Sun rose today. Matter of tomorrow still in some doubt. Posted on July 23rd, 2010 by

Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain. Not ours, but a different one that looks remarkably like the one we saw. Photo by hubertk at at

The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible; because it can never imply a contradiction, and is conceived by the mind with the same facility and distinctness, as if ever so conformable to reality. That the sun will not rise to-morrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction than the affirmation, that it will rise.

David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Scoffing at logical possibilities, the sun boldly showed its big bald head over the rim of the earth today. I know, because I was there to see it happen. Six of us joined the teeming hordes on Cadillac Mountain who came to witness the event–an event that most in the crowd seemed to regard, cavalierly, as a foregone conclusion.

Each morning, this mountain in Maine is host to large gatherings of individuals who are anxious to be the first(ish) people in the U.S. to greet the new day. Each day, eager souls rise at an ungodly hour and travel surprisingly long distances, fully confident that their herculean efforts will be rewarded with a sunrise. Why? Because it rose yesterday.

On this, and this alone, does their flimsy optimism rest: their habitual belief that the future will behave as the past.

On our one and one-half hour drive to the mountain, I tried to persuade my fellow passengers that we might be in for a big disappointment; the sun just might not rise. “Oh, no,” one of them said, “I checked the forecast; it’s supposed to be clear!” “Not what I meant,” I responded, perhaps a bit too tersely (it was 3:30 a.m., after all). “I mean. It. May. Not. Come. Up. As in ‘crest the horizon.'” My seatmate stared at me, dumbstruck, then shifted uncomfortably on the beige velour bench seat¬† and lapsed into an uneasy silence for the rest of the trip.

It was a lovely sunrise, and I was perfectly happy to see it (despite the fact that its doing so was regarded as further “evidence” for induction by the naive realists at the summit). But its rising has not rendered me complacent, oh no indeed. I fully understand that tomorrow is another day. And anything’s intelligible.


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