•  9
    The Limits of Free Will: Replies to Bennett, Smith and Wallace (review)
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (1): 357-373. 2021.
    This is a contribution to a Book symposium on The Limits of Free Will: Selected Essays by Paul Russell. I provide replies to three critics of The Limits of Free Will. The first reply is to Robert Wallace and focuses on the question of whether there is a conflict between the core compatibilist and pessimist components of the "critical compatibilist" position that I have advanced. The second reply is to Angela Smith's discussion of the "narrow" interpretation of moral responsibility responsibilit…Read more
  •  122
    Bernard Williams is widely recognized as belonging among the greatest and most influential moral philosophers of the twentieth-century – and arguably the greatest British moral philosopher of the late twentieth-century. His various contributions over a period of nearly half a century changed the course of the subject and challenged many of its deepest assumptions and prejudices. There are, nevertheless, a number of respects in which the interpretation of his work is neither easy nor straightforw…Read more
  •  4
    Throughout much of the first half of the twentieth century, the free-will debate was largely concerned with the question of what kind of freedom was required for moral responsibility and whether the kind of freedom required was compatible with the thesis of determinism. This issue was itself addressed primarily with reference to the question of how freedom is related to alternative possibilities and what the relevant analysis of “could have done otherwise” comes to. The discussion of these topic…Read more
  •  1
    For well over a century the dominant narrative covering the major thinkers and themes of early modern British philosophy has been that of “British Empiricism”, within which the great triumvirate of Locke-Berkeley-Hume are taken to be the dominant figures. Although it is now common to question this schema as a way of analyzing and understanding the period in question, it continues to command considerable authority and acceptance. (One likely reason for this is that no credible or plausible altern…Read more
  •  1
    In "Freedom and Resentment" P.F. Strawson, famously, advances a strong form of naturalism that aims to discredit kcepticism about moral responsibility by way of approaching these issues through an account of our reactive attitudes. However, even those who follow Strawson's general strategy on this subject accept that his strong naturalist program needs to be substantially modified, if not rejected. One of the most influential and important efforts to revise and reconstruct the Strawsonian progra…Read more
  •  33
    Review of Michael McKenna, Conversation and Responsibility (review)
    Philosophical Review 126 (2): 285-95. 2017.
    Michael McKenna’s Conversation and Responsibility is an ambitious and impressive statement of a new theory of moral responsibility. McKenna’s approach builds upon the strategy advanced in P.F. Strawson’s enormously influential “Freedom and Resentment” (which was published in 1962). The account advanced aims to provide Strawson’s theory with the sort of detail that is required to fill significant gaps and respond to a wide range of criticisms and objections that have been directed against it. ..…Read more
  •  4
    This chapter outlines an alternative interpretation of Hume’s philosophy, one that aims, among other things, to explain some of the most perplexing puzzles concerning the relationship between Hume’s skepticism and his naturalism. The key to solving these puzzles, it is argued, rests with recognizing Hume’s fundamental irreligious aims and objectives, beginning with his first and greatest work, A Treatise of Human Nature. The irreligious interpretation not only reconfigures our understanding of t…Read more
  •  190
    In the third and final part of his A Theory of Determinism (TD) Ted Honderich addresses the fundamental question concerning “the consequences of determinism.” The critical question he aims to answer is what follows if determinism is true? This question is, of course, intimately bound up with the problem of free will and, in particular, with the question of whether or not the truth of determinism is compatible or incompatible with the sort of freedom required for moral responsibility. It is Honde…Read more
  •  32
    Hume's Anatomy of Virtue
    In Daniel C. Russell (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics, Cambridge University Press. pp. 92-123. 2013.
    In his Treatise of Human Nature Hume makes clear that it is his aim to make moral philosophy more scientific and properly grounded on experience and observation. The “experimental” approach to philosophy, Hume warns his readers, is “abstruse,” “abstract” and “speculative” in nature. It depends on careful and exact reasoning that foregoes the path of an “easy” philosophy, which relies on a more direct appeal to our passions and sentiments . Hume justifies this approach by way of an analogy concer…Read more
  •  147
    “Hume’s Lengthy Digression": Free Will in the Treatise
    In Donald Ainslie & Annemarie Butler (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Hume's Treatise, . pp. 231-251. 2015.
    David Hume’s views on the subject of free will are among the most influential contributions to this long-disputed topic. Throughout the twentieth century, and into this century, Hume has been widely regarded as having presented the classic defense of the compatibilist position, the view that freedom and responsibility are consistent with determinism. Most of Hume’s core arguments on this issue are found in the Sections entitled “Of liberty and necessity,” first presented in Book 2 of A Treatise …Read more
  •  203
    The immediate aim of this paper is to articulate the essential features of an alternative compatibilist position, one that is responsive to sources of resistance to the compatibilist program based on considerations of fate and luck. The approach taken relies on distinguishing carefully between issues of skepticism and pessimism as they arise in this context. A compatibilism that is properly responsive to concerns about fate and luck is committed to what I describe as free will pessimism, which i…Read more
  •  16
    The Limits of Free Will: Selected Essays (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2017.
    The Limits of Free Will presents influential articles by Paul Russell concerning free will and moral responsibility. The problems arising in this field of philosophy, which are deeply rooted in the history of the subject, are also intimately related to a wide range of other fields, such as law and criminology, moral psychology, theology, and, more recently, neuroscience. These articles were written and published over a period of three decades, although most have appeared in the past decade. Amon…Read more
  •  492
    Locke on Express and Tacit Consent
    Political Theory 14 (2): 291-306. 1986.
