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date: 28 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines eighteenth-century British discussions of human freedom, which focused on the question of whether the will is a self-determining, or active power, or whether the will is determined, or necessitated, by motives. (Libertarians were proponents of the former position; necessitarians supported the latter position.) The chapter begins with a consideration of the libertarian position of Samuel Clarke, which was taken up by the later libertarians Richard Price and Thomas Reid. It considers two necessitarians: David Hartley and Joseph Priestley. Although David Hume was taken to be a necessitarian, both by his contemporaries and recent commentators, the chapter suggests that Hume challenged assumptions about the nature of the very problem of liberty and necessity shared by his contemporaries, libertarians and necessitarians alike, although this challenge remained unanswered, because ignored, in the eighteenth century.

Keywords: Clarke, Hume, freedom, Hartley, libertarian, liberty, necessitarian, necessity, Price, Priestley, Reid, will

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