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Of Necessity And Liberty Essay

1698 words - 7 pages

For ages, Philosophers have struggled with the dispute of whether human actions are performed “at liberty” or not. “It is “the most contentious question, of metaphysics, the most contentious science” (Hume 528). In Section VIII of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume turns his attention in regards to necessary connection towards the topics “Of Liberty and Necessity.” Although the two subjects may be one of the most arguable questions in philosophy, Hume suggests that the difficulties and controversies surrounding liberty (i.e. free will) and necessity (i.e. causal determinism) are simply a matter of the disputants not having properly defined their terms. He asserts that all people, “both learned and ignorant, have always been of the same opinion with regard to this subject and that a few intelligible definitions would immediately have put an end to the whole controversy” (Hume 522). Hume’s overall strategy in section VIII is to adhere by his own claim and carefully define “liberty” and ‘necessity” and challenge the contemporary associations of the terms by proving them to be compatible.
As a result of his previous focus on necessity in section VII, Hume’s tactic in this section is to repeat his thoughts on the nature of necessity. He begins by examining “what we are pleased to call physical necessity,” (Hume 526) and try to present an argument of how human actions are necessary (i.e. causally determined). According to Hume, there are laws in nature that are “actuated by necessary forces and that every natural effect is so precisely determined by the energy of its cause that no other effect, in such a particular circumstances, could possibly have resulted from it” (Hume 523). Hume argues that everything that happens, including every human action, is necessitated by antecedent cause— which usually bores resemblance to what is governed by human nature. If circumstances were to be repeated exactly the same, there could be no other outcome than what is expected. He illustrate that the concepts of necessary connections and causation result only from the observation of constant conjunction, “where similar objects are constantly conjoined together and the mind is determined by custom to infer the one from the appearance of another” (Hume 523). Hume progress about how human actions are necessary with a claim that there is a “great uniformity among all the actions of mankind” (Hume 523). He finds that throughout history, across cultures and across ages, human actions and behaviors remains relatively constant. Therefore, Hume emphasize that similar motives produce similar actions and similar causes produce similar events. Human passions and qualities such as “ambition, avarice, self-love, vanity, friendship, generosity, public spirit,” (Hume 523) all which have been created from the beginning of time, are still relevant sources of all the actions and driving source that is still observed among human...

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