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The Relationship Between Liberty and Necessity – David Hume Essay


In his Enquiry, David Hume considers the unique relationship between necessity and liberty. It is in section VIII of the Enquiry that Hume notes the existing dispute between the two. In his work, Hume views liberty as the work not to act or act in accordance with the determination of what he calls the will.

On the other hand, Hume defines the concept of necessity as the kind of uniformity observed in the unique operations and processes in nature (Hume 35). In his work, Hume states that a liberty is the negation of causes and necessity. However, liberty tends to have no existence and therefore it makes morality extremely impossible.

Hume therefore uses the idea to define necessity as the constant conjunction existing between objects and interference or motivation of the mind from an object to the next. With this understanding in our minds, Hume uses the concepts to explain how we can evaluate actions from a moral point of view or not.

However, Hume asserts that are actions subject to moral evaluation cannot be distinguished from the actions take place without a cause. He therefore uses this understanding to explain that free actions result from our human will (Hume 36). On the other hand, he argues that ‘unfree’ actions result by external causes to the individual.

From this account by David Hume, it notable he offers a relationship between necessity and liberty. The philosopher states that our desires and willingness to act as human beings determines our liberty (the ability to act or not act). If the action occurs from the agent’s desires, then such an action is voluntary.

If the action does not result from the agent’s willingness, it is termed as involuntary. Hume uses this notion to explain the relationship between necessity and liberty. If a person decides to act because of some constraint or violence, which is the individual’s liberty, then this becomes a necessitated action.

This means that the action does not spring from the will of the individual (Hume 42). That being the case, Hume says that such action cannot be connected or attributed to the person.

Liberty, as presented and defined by David Hume, is the need to act in a given manner or not to act. For this to take place or not to, Hume asserts that the determinations of the human free will are very important and cannot be ignored (Hume 36). This means that any action will result from the will of an individual. The action or behavior results from external force acting on the individual.

It means that an action can be from free will, and if it does, then placing judgment on the individual is necessary. This means that the punishment or judgment of the doer of the action is has found it deep in himself to do so. This has been a source of debate and argument regarding the extent to which an action should be determined as caused or not.

On the other hand, Hume argues that human beings or the society should not condemn or judge actions caused by an external force such as violence. This is because the individual had to make the decision from a ‘cause’, and not from his free will.

The causing factor to an act is where the issue of necessity comes in (Hume 36). The philosopher uses these two concepts to explain their relationship with each other. He also explains how they can help to pursue higher justice in the society.

If an event forced the individual to act or behave in a certain manner, this makes the individual innocent of the actions. In such condition, he should not be condemned because the ‘liberty’ resulted of an external force. From the philosopher’s argument, we observe that actions can result from our free will or be determined.

This forms the basis of the relationship between necessity and liberty according to Hume. For people to act in a given manner, the actions should be dependent on necessity (Hume 42).

Because of the kind of relationship explained by Hume between liberty and necessity, there is a lot desirable about the way people behave in the society and how they act. The issue of necessity explores how actions in their natural form relate with one another.

This also explains why such actions are pre-determined (Hume 42). With the knowledge, philosophers and scholars have used the concepts to address the issues of free will and human determinism. Different philosophers have supported the relationship offered by Hume about the two terms while others have disregarded the opinions as unacceptable and inapplicable in the modern society (Hume 43).

If an action is ‘caused’ or ‘necessitated’, the individual cannot be responsible for such actions. From this argument, I believe that Hume’s view on necessity and liberty are not plausible at all. According to Hume’s views, the same ideas or motives will always the same kind of actions.

This is something debatable because our actions will vary depending on their specific cause (Hume 44). It is because of this that ‘freedom’ and ‘will’ have been widely discussed.

Another thing that makes the philosopher’s account unreasonable is because he does not explain the moral foundation for not punishing some form of actions simply based on their causation. This has been an issue of debate among sociologists and other philosophers regarding the issue of free will, determinism, and social deviance.

Through Hume’s arguments and opinions, individuals might decide to act in a certain manner that threatens a social order. As a result, the moral underpinning of the society remains questionable (Hume 42). While there are some convincing ideas and observations presented by the philosopher, it is necessary to view the opinion as non-plausible because it does not offer moral arguments and support of a free society.

The assertion that the same kind of motives will always produce the same kind of action and behavior is another issue of conjecture with Hume’s presentation. He also asserts that the same events will always follow the same kind of causes. It is important to agree that this kind of opinion is really questionable and debatable because there are other forces leading to different actions and behaviors (Hume 46).

It is because of these issues and arguments that the discussion and presentation of necessity and liberty by David Hume have continued to form an important part of ‘determinism’ and relationship with human ‘free will’. In conclusion, Hume’s argument and account fails to offer a solution to most of the moral problems faced by humankind today.

Works Cited

Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

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