Truth and Freedom
(Beyond Hume, Beyond Scepticism)
a Treatise on Causation and the Possibility of Free Will
A proposal towards the refutation of the problem of Reason,
composed of the problem of deduction and induction
and some remarks on causation as conditioned by both necessity and possibility.
Truth and Freedom is the English working title of a Dutch manuscript called Waarheid en vrijheid. It is being prepared for publication and translation into English. In preparation of its publication and its translation three papers are presented here, along with a brief outline of the manuscript itself. The papers cover some of the important issues being discussed in the manuscript. The manuscript and the papers as they can be found on this website are presented here for promotional purposes only. Work is still in progress.
Causation and the Possibility of Free Will
As its main topic the manuscript discusses the possibility of Free Will. Free Will can be understood either as a process or a mechanism that enables us to make rational decisions. There is however a marked and important difference between this ability and the freedom required for this ability. The aim of the manuscript is the 'more modest' attempt of showing that despite recent developments Free Will, whatever that might be, is possible.
This possibility, the existence of freedom must be seen as a fundamental condition. It is not unique to our nature, but belongs to the nature of all things. Things change, and as they do, the possibility of that change must be tied to the very nature of things. It must be tied to their nature, just as all regularities shows us that necessity is tied to the nature of change. We normally describe the relation between things in terms of a necessary connection between them. Regularities are taken as universal relations, which must hold in all cases, so that any occurrence of a cause should produce the effect associated with it. But necessity, as it turns out, is not the only condition required for causation. All situations and events are fully determined, yet things change, and for any change to occur, the existing state must be alterable. The necessity of change is not the only condition. There is another one, the possibility of change. There are therefore two conditions tied to the nature of things. It is conditioned by both necessity and possibility. But how can we substantiate that claim?
One of the most influential and original view on causality can be found in the philosophy of David Hume. His ideas may be outdated or replaced by more sophisticated views on causation, his philosophy contains many elements that are still very useful. If we want to get a clear idea of how things are connected, his view on the nature of things and the critical evaluation of his ideas can provides us, as it turns out, with a good starting point for our search.
However, if we want to use his ideas on causation as reference then we are immediately confronted with his scepticism as well. His discussion of causation is closely linked to or even intertwined with his scepticism towards Reason and the use of arguments. To get a clear view of causation, it seems that one has to deal with his scepticism as well. So the search for the possibility of Free Will begins not with a discussion of causation, but with discussing the original argument and Hume's scepticism and how this bears on the notion of causation. As it turns out, the discussion of this argument, will provide a general framework for dealing with the main question to be answered, Is Free Will Possible?
The manuscript consist of two parts. In the first part, which is called 'Beyond Hume, Beyond scepticism' Hume's famous argument is discussed. The second part is called 'truth and freedom'. Here the discussion starts with the preliminary work done by Hume. It contains an view on Human nature that is adopted by many philosophers. It will be argued that his problem is already present, long before he actually begins with its discussion. It seems that Hume's view on our nature and understanding already contain many of the elements that will lead him to his sceptical conclusion. We find ourselves in a position where, despite all our experiences, we are isolated from reality. Reality is not simply available for us, ready to be experienced directly. As we are isolated from reality, we ourselves must somehow reconstruct reality from scratch. So it is up to us to use experience and build a picture of reality. This means that somehow our constructions must be justified. To do so, we can only rely on internal principles. Reality is not simply available to us, but must be made available by us, and can therefore not be used in any justification.
Causation is the most important relation. Most of our arguments rest on that relation. And so, the nature of things, how they are connected will be reflected in our arguments and how we use them. Causality is as will be made clear conditioned by both necessity and possibility. It is this character that is reflected in our arguments, and consequently, our reasoning, is therefore also conditioned by both necessity and possibility. These conditions give us the possibility of Free Will.
Part I: The problem of Reason (or Beyond Hume, Beyond Scepticism)
problem of induction is normally attributed to Hume, who is supposed the
first to state the problem. However, recent developments within the debate on
the original argument has led to the suggestion that the problem of induction
is not an adequate description of the problem as it is described by David
Hume. If this is true, then we find ourselves in the remarkable situation where
we have a problem, the induction problem, that has withstood many attempts to overcome it, while at
the same time it does not describe the problem of which it is supposed to be
its equivalent. The problem of induction is a genuine problem, as inductive arguments
are invalid and therefore unreasonable, but it is a different problem from the one
being described in the
original argument. This suggests that we do not have one problem, but that we
in fact have two different en fundamental problems. But then the question is what is the problem as it
is described by Hume?
It is quite obvious that just as each of the problems on their own, the problem of Reason itself
cannot be solved either and with this we find ourselves in the
situation where we have arrived at an even bigger unsolvable and fundamental problem while at the same time the problem
is denied by the inferential practise. We rely heavily on the use of
arguments and we may not have any measure to weigh the success of their
use. The success of their use far outweighs the denial and any consequent
neglect of the use of arguments by the problem. So there is one question that
must be asked. Does it depict our inferential practise adequately? Adequately
enough to actually pose a threat to that practise and its achievements?
Part II: Causation and the possibility of Free Will
In the Treatise Hume mentions seven relations. Of these the
relation of cause and effect is the most important. It is the only relation that
can bring us beyond the immediately present impressions. But it is also
the only relation that cannot be known with absolute certainty, as the power
that connects cause and effect does not show itself in the visible qualities of
objects. Hume's ideas on causation has been and still is very influential. His
view can be called the singular view on causation, which states that a
cause is connected necessarily to its effect, such that when the cause is absent
the effect will be absent to, and when the cause appears, the effect will
follow. It is argued that this notion of causality, which can still be found in
many forms, leads to some absurdities.
Links - the papers
Links - manuscript 'Truth and Freedom'
- English summary
- Dutch Summary
- Chapters 3 t/m 9 of the book