In Unit One, we read the passage in the Second Essay of the Two Treatises of Government from John Locke, in which Locke describes a perfect free and equal world. This revolutionary idea is a willful change towards the governing style under that social paradigm. Yet my questions extend to a more fundamental one. Are we free? Do we even have a free will to lead the course of our behavior. To start unraveling this question we must first ask what is freedom? The notion of freedom, some sort of control over one’s actions or one’s mental states, i.e., willing or volition, is a long-debated claim over many philosophers. One might think it’s an ability to act on one’s strongest desire. Others could argue that freedom also entails the ability to will otherwise, in addition to act otherwise. The most obvious objection comes from determinism stating that all events are caused by past events such that nothing other than what does occur could occur. Widely accepted by the field of science, determinism also causes another problem, how can people in this society be held responsible for moral reasons if one could not choose to do otherwise?
Fascinated by these debates, I intimately examine the answers from David Hume and Immanuel Kant and attempt to adjudicate their opposing views. Finally I also proposed who I eventually agreed with that may be implemented in our understanding of H/humanities.
Hume in section eight of Enquiry concerning Human Understanding and Kant in Critique of Pure Reasons III separately contend their answer on the question are we free. In this paper, I compare and contrast the different approach they take in reconciling freedom and determinism(necessity). Then I adjudicate the debate by evaluating whose theory of freedom best reconcile the dilemma between liberty, necessity and morality. Eventually I illustrate in what aspect I contend Hume’s notion of liberty is a success.
According to Hume, free will, also namely liberty, means “a power of acting or not acting according to the determination of the will.” That is to say that liberty means one is unconstrained or non-prevented from doing what one wills or prefers. I can walk out of the room if I want but when I am locked in a prison against my will of leaving the room, I am not free. One thing to note is that Hume believes liberty is not the “liberty of indifference,” which implies a “negation of necessity and causes;” on the contrary he believes that liberty coexists with causal necessity. In such cases, my actions of leaving the room are causally necessitated, just like any other event in nature; but they are caused by motives that are from my own character. Though contrary to what most people believe, Hume argues that causal necessity, i.e. determinism, does not exclude liberty. He argues that it is a misconception to conflate necessity with compulsion or force. For example, it is unreasonable to say when A causes B, A compels or forces B.
Kant disagrees with Hume’s notion of freedom because he believes that freedom requires more than one’s ability to act differently if one willed differently. Freedom also entails the fact that one could have willed differently. So, Kant affirms what Hume calls ‘liberty of indifference.’ Thus, if under Hume’s proposal, one’s wills are determined by inner or exterior empirical reasons, it is insufficient to say one is free. Taking a strong determinism point of view, Kant asserts that the only possibility that a will is both determined and free is that the will is determined by a faculty independent of coercion by sensible impulses, that is determined by reason. Kant demonstrates this possibility by distinguishing between two ways of thinking. One is phenomenal, which all our actions are explained by antecedent experiences (physical and psychological). The other is the intelligible, where we can consistently think and reason without experience. Because when pure reason determines the will, the will is determined by the world of intelligible rather than empirical orders, we are determined by our own will, so we are free.
For those who believe the freedom on will and object Hume assert that it is possible the “internal” causes are caused by “exterior” compulsion, thus causal necessity between A and B mentioned above could means A force B. Hume’s defense and reasoning are as follow. One thing to note is that Hume is not arguing for the “liberty of indifference” that dismiss necessity completely, conversely he trys to convince people that causal necessity does not entail compelling and forcing, nor impede liberty. According to Hume, causal necessity is nothing more than the “constant conjunction” of similar objects and a customary inference of the mind from the one object to the other. For example, we believe that the falling of a billiard ball is causally necessitated by the releasing of hand, but the necessity here is a product of imagination or a feeling, which associates the idea of the falling with the perception of releasing. This feelingthat there is a necessary connection between them is what people think of necessity. Let’s go back to the example of the billiard ball. If we are in space with no gravity, our behavior of releasing the ball will then causes no change. Thus, on earth, it’s just a feeling that the releasing of the billiard ball is a necessitated reason for the ball to fall. In Hume’s words, we draw inferences from actions to actions even though “it may seem superfluous to prove” them. In other words, we deem the internal motivation compellingly necessitated by external causes because we believe we have some ideas of necessity as it exists in matter beyond constant conjunction and inference. So, it is fundamentally a confusion between what is an event being caused and what is an event being compelled. Thus, overthrow the notion that necessity implies compulsion or force. If one can accept that causes do not force or compel one’s action, the only real threat is necessitation by external forces on one’s action.
Kant might defense his view by saying that he does not argue freedom of will is under the premises of a “negation of necessity and causes.” On the contrary, Kant thinks that the will is free only if it is necessitated and it is necessitated by the right sort of way: namely, by pure reason rather than by antecedent events whose causal impact on the will could be described by empirical law. One thing to note is that this necessitation is not the weaker sort of causal necessitation Hume has in mind, but the stronger sort of absolute necessitation. Kant reasons that we are free insofar our choices come from our logic that spontaneous reasoning is a disabling condition for the causation. One thing to note is that a disabling condition does not disproof deterministic laws, because necessity can be conditionally true depending on the disabling condition. Let’s look at the billiard ball example again. In scenario one, I release the ball and it falls. In scenario two, I caught the ball after releasing it to prevent it falling, and the ball didn’t fall. But, if I didn’t catch the ball, it will necessarily fall. So here gravity is a disabling factor that makes the fall of billiard ball after my releasing conditionally true. Thus, for one who is able to spontaneous willing otherwise, “under one’s reasoning” is a disabling factor that makes causal necessity conditionally true.
I think Hume’s notion of liberty is compelling because he reconciles the dilemma of morality and necessity. For those who think they know the causal necessity, such judgements are consistent with the judgements about the causal ownership of antecedent actions, which is consistent with our judgments of moral responsibility. For those convinced by Hume that there are only constant conjunctions between objects, it is still reasonable to believe that necessity is consistent with liberty and morality. First, the attribution of responsibility is made based on the feelingof necessity, which means the feeling of a determined causal connection. Here we need to distinguish feeling of necessity with judgements mentioned above. Second, the feeling of necessity is caused by beliefs about the source of the behavior, or else we would not feel necessary unless we think a particular person cause the action. Thus, the feeling of necessity causally contributes to the attribution of moral responsibility. Therefore, the idea of necessity is reconciled with morality.
Still, it is very hard to compare whose notion of liberty is better, since they talk about very different aspect of liberty. Hume discussed the free of action, while Kant talked about the free of the will. What surprised me about Kant is that he provides us a possibility to live under our own will without the control of current circumstances and that our future can be determined by our own reasoning. However, I ultimately agree with Hume’s notion of freedom because I think morality doesn’t require the sort of freedom Kant describes. It is consistently addressed in Hume’s model how judgements of morality are under one’s causal relationship of antecedent actions and that is good enough for me. For future directions of this debate, it is important to figure out the significant of moral obligation so that it is important to incorporate the essential role of morality rules mentioned above. This would put pressure on Hume and supports Kant’s notion of freedom.
Nonetheless, both view has its importance in the context of revolution. Freedom means we can make willful change without compelling from exterior that we can distinguish the unequal force from social hierarchy, dehumanization through gender or race category, and the government or public potency permeated everywhere. Freedom also means that we can choose under the determination of our reasoning against the given circumstances of those oppression mentioned above and be justice, equal minded, and as kind as the humanity has to offer.
 Enquiry, P617
 Treatise, Book II, Part III, Sections I-II.
 Enquiry. P617
 Enquiry, P618