Descartes versus Hume on Human Will

Polemic Paper, 2017

5 Pages, Grade: 1


Descartes versus Hume on Human Will

Free will refers to agents’ capacity to make choices unrestricted by any definite factors. A multiplicity of factors of historical consideration has incorporated a number of constraints. Some have involved metaphysical constraints, including logical, theological and nomological determinism (Louis 13). Other constraints include physical limitations such as imprisonment, social constraints such as censure, and mental constraints such as phobias and genetic predispositions. It has also been established that the principle of free will encompasses legal, religious, scientific and ethical implications (Brian par. 24). For instance, in the legal realm, free will influences contemplations of rehabilitation and punishment. In the religious sphere, it implies that one’s free will and choices can exist together with a supreme divinity. In the ethical sphere, it may have connotations for whether people can be held ethically responsible for their deeds. In the scientific realm, on the other hand, neuro-scientific discoveries concerning free will and choice may suggest diverse modalities of foreseeing human behavior (David 121).

Numerous studies have been conducted to introduce a multiplicity of definite skeptical theories, theories which entail the speciousness of most of what people think about free will and choice. A number of such studies have raised considerable questions as to whether these theories are coherent and, accordingly, whether they illustrate anything concerning what people are entitled to believe, or to aver to know. Some notable scholars have, however, concluded that such theories are both coherent and threatening (Brian par. 24). This argumentative essay endeavors to compare and contrast Descartes’ and Hume's conceptions of the human will, focusing on moral implications of theories and/or logical coherence.

Descartes’ arguments in the Fourth Meditation, ‘Truth and falsity,’ starts with the Meditator contemplating over the scope he has already covered, establishing that all his confident understanding, and particularly the most certain understanding that God does exist, derives from an individual’s intellect, as opposed to the imagination or senses. Considering that he is aware of God's existence, a considerable deal can now ensue (Brian par. 24). Firstly, he is convinced that God cannot deceive him because the will to do so is an indication of malice or weakness, and His perfection will not allow such a malicious act. Secondly, if God really created him, He is, therefore, responsible for his opinion, and so his judgment ability must be flawless provided he uses it appropriately.

According to Meditator’s reasoning, this is all appropriate. He, however, wonders how is it possible that he is definitely mistaken, as it happens from time to time, if God has truly bequeathed him with flawless judgment. In his point of view, the Meditator finds God somewhere between being a complete, perfect, and Supreme Being, and nothingness (David 121). Meditator argues that he was created by an infinite and supreme God, and all that is created in him is flawless. He, however, attends to the reality that he was created to be only a restricted being. As such, therefore, the Meditator participates to some extent in the infinite being of God and partly in a void or in finite form (Brian par. 25). When his free will is wrong or, simply misleading, it is not as a result of some flawed ability created by God, but somewhat as a result of his lack of perfection, his finite being. According to Descartes’ point of view, everything created by God is faultless; although He has created the Meditator as a constrained being whose nothingness still leaves space for faults.

However, the Meditator remains discontented. He believes that if God is truly a faultless creator, then He should be able to create faultless beings. As a matter of fact, God is supposed to have willed it in a way that the Meditator would never make a mistake, and God constantly wills His creation the best (David 121).

In his conceptions of the human will, Hume considers the indispensable link toward section VIII: ‘Liberty and Necessity’. According to Hume, the debate and controversy surrounding free will is purely a matter of the disputants’ lack of appropriate definition of their terms (David 121). In actual fact, Hume observes that nearly all people would attend to the same judgment on this issue if only they were more wary in defining their terms.

Hume opens this discussion by evaluating what people consider necessity in physical or objective procedures. In his point of view, people are pertinent to assume that there are legal constraints that naturally determine the essential forces, cause of actions, and consequences that determine the overall body movements without exemption. Nevertheless, as Hume has observed, people ideas of essential relationship and causation are consequences of the observation of even juxtaposition between experiences and a definite determination of their minds (Louis 4). As such, people deduce the idea of indispensable association, but do not observe it openly in nature.

Secondly, Hume reflects on human nature along with the legal frameworks that govern human behavior. Correspondingly, Hume observes that throughout human history and across a diversity of cultures, human behavior remains reasonably constant. According to Hume, similar intentions give rise to a similar course of actions (Louis 5). What people consider ‘human nature’ comes from a definite promptness observed in human behavior across all sorts of situations.

If, therefore, certain physical phenomenon seems to run contrary to one’s expectations, then it will be unintelligent to conclude that the physical laws are not in operation, but instead, that some disregarded and opposing forces are also in operation that upset the overall predictions. Hume observes that it is possible to similarly explain people’s unpredicted sets of behavior (David 124). Instead of assuming that people are acting randomly, it is prudent to presume that there is some unobserved intention or mysterious character trait that forces them to act contrary to what is expected of them.


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Descartes versus Hume on Human Will
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descartes, hume, human, will
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Cosmas Wambua (Author), 2017, Descartes versus Hume on Human Will, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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