Causation, Compulsion, and Compatibilism

Paul Russell

in Freedom and Moral Sentiment

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195152906
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199869343 | DOI:
 Causation, Compulsion, and Compatibilism

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Hume claims, famously, that causes do not compel their effects, and so it does not follow that if an action was caused it was compelled (and thus unfree). We get confused on this issue, according to Hume, because we have a natural tendency to suppose that we have some idea of necessity as it exists in the material world beyond that of constant conjunction and the accompanying inference of the mind. Much of what Hume says about the “verbal” nature of the free will controversy has to be understood in light of this point. On a more critical note, I argue that Hume's views on the subject of causation undermine and discredit the classical compatibilist position by weakening, if not removing, the (metaphysical) connexion between agent and action. Since Hume maintains that his views about causation and necessity support his compatibilist strategy, this observation puts the classical interpretation of Hume's compatibilism in doubt.

Keywords: action; agency; causal connexion; compatibilism; compulsion; determinism; J. S. Mill; regularity; Moritz Schlick; Bertrand Russell

Chapter.  8481 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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