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Notes on Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding - page 3 / 4





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E.Two Definitions of Cause

i.A cause is “an object, followed by another, and where all the objects,

similar to the first, are followed by objects similar to the second.  Or in other words, where, if the first object had not been, the second never had existed.

ii.A cause is “an object followed by another, and whose appearance always

conveys the thought to that other.

Section 8

1.We seem to believe that all events, including human actions, are bound by

certain causal laws.  Call this necessity.  We also seem to believe that human beings have free will, that we can either act in certain ways or not.  Call this liberty.  Liberty and necessity seem incompatible: How is it that we can either act in certain ways or not if we are bound by certain causal laws?

2.The Solutions

A.Compatibilism: Free will is compatible with determinism; both free will

and determinism are true.

B.Determinism: Free will and determinism are incompatible; free will is

false while determinism is true.

C.Libertarianism: Free will and determinism are incompatible;

determinism is false while free will is true.

3.Hume’s Compatibilism

A.For Hume, Necessity takes the form of “the constant conjunction of

similar objects, and the consequent inference from one to the other.”

B.For Hume, Liberty means “a power of acting or not acting, according to

the determinations of the will; that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may.”

4.According to one of Hume’s arguments for compatibilism, both liberty and

necessity are required for morality.

A.Necessity is required for morality

(1)Either it is an accident that I act as I do, or it isn’t.

(2)If it is an accident, then it is irrational for me to hold people morally responsible for their actions.

(3)If it is not an accident, then determinism is true (since there will be some causal explanation of my actions).

(4)Therefore, either people are not morally responsible for their actions, or determinism is true.

B.Liberty is required for morality

(1)Either I chose to act as I did, or I didn’t.

(2)If I did not choose to act as I did, then it is irrational for anyone to hold me morally responsible for my actions.

(3)If I did choose to act as I did, then liberty is true.

(4)Therefore, either I am not morally responsible for my actions, or liberty is true.

5.How is it that liberty and necessity are compatible?

A.Liberty involves a lack of constraint, while necessity involves causality.

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