Free will and irreligion in Hume's treatise

Hume’s views on free will have been enormously influential and are widely regarded as representing “the best-known classical statement of what is now known as compatibilism”.1 There are a number of valuable studies that consider his contribution on this subject from a contemporary, critical perspective, but this will not be my particular concern in this paper.2 My primary interest, consistent with the specific aims and objectives of this volume, is to explain the way that Hume’s arguments in T, 2.3.1-2 relate to his fundamental intentions in the Treatise as a whole. Contrary to what is generally supposed, I will show that Hume’s arguments in these two sections are significantly concerned with problems of religion. More specifically, Hume’s necessitarian commitments, I argue, contain features that are systematically irreligious in character. These features of Hume’s views on this subject are indicative of his deeper and wider irreligious intentions throughout the Treatise.
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