Modern Philosophy (PHL 3200)
In Section 8 of Hume’s Enquiry titled “Of Liberty and Necessity”, Hume wants to discuss what liberty and necessity mean and whether or not they can be compatible with each other. This is all really a discussion of Hume’s view of free will and determinism, and how they can be easily reconciled through compatibilism where for example both liberty and necessity are required for morality. He starts off by considering the idea of necessity and defines it as, “the constant conjunction of similar objects, and the consequent inference from one to another” (Hume 150). He wants to talk about its relation to what he calls liberty. He defines his hypothetical liberty as, “A power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will” (Hume 159). This sounds like free will, meaning that people have the ability to act or not act in certain ways. He wants to deny any possibility of chance, because he’s an empiricist, and if you have the possibility of chance, what can you ever really know about the world. In every case, Hume is going to want to go out into the world and see where things come from even these ideas of liberty and necessity to see if there is a way to have both. To take it further, he goes on to claim that we’re all compatibilists without even realizing it. In order to explain his reasoning, he makes three arguments: the necessity argument, the spontaneity argument, and the anti-libertarianism argument.
For the necessity argument, he says that when we look at the world around us, it appears that there is some constant conjunction between a person’s character and the actions that they make. This is very similar to his argument about cause and effect, but in this example, we’re no longer comparing things like billiard balls knocking into one another causing the other ball to move, he’s applying this idea of cause and effect to people. He basically says that people with a certain character will...
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