David Hume: Compatibilism And Hume

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Megan Darnley PHIL-283 May 5, 2014 Compatibilism and Hume The choices an individual makes are often believed to be by their own doing; there is nothing forcing one action to be done in lieu of another, and the responsibility of one’s actions are on him alone. This idea of Free Will, supported by libertarians and is the belief one is entirely responsible for their own actions, is challenged by Necessity, otherwise known as determinism. Those championing determinism argue every action and event are because of some prior cause. This causation may be by an external driving force, such as a divine power, or simply a chain of events leading up to a specific moment. The problem is then further divided into those believing the two may both exist, compatibilism, or one cannot exist with the other, incompatibilism. In his work, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume presents an argument for the former, believing it is possible for both Free Will and Necessity to exist simultaneously. This presentation in favor of compatibilism, which he refers to as the reconciling problem, is founded on a fundamental understanding of knowledge and causation, which are supported by other empiricists such as John Locke. Throughout this paper, I will be analyzing and supporting Hume’s argument for compatibilism. I will also be defending his work from select arguments against his theory. Because causation and both conditions for human freedom exist, Hume is able to argue everything is determined and Free Will is possible. Hume presents his argument with three phases; the first proves the Principle of Determinism, he then goes on to prove Human Freedom also exists, coming to the conclusion the two are compatible. The foundation of his... ... middle of paper ... ... scenario. Hume’s proposition for compatibility provides an effective and logical approach in allowing both determinism and free will to exist simultaneously. By committing to both necessity and liberty, Hume suggests human nature is predictable to a certain degree; every choice an individual makes is because of previous circumstances, which occurred from the prior decision made. This cycle offers an explanation for human action and behavior, giving a greater insight to why individuals behave in specific ways. The psychological argument Hume proposes supports his claim, and also suggests the cyclic behavior human beings take. While his philosophical contributions are more extreme than Locke’s, Hume’s definition of liberty and the psychological component to his proposition provide an argument for proving all things are determined, but free will is still possible.

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