Early Modern Philosophy

Thomas Hobbes

What was Hobbes’ belief about free will?

In his The Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity and Chance (1656) Hobbes called his position on free will “necessitarianism.” He said there was nothing in the human mind to which the word “will” refers; in other words, there was no will. But there is desire, and what we call “will” is the last desire before we make up our minds to do something. The entire person can be free, however. Human freedom, according to Hobbes, consists in not being prevented from doing what one desires to do. Freedom, in his view, is thus nothing more or less than liberty.

Hobbes also believed that all actions have causes or are “necessitated.” But we are responsible legally for what we do because it is just that we be punished for our decision or “will” in the matter. The purpose of such punishment is to deter others from misbehaving and preserve justice.


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