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INCONSISTENCY WITHIN A RECONCILING PROJECT There is nothing I wou'd more willingly lay hold of, than an opportunity of confessing my errors; and shou'd esteem such a return to truth and reason to be more honourable than the most unerring judgment. Hume's words in the first sentence of its Appendix referred to Books I and II of A Treatise of Human Nature. I quote them here with a similarly particular but less glorious reference to Chapter VIII of my Hume's Philosophy of Belief (London, and New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, and Philosophical Library, 19 61) . The errors to be corrected are in the first instance mine. But, if I am now right, they are also and more importantly to be found in the first Inquiry itself . Hume's purpose in Section VIII is to apply to the long disputed question concerning liberty and necessity what he takes to be his discovery that Our idea ... of necessity and causation arises entirely from the uniformity observable in the operations of nature, where similar objects are constantly conjoined together, and the mind is determined by custom to infer the one from the appearance of the other. These two circumstances form the whole of that necessity , which we ascribe to matter (Selby-Bigge, EHU 81-82) . In urging what is here offered as the new and only correct interpretation of what others want to distinguish as contingent necessity and contingent impossibility, Hume is in their - and my - terms saying that there is no genuine idea of, and no such thing as, contingent necessity and contingent impossibility. There are, that is to say, no true logically contingent propositions asserting certain necessities and impossibilities whether relative or absolute . There are, on the contrary, only logical necessities and logical impossibilities; and these obtain simply as relations of ideas. They do not and cannot either characterize or determine real existence and matter of fact (EHU 25-26) . Now certainly, if Hume were right in maintaining either that we cannot coherently assert, or that we never have due warrant for asserting, that any causes necessitate their effects - that they make these, that is, as a matter of fact inevitable and anything else as a matter of fact impossible - then it would become a short and easy task to effect a Compatibilist resolution of the long disputed question. For, on this assumption, nothing more than profound regularities of human behaviour, and sometimes predictabilities , ever have been or ever could be revealed, whether in the everyday experience of the banausic vulgar, or whether by the elevated investigations of the physical and the human sciences. Discoveries of this sort, however, do not and cannot prejudice the familiar realities of human action; which just requires that, in some sense, agents must always be able to do otherwise than they do. This sense - a sense which allows that both the agent who acts freely and the agent who acts under compulsion act - Hume explicates as Locke had done before him in the great chapter 'Of Power' (Essay, II (xxi) 7 ff.). Action necessarily involves 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 (EHU 95) . 1. Having thus in Part I drawn Compatibilist conclusions from what is in effect his rejection of all contingent necessity and contingent impossibility, Hume proceeds in Part II to apply his findings to the theological special case: to the equally long disputed question of freewill and predestination, that is, rather than of freewill and determinism. After first considering that all reward and punishment must presuppose that the persons to be so treated are the causes of whatever it is for which they are to be rewarded or punished, Hume entertains what ironically he presents as an objection to this theory, with regard to necessity and liberty ... It may be said, for instance , that, if voluntary actions be subjected to the same laws of necessity with the operations of matter, there is a continued chain of necessary causes, pre-ordained and pre-determined, reaching from the original cause of all to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 1-6
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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