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PHL lecture, feb. 2.doc

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Peter King

Hume: Liberty, Necessity, and Scepticism • Hume applies his analysis of causation to other problems in philosophy, perhaps most notably the controversy between free will and determinism o Though he initially declares that the dispute is merely verbal, Hume defends the view that free will and determinism are compatible o The main outlines of his argument in Enquiry VIII.1:  (a) That we have the same kinds of reasons to ascribe necessity to human action as to physical events, namely that the same kinds of constant conjunctions hold in each sphere, and even the causal inferences we draw are not dissimilar  (b) ‘Liberty’ is a matter of the absence of direct constraint or coercion  (c) So understood, necessity and liberty are compatible o In Enquiry VIII.2 Hume argues a stronger thesis:  Ascriptions of freedom require underlying necessities and are inconceivable without them-if we could not rely on bringing about events by performing certain actions, then we could not act freely at all, but rather be at the mercy of chance • Four kinds of determinism o Predictive Determinism  If it can reliably be predicted in advance what you will do in any given situation, or at least in any situation you will encounter, can you be said to act freely? Note that there is no presumption here about how someone might be in a position to make such a prediction. The limiting case of this is posed by God’s omniscience: He knows how you will act in every situation o Psychological Determinism  Human beings may be so constituted in their psychological make- up as to determine how they will behave in any given situation (“the compulsion of character”). Whether we or anyone can know enough about the relevant psychological laws or the particular case histories of individuals, it may nevertheless be true that we are constituted such that our responses to any given situation are determined. This too seems to remove freedom: just as we do not consider someone caught in the grips of a hopeless compulsion “free to have done otherwise,” so too of all psychological states are like this o Causal Determinism  This is the ‘classical’ determinist position. It asserts that every event was determine by some set or prior causes. It is a further, and much stronger, hypothesis that the causes of which determine events can be grouped into types and thence into laws; but this move is strictly irrelevant for causal determinism  Note: if such causes can be grouped into laws then we may also be able to have predictability in principles, as suggested in Predictive Determinism.  If it is also the case that such laws are organized along subject-lines, then we may get something like Psychological Determinism o Reductive Determinism  Everything is material, and the laws regulating the human mind are explained by the same law
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