But, Hume persists, what is our justification for drawing conclusions from experience? Only our belief that the future will be like the past. But this too is a factual belief. We can imagine that the future will not be like the past – for example, that tomorrow billiard balls will vanish upon being hit by other billiard balls. So our belief that the future will resemble the past is itself not based on any process of deductive reasoning, but solely on experience. So how is experience itself justified?
To justify anything, you give reasons. And you justify those reasons by giving still other reasons. This implies three possible structures for any chain of justification:
(1) Reasons go on forever, without repeating.
(2) Reasons go in a circle – that is, eventually a reason is repeated.
(3) The chain stops, with a final reason.
Structures (1) and (2) would plainly provide unsatisfactory justifications, which leaves structure (3). But if a chain of justification is to stop in a satisfying way, the last reason given must not require further justification. And since we can imagine the contrary of a factual belief, a factual belief cannot be a final reason. So a factual belief that the present is like the past cannot be the final justifying reason for any conclusions about the world.
It may or may not seem arcane now but Hume’s concept of a justified conclusion was a step toward formal logic. He could not seem to totally discard the Cartesian notion of the world being something of the product of the human imagination. Newton showed the planets acted upon one another. The Cartesans mistakenly filled in the space for cause and effect with non-mechanical forces mysterious forces. Hume granted Newton’s laws and applied them to the human mind. Leaving out the biology and relying solely on psychology and a kind of misguided logic he thought the mind acted on interpreting real events in terms of memory. You see an apple fall and hit what, the ground, another apple, a person. Experience plus memory give a true picture of events. Decartes said that might not be true since other worldly powers might be tweaking what we see. Hume thought you cannot predict the final product in any such event, a final factual summation was almost impossible. But since we all see the apple falling and some action results, it was fair to assume a real physical event occurred. The commonality of reality because of shared memory. Troubling in terms of modern physics where much of the apple’s behavior is predictable, but in Hume’s time troublesome for organized religion’s preordained universe. Hume might make a terrible astrophysicist or chemist based on that thinking, but it did make him a good philosopher of morality. Shared experiences, such as pain and pleasure, give everyone a common humanity.
“We examined theoretical explanations for law-abiding behavior that have been traditionally used to account for compliance, and found weaker support for these explanations when it comes to digital piracy,” said Twila Wingrove, the study’s lead author. “The results suggest that students perceive shoplifting and digital piracy differently, despite the fact that they are both forms of theft.”
[ ]…Why? The very nature of music piracy is likely the largest obstacle to curbing it, the authors say. There is no risk of physical harm to a victim and no physical object as a target — making it easier to deduce that digital music theft is harming no one at all. Also, there is widespread social support for the behavior within the internet community and on college campuses.
Illegal downloads might do physical harm to someone – less income to pay for their health insurance for example. That said it does say something positive about students considering the degree and kinds of harm they might so before engaging in certain behaviors. One element not addressed in this study is what role being watched and the humiliation of a public arrest might have on shoplifting versus downloads. If you’re downloading something illegal there are no witnesses except maybe a friend who also wants the song. Group or community disapproval plays a big part in inhibiting bad behavior. Alone in your dorm there is no one there to watch and pass judgement.