The Will as feeling (impression of reflection).


Key idea:  Predictability depends on causal inference.

The example of the prisoner facing execution.

The example of laws founded on rewards and punishments.


The equivalence of natural necessity and moral necessity.


The main contrast:  Necessity vs. Non-Necessity (Chance):



Non-Necessity = Chance





Irrationality (madness)

Moral Evaluation

Liberty/Freedom of the Will

Rewards and Punishment




On Hume’s account, what is liberty (or freedom) of the will?


According to Hume, when we make a choice, why do we have the illusion that we could have acted otherwise?










Hume says that reason is a slave of the passions.  What he really means is that the understanding is a slave of the passions, because he includes both Knowledge based on Reason (relations of ideas) and probable belief based on perceptions and the imagination (matters of fact) among the slaves.


What Hume mean by this claim?


(1) The understanding alone cannot motivate action.  It requires impressions of reflection (e.g., a propensity toward pleasure and an aversion to pain) to produce action. 


(2) The understanding alone cannot block a passion or give one passion dominance over another.

Note that Hume gives no evidence for (2).  He just infers (2) from (1).


But he actually gives counterexamples to (2)—that is, examples of how the understanding can block a passion:

        (a) When a passion "is founded on the supposition of the existence of objects, which really do not exist."(T2.3.3.6) 

        (b) When we perceive "the insufficiency of any means" to our desired ends.(T




In both cases, "our passions yield to our reason [understanding] without any opposition."(T  If the passions yield to the understanding, then it seems that the understanding can block passions!


        Hume's official view is that "a passion must be accompany'd with some false judgment, in order to its being unreasonable; and even then 'tis not the passion properly speaking which is unreasonable, but the judgment."(T   

        Is this true? 


        Recall that Hume analyzed pride and humility into two properties, an object and a sensation.  The object is cognitive, so why isn't the passion irrational if one of its properties is?


        Implicitly, Hume seems to have changed his theory of the passions, so that only the sensation, not the object is identified with the passion.  But even if he makes this change, isn't it possible to describe irrational passions. 

Consider the example of fear of a garter snake. 












        Hume says:  "'Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg'd lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than the latter." (T  What does this mean?  Is it true?


        Consider the anti-Humean position that no passion or desire qualifies as a reason for action unless it is endorsed by reason (or the understanding). 

























What are the calm passions? 

How is it possible for a calm passion to prevail over a violent passion?


Which calm passions are sometimes mistaken for reason? 


What do we mean by "strength of mind"?  When we talk about "practical reason" what are we really talking about?


Calm and violent passions:  How does the story of Themistocles and Aristides illustrate the role of the imagination in the passions?