Let’s pretend that you and some of your friends went camping. You laid the wood for a fire in the rock-encircled fire pit, and you lit the kindling to start the fire. Once the fire was burning, you added some thicker firewood. Then, one of your more accident-prone friends did what everyone should have anticipated (because he always seems to do things like this), and he cut himself with his Swiss-army knife while trying to cut up an onion for the chili that you guys were going to cook over the fire. So, you all pile back into the car and drive to the hospital to tend to your friend who is going to need stitches.
A few hours later, everyone returns to the campsite, and the only thing you see in your fire pit is a pile of ashes. You believe that the fire you started must have eventually started burning and even burned brightly before it tapered off and started dying down into red hot coals before it finally died out. But, are you sure that is what happened? What if a park ranger came along, saw that no one was attending the fire and put it out, and then carried away your kindling and logs before replacing everything with cold ashes in an effort to teach everyone about the hazards of leaving a fire unattended?
• Pretend you are Hume. Pick one side (either there was a fire that grew bigger but eventually died out or that that the process never occurred, despite the ashes at the end that would indicate that there had been a fire), and explain what you can know for certain (as opposed to what you can surmise or guess happened) from the facts detected by your senses. Be sure to include evidence that Hume could support!
• Now, pretend you are Descartes looking at everything you just said when you were pretending to be a good follower of Hume. At what point would Descartes say that you went very wrong in your (Hume’s) conclusions and why?
• Finally, since you are pretending to be Descartes, explain to Mr. Hume why proximity, assumed continuity, and priority (the physical, temporal, and spatial closeness of events expected for causality) are, in fact, the required justifications for reasonable knowledge of event, even when that knowledge might be based on empirical (sensory) information. Hume rejects causality, but (in other words), how would Descartes rationally defend it?