Hume and the Metaphysics of Agency

Journal of the History of Philosophy 52 (1):87-112 (2014)
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I examine Hume’s ‘construal of the basic structure of human agency’ and his ‘analysis of human agency’ as they arise in his investigation of causal power. Hume’s construal holds both that volition is separable from action and that the causal mechanism of voluntary action is incomprehensible. Hume’s analysis argues, on the basis of these two claims, that we cannot draw the concept of causal power from human agency. Some commentators suggest that Hume’s construal of human agency is untenable, unduly skeptical, or uniquely entailed by the limits of empiricism. However, as I argue, these criticisms depend either on a misunderstanding of Hume’s analysis of human agency or on a neglect of the historical context of his view.

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Joshua M. Wood
University of California, Riverside

Citations of this work

The Active Powers of the Human Mind.Ruth Boeker - 2023 - In Aaron Garrett & James A. Harris (eds.), Scottish Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century, Volume II: Method, Metaphysics, Mind, Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 255–292.
Hume and the phenomenology of agency.Joshua M. Wood - 2014 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44 (3-4):496-517.
On effort and causal power: Maine de Biran’s critique of Hume revisited.Mark Sinclair - 2020 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 28 (5):903-922.

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References found in this work

An Inquiry Into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue.Francis Hutcheson - 1726 - New York: Garland. Edited by Wolfgang Leidhold.
Hume and thick connexions.Simon Blackburn - 1990 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50:237-250.
Hume and Thick Connexions.Simon Blackburn - 2001 - In Peter Millican (ed.), Reading Hume on Human Understanding: Essays on the First Enquiry. New York: Oxford University Press.
Force and Inertia in Seventeenth-Century Dynamics.Alan Gabbey - 1971 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 2 (1):1.

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