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Taking Liberty with Humean Necessity: Compatibilism and Contingency

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Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP,volume 110)

This essay considers what David Hume’s views on free will and responsibility, properly understood, can tell us about current debates over the adequacy of compatibilist views on free will. Following Hume’s lead, I argue that questions concerning whether determinism threatens free will and responsibility cannot be answered in the abstract. Instead, answers to such questions depend upon contingent considerations involving moral sentiments. The contingency present in debates over compatibilism explains why disputes concerning free will that are set forth in absolute terms (e.g., does determinism destroy the possibility of free will?) always end in stalemate. Understanding the contingency present in disputes over free will not only sheds light on the nature of the disputes themselves, but also explains why more specific current debates over, for example, genetic predispositions, should be understood as presenting moral, not metaphysical, questions.

Keywords

  • Agency
  • Determinism
  • Free will
  • Hume
  • Responsibility

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Booher, T.L. (2008). Taking Liberty with Humean Necessity: Compatibilism and Contingency. In: Chan, D.K. (eds) Moral Psychology Today. Philosophical Studies Series, vol 110. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-6872-0_12

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