Share
Explore BrainMass

Hume and Kant

I've been trying to figure out how to write a essay on Hume's view voluntary action.

I'm having a hard time developing how to write an objection and response.

The "complex" version of Hume's conception of freedom is this: an action is free, only if it is voluntary and only to the extent that the choice to perform this action flows from the agent's character. This seems to imply that if I just choose to act out of character, my action is not free and my responsibility for it is diminished. This cannot be right, can it? Doesn't this implication refute Hume's view? (Would the claim that "I just chose to act out of character" get one off the hook in a murder trial?)

Attachments

Solution Preview

Please see my comments below. I start with a brief review of the meaning of a voluntary action, and Hume's theory. In section 2, I discuss your problem more directly.

Section 1:

1. Aristotle defines a voluntary action as an action that is done with knowledge of what one is doing (i.e., not in factual ignorance), and which has its 'moving principle' inside the agent. In other words, Aristotle specifies a (1) knowledge and (2) a control condition on voluntariness, and hence on praise and blame. In illustration of how the 'knowledge condition' (non-ignorance) undermines responsibility, Aristotle mentions Aeschylus' defence against the charge of revealing the rites of the Mysteries; this was that he did not know that the "he was divulging a secret". This is a clear case of the ignorance of a bit of information or ignorance of fact. Although Aeschylus voluntarily revealed the information, his act is not correctly described as 'voluntarily revealing a secret'. This is the sense in which he was ignorant of what he was doing. This constitutes ignorance of the particulars, and according to Aristotle renders his act involuntary. In illustration of the 'control condition' Aristotle mentions a scenario in which a man is carried off by the wind. In this sort of case, Aristotle says, the moving principle is outside of the agent, he does not move himself at all; he does not really do anything. As a result, his action, if it can be called that, is involuntary and he is not praise or blameworthy for what he has done.

2. You can see from the above, the voluntariness includes a control condition. This means that a voluntary action is one that the agent controlled in some way. I think it is helpful to understand Hume's position in relation to this. You can understand the free will condition on moral responsibility as a specification of what it means for someone to control and action.

Hume is one of the main developers and defenders of a classical compatibilist position in the free will debate. In brief, Hume thinks that freedom is opposed to constraint, and not to causation. Freedom here refers to the control aspect of voluntariness mentioned above.

In general, being caused to act does not ...

$2.19