    THE SUBJECT MATTER of this essay is Locke's well-known discussion of consent in sections 116-122 of the Second Treatise of Government.' I will not be concerned to discuss the place of consent in Locke's political philosophy 2 My concerns are somewhat narrower than this. I will simply be concerned to show that in important respects several recent discussions of Locke's political philosophy have misrepresented Locke's views on the subject of express and tacit consent. At theheart of these misinter…Read more
  •  134
    Smith on Moral Sentiment and Moral Luck
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 16 (1). 1999.
    Smith's views on moral luck have attracted little attention in the relevant contemporary literature on this subject.* More surprising, perhaps, the material in the secondary literature directly concerned with Smith's moral philosophy is rather thin on this aspect of his thought. In this paper my particular concern is to provide an interpretation and critical assessment of Smith on moral luck. I begin with a description of the basic features of Smith's position; then I criticize two particularly …Read more
  •  147
    'The supremacy of God' does not belong in the Constitution
    The Globe and Mail, June 11, 1999 100. forthcoming.
    The Preamble to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms claims "Canada is grounded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God." This claim is hopelessly confused and it has no place in our constitution. This is true, moreover, whether you are a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Pantheist, an atheist, or someone who has never given one moment's thought to "the supremacy of God" -- much less "recognized" it
  •  19
    Skepticism and Natural Religion in Hume's Treatise
    Journal of the History of Ideas 49 (2): 247. 1988.
    My principal objective in this essay will be to show that the widely held view that Hume's Treatise' is not significantly or "directly" concerned with problems of religion is seriously mistaken.2 I shall approach this issue by way of an examination of a major skeptical theme which runs throughout the Treatise, namely, Hume's skepticism regarding the powers of demonstrative reason. In this paper I shall be especially concerned to bring to light the full significance of this skeptical theme by pla…Read more
  •  51
    A number of commentators on Smith's philosophy have observed that the relationship between his moral theory and his theological beliefs is "exceedingly difficult to unravel". The available evidence, as generally presented, suggests that although Smith was not entirely orthodox by contemporary standards, he has no obvious or significant irreligious commitments or orientation. Contrary to this view of things, I argue that behind the veneer of orthodoxy that covers Smith's discussion in The Theor…Read more
  •  14
    Epigram, pantheists, and freethought in Hume's treatise: A study in esoteric communication
    Journal of the History of Ideas 54 (4): 659-673. 1993.
    Hume's Treatise of Human Nature was published in the form of three separate books. The first two, "Of the Understanding" and "Of the Pas- sions," were published in London in January 1739 by John Noon. The third, "Of Morals," was published independently in London by Thomas Longman in November 1740.2 The title and subtitles on all three books are the same: A Treatise of Human Nature: Being An Attempt to introduce the experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects. On the title page of the fi…Read more
  •  119
    Hume's Legacy and the Idea of British Empiricism
    In Alan Bailey & Dan O'Brien (eds.), The Continuum Companion to Hume, Continuum. pp. 377. 2012.
    David Hume’s views on the subject of free will are among the most influential contributions to this long-disputed topic. Throughout the twentieth century, and into this century, Hume has been widely regarded as having presented the classic defense of the compatibilist position, the view that freedom and responsibility are consistent with determinism. Most of Hume’s core arguments on this issue are found in the sections entitled “Of liberty and necessity,” first presented in Book 2 of A Treatise …Read more
  •  150
    Compatibilist fatalism
    In A. van den Beld (ed.), Moral Responsibility and Ontology, Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 199--218. 2000.
    Compatibilists argue, famously, that it is a simple incompatibilist confusion to suppose that determinism implies fatalism. Incompatibilists argue, on the contrary, that determinism implies fatalism, and thus cannot be consistent with the necessary conditions of moral responsibility. Despite their differences, however, both parties are agreed on one important matter: the refutation of fatalism is essential to the success of the compatibilist strategy. In this paper I argue that compatibilism req…Read more
  •  49
    The New Hume Debate (review) (review)
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 41 (1): 132-134. 2003.
  •  211
    The Free Will Problem [Hobbes, Bramhall and Free Will]
    In Desmond M. Clarke & Catherine Wilson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Early Modern Europe, Oxford University Press. pp. 424-444. 2011.
    This article examines the free will problem as it arises within Thomas Hobbes' naturalistic science of morals in early modern Europe. It explains that during this period, the problem of moral and legal responsibility became acute as mechanical philosophy was extended to human psychology and as a result human choices were explained in terms of desires and preferences rather than being represented as acts of an autonomous faculty. It describes how Hobbes changed the face of moral philosophy, throu…Read more
  •  15
    Pessimists, pollyannas, and the new compatibilism
    In Robert H. Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, Oxford University Press. 2002.
    THE aim of this chapter is to offer a critical examination of some recent contributions to compatibilist literature on freedom and responsibility that aim to provide broadly reasons-responsive accounts of moral agency. Although the views of several authors will be considered, discussion will be organized primarily around Daniel Dennett's "Elbow Room" (1984), an important work in the evolution of the "new compatibilism."
  •  147
    “Butler’s ‘Future State’ and Hume’s ‘Guide of Life’”,
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 42 (4): 425-448. 2004.
    : In this paper I argue that Hume's famous discussion of probability and induction, as originally presented in the Treatise, is significantly motivated by irreligious objectives. A particular target of Hume's arguments is Joseph Butler's Analogy of Religion. In the Analogy Butler intends to persuade his readers of both the credibility and practical importance of the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments. The argument that he advances relies on probable reasoning and proceeds on t…Read more