In his famous discussion of inductive inferences, David Hume gives one of the most notorious debunking arguments in Western philosophy. His target is causation; despite what we naturally believe or how it intuitively seems to us, Hume is skeptical of the idea that there are necessary connections of cause and effect that can hold between objects and events in the world. Hume also provides an account of the source of mistakes, of where the idea of causation comes from, and why belief in causal connections is so natural and persistent. This account appeals to custom, or mental habit, and the mind’s general “propensity to spread itself on external objects” (Hume  1978: 1.3.14). In the case of cause and effect, he says:
We remember to have had frequent instances of the existence of one species of objects; and also remember, that the individuals of another species of objects have always attended them, and have existed in a regular order of contiguity and succession with regard to them. Thus we remember to have seen that species of object we call flame, and to have felt that species of sensation we call heat . We likewise call to mind their constant conjunction in all past instances. Without any farther ceremony, we call the one cause and the other effect, and infer the existence of the one from that of the other. In all those instances, from which we learn the conjunction of particular causes and effects, both the causes and effects have been perceived by the senses, and are remembered: But in all cases, wherein we reason concerning them, there is only one perceived or remembered, and the other is supplied in conformity to our past experience. (Hume  1978: 1.3.6)Hume’s strategy here is instructive even if one rejects it and its conclusion that causation is not a feature of the external world. Perhaps most relevant is his appealing to characteristics 343of our psychological capacities, and his reasons for doing so. Hume gives an alternative explanation for why we seem to “see” causal connections in the world, why we so naturally interpret the unfolding of events though the lens of cause and effect, even though (he claims) there are no such connections. Instead, Hume locates the source of belief in external causal connections in “a productive faculty” of our minds, a psychological process that, in “gilding and staining all natural objects with the colours, borrowed from internal sentiment, raises in a manner a new creation” (Hume  1983: 88). Thus, Hume’s debunking strategy aspires to give an explanation of its target phenomenon (causation) that (i) illuminates that phenomenon in a new way, and in so doing (ii) shows not just that previous ways of construing or accounting for the phenomenon went wrong, but how and why they did as well.