Ryan--Final essay of liberty and necessity

Ryan--Final essay of liberty and necessity - Daniel...

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Daniel Zauderer Professor Todd Ryan Early Modern Philosophy Hume: Of Liberty and Necessity David Hume, a British empiricist philosopher of the 18 th century, wishes to apply the empirical nature of Sir Isaac Newton, primarily a natural scientist, to man. Just as Newton made reliable and relatively accurate predictions concerning nature, Hume desires to make reliable and accurate predictions concerning human behavior. If, Hume believes, this “science of man” can be established—if accurate predictions concerning human behavior are a possibility--human actions, like natural phenomenon, are causally determined. Proponents of the claim that human actions are causally determined believe in “determinism.” Determinism is further divided into two categories: “soft determinism” and “hard determinism.” If human actions are caused, says the hard determinist, man could not have chosen otherwise in any given situation, and therefore he cannot be held morally accountable for his actions. The soft determinist, or “compatibilist,” attempts to preserve both the claim that human actions are causally determined and the claim that human beings are moral agents. Both groups of determinists are opposed by “libertarians,” who believe that human actions are not causally determined. Rather, humans have “liberty”; by “liberty,” a libertarian means that in any situation a person could have acted otherwise. The problem of “liberty,” commonly known today as the problem of “free will,” is a philosophical debate that has been raging for over two thousand years. Hume optimistically enters the debate in section eight of his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding , entitled “Of Liberty and Necessity” (read: Of Free Will and Determinism). Hume desires not only to enumerate his opinion on this age old debate but to settle it entirely. To Hume, the debate revolves around an ambiguity of terms; if he can give the terms precise definitions, it will be apparent that philosophy never had any real
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disagreement on the issue and that his version of compatibilism is the only reasonable stance to adopt. In fact, Hume believes that his version is the only one that preserves moral responsibility. In order to understand the restructuring of terms in section eight, it is essential to examine Hume’s general account of causation—an account that is the heart of much of the Enquiry . In the “second part” of section seven of the Enquiry, Hume assigns two definitions to “cause.” The first definition, “an object, followed by another, and where all objects similar to the first, are followed by objects similar to the second,” is a perceiver independent definition. The second, “an object followed by another, and whose appearance always conveys the
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Ryan--Final essay of liberty and necessity - Daniel...

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