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The Question of Free Will: Descartes, Hume, and Nietzsche Essays

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The power of acting without necessity and acting on one’s own discretions, free will still enamors debates today, as it did in the past with philosophers Nietzsche, Descartes, and Hume. There are two strong opposing views on the topic, one being determinism and the other “free will”. Determinism, or the belief a person lacks free will and all events including human actions are determined by forces outside the will of an individual contrasts the entire premise of free will. Rene Descartes formulates his philosophical work through deductive reasoning and follows his work with his system of reasoning. David Hume analyzes philosophical questions with inductive reasoning and skeptism with a strong systematic order. Neither a systematic philosopher nor a rigid thinker, Nietzsche offers his own nihilistic spin on the topic of free will. The three different approaches of free will by Nietzsche, Hume, and Descartes all obtain their strong suits as well as their pitfalls. Nietzsche insists free will is created by theologians and therefore denies its existence, while Descartes embraces free will, and Hume individualizes the meaning of free will.
With the “Design Argument” in Meditations on First Philosophy to ignite his proclamation of the topic of free will, Descartes summons free will is given entirely through the creator, God. With his robust belief of God, Descartes concludes free will attributes to God’s creation of a person. Descartes announces, “I make mistakes because the faculty of judging the truth, which I got from God, is not, in my case infinite” (54-55, Meditations). Descartes believes errors of judgment are given to him from God, but in the end the choice is up to no one but himself. He takes full responsibility for his de...


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... Concerning Human Understanding. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1993, ed. Print.
Leiter, Brian. “Nietzsche’s Moral and Political Philosophy.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University, 26 August 2004.
Leiter, Brian. “Who is the ‘Sovereign Individual’? Nietzsche on Freedom. (September 10, 2009. Cambridge Critical Guide to Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality, Simon May, ed., 2010. Available at SSRN:

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997, ed. Print.
Russell, Paul. “Hume on Free Will.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University, 14 December 2007.



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