Philosopher David Hume">

Rev. Austin Miles, a chaplain in Northern California is a writer and historian. He is the author of Santa's Surprising Origins, a story that received worldwide circulation and resulted in him being cast in the 2004 Hallmark Christmas Movie titled, Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus. He played the mall Santa who magically received the gift of sign language.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

MilesTones • Playing Billiards with David Hume

I became obsessed with the idea of playing a game of billiards with the late philosopher David Hume. But how? I stopped in the Los Medanos College (LMC) Laboratory where biology students were preparing to roll out a cadaver to study and dissect.

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Philosopher David Hume

I made my way over to a rarely used section of the lab, which dealt with time lapse and accidentally backed into a button on a warped wall, which caused a blinding flash.

Incredibly, I found myself in a large room with a single over sized billiard table. The room was strangely Baroque in style. The door opened slowly and in walked a man wearing a brocade coat and a powdered wig. His nose was bulbous, his chin squat, yet there was a gentle quality in his face.

Could this be…the philosopher whom I vehemently disagreed with on paper? The thinker who seemed to devote his life and literary talents to bury historic Christianity? The man who stated that “Religious truth is illusory and that there was no such thing as a miracle?”

Without a word, we each picked up a pool cue. “Three-ball in the side pocket,” I declared. “NO!” he exclaimed with rising passion, “You cannot say with certainty that the cue-ball striking the 3-ball will cause that ball to move and drop into the side pocket.”

“But,” I protested, “the cue ball would be the cause to effect the 3-ball to move. In your own teachings you state that A, the ‘cause,’ always precedes B, the ‘effect’ and that there is constant conjunction for we always see ‘A’ followed by ‘B’, so my statement is valid.”

“But,” Hume thundered back with his Scottish accent, “you have never witnessed the event that you intend to accomplish, specifically this particular 3-ball moving upon the impact of the cue-ball and propelling it into a specific side pocket, so therefore you cannot make such a statement.”

“No?...then watch this!”  I pulled back the cue-stick, and thrust it forward with full power. It hit the cue ball which launched it forward where it struck the 3-ball with a resounding thud. A blinding flash filled the room.

I found myself standing on a deserted street in the ancient city of Vallejo. Walking through the ruins, I found a structure with a sign that proclaimed, “Teeter’s Restaurant and Pool Hall.” Before going inside I was greeted by the owner at the doorway. A little boy walking down the sidewalk pointed and said to his father, “That’s Billy Teeter, the greatest pool player in the world!”

Teeter’s eyes met mine. “Let’s play pool,” I said with authority. We circled the pool table, cues in hand. Teeter pointed to the table with his cue stick. “Three-ball in the side pocket,” he announced. “No No” I protested…“causality is not a quality in the objects we observe but is rather a ‘habit of association’ in the mind produced by the repetition of instances of A and B.”

Teeter’s face tightened. “Three-ball in the side pocket,” he said through clenched teeth.” No…NO! Hume says that while we do have impressions of contiguity, priority and constant conjunction, we do not have any impression of necessary conjunction. Causality is not a quality in the objects we observe but is rather a ‘habit of association’ in the mind produced by the repetition of instances of A and B. The misplaced belief of necessary connection is….”

Teeter signaled. Two men came forward, one held my arms behind my back while the other lifted his fist above my head. Another blinding flash occurred. I found myself back in the LMC Biology Lab, in the corner of the time-warp area. Nobody seemed to notice me. The students had gathered around the cadaver. I edged my way in and watched as the instructor reached for the sheet covering the body.  He yanked back the sheet revealing the corpse with the face of…..

As a good philosophical story must abide by the principles, the reader is required to come to his own conclusion.

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