Rosenberg’s book about Hume’s theory of causation, Professor Donald Davidson says of it: ‘This is certainly the best available discussion of Hume and causality. It is much more than that, however: it is the best book-length treatment of causality.’ Professor Davidson is perhaps a little biased by the fact that the authors’ views on the nature of causality coincide so very closely with his own. I should not myself rank their book quite so highly, among those that have appeared in recent years, as J.L. Mackie’s The Cement of The Universe, to which indeed they pay respectful tribute. One of the merits of their book, which has, however, the defect of making it rather stodgy reading, is that with the exception of my own little book on Hume, in the OUP ‘Past Masters’ series – which, since they pay attention to my other writings, I take to have appeared only after their manuscript was completed – there is practically no modern contribution either to the philosophy of Hume or to the topic of causality that they fail to acknowledge and often to discuss, sometimes in greater detail than its interest seems to warrant. I was momentarily puzzled by a series of references to a philosopher called ‘Gertrude Anscombe’ until I remembered that Professor Elizabeth Anscombe’s initials were G.E.M.

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