The Enlightenment Period

David Hume

Did Hume believe that we have free will?

Yes, Hume believed in free will, but in a strange way. He argued that our freedom is based on the fact that we are determined by our existing character. If there were no causal link between our motives and our actions, then there would be no moral basis for praise and blame. That is, we do not praise or blame others for what they do accidentally or as “flukes.” For Hume, freedom therefore consists in the liberty to do what we want, or a lack of constraint. Our spontaneity is not the same as indifference, or the lack of a cause for doing one thing or the other. He wrote: “By liberty, then, we can mean a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will….Now this hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to every one who is not a prisoner and in chains.”


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