Morality an embodiment of free will

By David Ogbonna, Reporter/ Columnist

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

I woke up this cold winter morning being love week (February 2015) reminiscing on some of the great works of David Hume, I think of Hume as a calculated man so I decided to recall some of his great works.

Hume is a Scottish philosopher born in 1711 to a reasonably wealthy family from Berwick shire Scotland, close to Edinburgh. He was religiously Calvinist and politically of the Whig party (whiggish). Growing up he diligently attended the Church of Scotland, which his uncle pastored. He was schooled by his widowed mother until he left for the University of Edinburgh at the age of eleven. According to his letters Hume took religion seriously as a young scholar and followed closely a list of moral guidelines taken from “The Whole Duty of Man”, a well-known Calvinistic devotional. Upon leaving the University of Edinburgh approximately at the age of fifteen to pursue his education he was encouraged to give a career in law some thought, but his passion abruptly turned to philosophy. Shortly after leaving the University of Edinburgh, he spent years of private study raising serious questions concerning religion, as detailed in his letters (Fieser).

In spite of the fact that his manuscript was destroyed, Hume did a great job in his Treatise and Enquiry, following the survival of his study notes, as well as Philosophy of Religion. In the philosophy of religion Hume skillfully demarcated philosophy from religion as well as money driven psychology. In the Treatise he covered a wide range of philosophical issues ranging from space, time, causality, external objects, the passions, free will, and morality. James Fieser had made a few contributions; that Hume argues that our proper notions of space are confined to our visual and tactile experiences of the three-dimensional world, and we err if we think of space more abstractly and independently of those visual and tactile experiences, Fieser said Hume also equates time to space (Fieser).

This topic had me doing broad reading while drinking green tea to stay warm as my phone buzzed endlessly for activities while my eyes captured some of Hume’s profound ideas I have been searching for all semester long: “all actions of the will have particular causes.” He went further to say “our actions have a constant union with our motives, tempers, and circumstances”; he drove his point home or say ‘turned me up’ (as some will say in their modern day vague language) when he defined liberty as “a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will”(Fieser). Now this is where my idea comes in, in between the power of acting and not acting according to the determinations of the will lays moral responsibility – this is the missing link in the argument for and against free will. I believe the day the world is able to fit in this missing link of moral responsibility into ‘almighty free will’ then we can go on with it, else, we should deter from even talking about it; especially considering the number of nuclear weapon talks that have been going on and the fact that someone lacked the moral responsibility to even produce the patterns in the first place; let alone selling it as a product terrifies me. Fieser of IEP detailed or tipped us that, “In moral theory, against the common view that God plays an important role in the creation and reinforcement of moral values, he(David Hume) offered one of the first purely secular moral theories, which grounded morality in the pleasing and useful consequences that result from our actions.” I believe we should take note of the word “useful” which can be interchanged for serviceable – truth be told, are our modern day actions quite serviceable beyond lip-service? Just a simple thought provoking question as we celebrate, enjoy, and spend time with our significant other and loved ones this love week…. Happy Valentine’s Day in advance!










Bibliographies/Further readings

Greig, J.Y.T. Letters of David Hume (1932), two volumes.

This is the best collection of Hume’s letters (along with the supplementary volume by Klibansky below).

Greig, J.Y.T.; Beynon, Harold, eds. “Calendar of Hume MSS. in the possession of the Royal Society,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1931–1932, Vol. 52, pp. 1–138. This is a detailed list of the Hume manuscripts with a contents summary of each item, and has been published separately in book.

“The Hume Literature,” Hume Studies, 1977-present.

Each year Hume Studies publishes an annual bibliographical update; these bibliographies exclude articles that appear in Hume Studies itself.

“An Index of Hume Studies: 1975-1993.” Hume Studies 19.2 (1993).

This is a bibliographical index of articles that have appeared in Hume Studies since the journal’s inception until 1993.

Fieser, James. A Bibliography of Hume’s Writings and Early Responses (2005).

This is a bibliography of Hume’s writings and eighteenth and nineteenth-century responses. It is freely available on the internet.



Work Cited:

Fieser, James. “David Hume.” Internet Encyclopia of Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <>.

Moriss, William E., and Charlotte R. Brown. “David Hume.” Stanford Encyclopia of Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.





Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Leave a Comment

1. Relate your comment to the Outlook content or what other commenters have written. 2. Comments may not contain personal attacks, racism, sexism, or hatred; may not use gratuitous profanity. 3. Comments may not contain HTML.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.