THE PRETTY FREEDOM
OF THOMAS HOBBES THAT GOES WITH NECESSITY
-- The Determinism and Freedom Philosophy Website --
In the selection Thomas Hobbes: Causation Itself, Determinism, and Their Compatibility with Freedom, the great philosopher of the 17th Century gives what may be the first main statement of the doctrine of Compatibilism. He did not lack an adversary -- the doughty Bishop Bramhall of Derry. In the excerpt below is the substance of Bramhall's reply to Hobbes, reprinted in Hobbes's own The Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity and Chance. Bramhall uses an old label of the Middle Ages, 'spontaneity', for a freedom that may also be labelled as consisting in 'voluntary' choice or action. This is exactly the freedom or liberty that Hobbes defends -- the sort that is compatible with necessity or determinism. According to Bramhall, true liberty, or just liberty properly speaking, is a lot better. This 'elective power of the rational will' is the only thing worth considering. The Bishop's paragraphing etc. have been brought a little up to date. 'T.H.' is of course Thomas Hobbes. If you would like to hear about a really up to date Incompatibilist in the tradition of the Bishop turn to Mind the Guff -- John Searle's Thinking on Conciousness and Freedom Examined.
...it behoves us to know the difference between these three: necessity, spontaneity, and liberty.
Necessity and spontaneity may sometimes meet together; so may spontaneity and liberty, but real necessity and true liberty can never meet together. Some things are necessary but not voluntary or spontaneous; some things are both necessary and voluntary; some things are voluntary and not free; some things are both voluntary and free; but those things which are truly necessary can never be free, and those things which are truly free can never be necessary.
Necessity consists in an antecedent determination to one; spontaneity consists in a conformity of the appetite, either intellectual or sensitive, to the object; true liberty consists in the elective power of the rational will; that which is determined without my concurrence, may nevertheless agree well enotgh with my fancy or desires, and obtain my subsequent consent; but that whicb is determined without my concurrence or consent, cannot be the object of my election. I may like that which is inevitably imposed upon me by another, but if it be inevitably imposed upon me by extrinsical causes, it is both folly for me to deliberate, and impossible for me to choose, whether I shall undergo it or not.
Reason is the root, the fountain, the original of true liberty, which judgeth and representeth to the will whether this or that be convenient, whether this or that be more convenient.
Judge then what a pretty kind of liberty it is which is maintained by T.H., such a liberty as is in little children before they have the use of reason, before they can consult or deliberate of any thing. Is not this a childish liberty; and such a liberty as is in brute beasts, as bees and spiders, which do not learn their faculties as we do our trades, by experience and consideration? This is a brutish liberty, such a liberty as a bird hath to fly when her wings are clipped, or to use his own comparison, such a liberty as a lame man, who bath lost the use of his limbs, hath to walk.
Is not this a ridiculous liberty? Lastly, (which is worse than all these), such a liberty as a river hath to descend down the channel. What! Will he ascribe liberty to inanimate creatures also, which have neither reason, nor spontaneity, nor so much as sensitive appetite? Such is T.H.'s liberty.
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