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Hume's Determinism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Peter Millican*
Affiliation:
Hertford College, OxfordOX1 3BW, UK

Extract

David Hume has traditionally been assumed to be a soft determinist or compatibilist, at least in the ‘reconciling project’ that he presents in Section 8 of the first Enquiry, entitled ‘Of liberty and necessity.’ Indeed, in encyclopedias and textbooks of Philosophy he is standardly taken to be one of the paradigm compatibilists, rivalled in significance only by Hobbes within the tradition passed down through Locke, Mill, Schlick and Ayer to recent writers such as Dennett and Frankfurt. Many Hume scholars also concur in viewing him as a determinist, for example (in date order) Norman Kemp Smith, Barry Stroud, A. J. Ayer, Paul Russell Don Garrett, Terence Penelhum, George Botterill, John Bricke, and John Wright. My main purpose in this paper will be to provide the evidence to substantiate this traditional interpretation, which has hitherto been widely assumed rather than defended. In the absence of such a defence, the consensus has been left open to challenge, most notably in a recent paper and a subsequent book by James Harris, who boldly claims that Hume ‘does not subscribe to determinism of any kind, whether Hobbesian or merely nomological.’

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Authors 2010

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