30th November 2020

Speaking in general of freedom we include the term of free will, but this is very different from the term of freedom. The notion of freedom is larger than the notion of free will.

Libertarianism means having free will, freedom of indifference. Libertarianists usually are incompatibilists: freedom is not compatible with determinism.

1st December 2020

Determinism by Pierre Simon Laplace

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.

Laplace, Introduction to Essai philosophique sur la probabilité, 1814

If we could know everything and every detail about the universe, we could foresee its future.

Cartesian freedom

Axiom 1. Nothing exists concerning which one can’t ask ‘Because of what cause does it exist?’ This question can even be asked about God, not because he needs any cause in order to exist, but because the immensity of his nature is the cause or reason why he doesn’t need any cause in order to exist.

Second reply to the Second set of objections on the Meditations on first philosophy

Freedom in a Cartesian world: every body is determined by the laws of motion, yet, since the domain of the mind is separated from the bodily one, the mind is free.


Freedom belongs to the domain of the mind, not to the one of the bodies. Because of this, it belongs to the set of innate ideas, too.

Descartes is an incompatibilist, in a way. Determinism belongs to the domain of the mere inanimate substance only, while the mind is actually free, since it follows

It’s only because we possess free will that we can be praised or blamed, thus responsible for our actions. Responsibility is strictly connected with freedom.


Free will is just an illusion.

According to Daniel Wegner, in The illusion of freedom, Descartes and philosophers which sustain free will are not aware of neurological studies which actually prove that our decisions are the result of unconscious chemical processes in the brain.

Libet’s experiment


We became conscious of a decision only after our brain concludes it wants to do it. Dennet therefore denies we have free will.

Libet always refused to take a philosophical position.

+++ comparation to the ship

The experiment of will, according to Dennet’s point of view, +++.

A strict connection between [[ Physicalism ]] and the denial of free will. In the physical dimension, there’s no place for freedom, which is just an illusion.

Even if free will doesn’t exist, we can still be considered as responsible for our actions. This is a tricky point: if we aren’t actually free, how can we be considered responsible?

We can be considered responsible if there are causes for what we do, if not, we can’t be considered responsible of our actions.

Hume and Pinker state the opposite: we can be accounted for our actions only if we are +++

Freedom in Hume

The problem of liberty and necessity is discussed in the second treaty on human understanding. Hume supported compatibilism: every action can causally be explained, everything has a cause. Furthermore he points out that man has freedom of spontaneity.

Hume compares will to a passion: it belongs to the domain of passions.

+++ definition of will

The main point of the beginning of the third chapter

human actions, like material actions, are necessary.

Hume speaks of liberty as freedom of indifference.

There’s necessity within the material world, which is a constant union and inference.

We can see regularities within nature, and we can see regularity even in the human world. The same regularity we can find in nature, we may find it in culture. Human beings are different because different circumstances determine their lives. We may then find and establish laws for human nature as it is for physical nature. Ascribing necessity to nature and not to human beings would be absurd.

Freedom of indifference would disappear if we analyze the meaning of indifference and necessity. Strictly speaking, freedom of indifference to Hume doesn’t exist.

??? Hume is fundamental to the birth of philosophy of language

The true enemy of freedom is chance, not determinism:

According to Epicurus, +++ is the casual shift of atoms is what determines freedom.

2nd December 2020

Hume doesn’t only explain or propose a theory on something, he also tries to explain why we believe what we believe: he explains in particular, in this case, why do we commonly believe to have free will.

According to Hume, we believe in the existence of free will because we can’t distinguish freedom of indifference from freedom of spontaneity.

After we have perform’d any action; tho’ we confess we were influenc’d by particular views and motives; ’tis difficult for us to perswade ourselves we were govern’d by necessity, and that ’twas utterly impossible for us to have acted otherwise; the idea of necessity seeming to imply something of force, and violence, and constraint, of which we are not sensible. Few are capable of distinguishing betwixt the liberty of spontaneity, as it is call’d in the schools, and the liberty of indifference; betwixt that which is oppos’d to violence, and that which means a negation of necessity and causes.

We confound necessity and violence.

the feeling of freedom +++

Since there’s a causal connection among beings, we can make inference which, given the data we can gather, would be able even to predict the future; similarities with Laplace’s interpretation.

The wrong idea of freedom is influenced by religion, among the others. Since according to religion we must be free in order to be considered responsible for our actions.

It’s only because depend on some causes that we can be considered responsible for our actions

Hume conducts an analysis not only on the psychological essence of free will, but he has a more anthropological, cultural, point of view.

Hume questions the idea that the principle of cause and effect is a necessary logical principle: he criticizes the epistemological nature of the principle, not that we should avoid causality to understand the world. Hume clearly states that we have to use this instinct to survive.


Clarification of the language and terms we use to define things.

Freedom, in the sense Hume uses, is not opposite to necessity. Freedom needs causal bonds, we are causes (Kant).

Difference in internal and external causes +++ ~ min30

An absolute absence of causes corresponds to chance.

Two kinds of necessity:

  • logical necessity: you can’t imagine a triangle which has four sides

A lot of philosophers before me treated the principle of logical necessity as principle of cause and effect. In Hume’s time, this idea was widespread. Cause and effect has not the same logical certainty and meaning.

The world change because questions we use to understand it change. Mathematics can’t speak for the world, even if we use it to describe it

Isaiah Berlin



edit this page

The following is a graph containing all the notes and every topic in the website