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Summary Identification theories hold that free acts are actions caused by states of the agent with which she identifies. Identification may be cognitive: an agent may be said to identify with a state if she has the right beliefs (or lacks the wrong beliefs) with regard to it. Alternatively, identification may be a matter of wanting that the state in question produce action. Identification theories are usually compatibilist theories, motivated by the thought that what matters for freedom is not whether one's mental states are caused by processes over which the agent, ultimately, lacks control, but whether the agent is satisfied with the states which cause their actions. Identification theories have been extremely influential as accounts of autonomy, as well as freedom.
Key works The major landmark in this terrain is undoubtedly Frankfurt 1971. In this influential article, Frankfurt argued that a free action is caused by a first-order desire which the agent wants to be their will. In later work, Frankfurt has developed and modified this view to avoid objections, and in the process proposed somewhat different accounts of identification; see Frankfurt 1988Watson 1975 develops a rival account of what identification consists in which has also been influential: for him, we identify with actions if they are in accordance with our values. Watson 1987 rejects this account as a necessary condition of free will. Bratman 2007 has developed an account of agency that builds on the insights of identification theories: for him, it is the mesh between our actions and our plans and intentions that is important.
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  1. Nomy Arpaly & Timothy Schroeder (1999). Praise, Blame and the Whole Self. Philosophical Studies 93 (2):161-188.
    What is that makes an act subject to either praise or blame? The question has often been taken to depend entirely on the free will debate for an answer, since it is widely agreed that an agent’s act is subject to praise or blame only if it was freely willed, but moral theory, action theory, and moral psychology are at least equally relevant to it. In the last quarter-century, following the lead of Harry Frankfurt’s (1971) seminal article “Freedom of the (...)
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  2. Benjamin Bagley (forthcoming). Loving Someone in Particular. Ethics 125.
    People loved for their beauty and cheerfulness are not loved as irreplaceable, yet people loved for “what their souls are made of” are. Or so literary romance implies; leading philosophical accounts, however, deny the distinction, holding that reasons for love either do not exist or do not include the beloved’s distinguishing features. In this, I argue, they deny an essential species of love. To account for it while preserving the beloved’s irreplaceability, I defend a model of agency on which people (...)
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  3. Frithjof Bergmann (1977). On Being Free. University of Notre Dame Press.
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  4. Mark H. Bernstein (1983). Socialization and Autonomy. Mind 92 (January):120-123.
    A problem closely related to the perennial free will question is whether autonomy of persons can be reconciled with socialization. If this latter compatibilism can be established, It would have great bearing on the more general issue of freedom being reconcilable with determinism. In several recent articles robert young has tried to demonstrate the consistency of autonomy with socialization, But the author argues that he has failed to notice the depth and global nature of the socialization critic's position, And as (...)
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  5. Thomas Boysen (2004). Death of a Compatibilistic Intuition. SATS: Northern European Journal of Philosophy 5 (2):92-104.
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  6. Michael Bratman (1999). Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency. Cambridge University Press.
    This collection of essays by one of the most prominent and internationally respected philosophers of action theory is concerned with deepening our understanding of the notion of intention. In Bratman's view, when we settle on a plan for action we are committing ourselves to future conduct in ways that help support important forms of coordination and organization both within the life of the agent and interpersonally. These essays enrich that account of commitment involved in intending, and explore its implications for (...)
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  7. Michael E. Bratman (2003). A Desire of One's Own. Journal of Philosophy 100 (5):221-42.
    You can sometimes have and be moved by desires which you in some sense disown. The problem is whether we can make sense of these ideas of---as I will say---ownership and rejection of a desire, without appeal to a little person in the head who is looking on at the workings of her desires and giving the nod to some but not to others. Frankfurt's proposed solution to this problem, sketched in his 1971 article, has come to be called the (...)
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  8. Sarah Buss, Personal Autonomy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    To be autonomous is to be a law to oneself; autonomous agents are self-governing agents. Most of us want to be autonomous because we want to be accountable for what we do, and because it seems that if we are not the ones calling the shots, then we cannot be accountable. More importantly, perhaps, the value of autonomy is tied to the value of self-integration. We don't want to be alien to, or at war with, ourselves; and it seems that (...)
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  9. Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.) (2002). Contours of Agency: Essays for Harry Frankfurt. MIT Press.
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  10. Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.) (2002). Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes From Harry Frankfurt. MIT Press, Bradford Books.
    The original essays in this book address Harry Frankfurt's influential writing on personal identity, love, value, moral responsibility, and the freedom and ...
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  11. Will Cartwright (2006). Responsibility: A Puzzle, Two Theories, and Bad Background. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 13 (2):167-176.
    This essay seeks to illuminate both the theory and practice of holding people responsible. It investi- gates two leading accounts of responsibility, examining some of their implications and certain difficulties that they face. It tests the two accounts by applying them to an illustrative example, which demonstrates how the questions that are decisive in judging an agent’s responsibility are notably different on the two accounts. Although both views are variously illuminating, they each face difficulties and arguably depend on, or foster, (...)
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  12. Gerald B. Dworkin (1970). Acting Freely. Noûs 4 (November):367-83.
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  13. John Martin Fischer (ed.) (2005). Free Will: Critical Concepts in Philosophy. Routledge.
    Over the last three decades there has been a tremendous amount of philosophical work in the Anglo-American tradition on the cluster of topics pertaining to Free Will. Of course, this work has in many instances built on and extended the historical treatments of this great area of philosophical interest. The issues range from fairly abstract philosophical questions about the logic of arguments about human freedom (and its relationship to prior predictability of our choices and actions, or God's foreknowledge, or causal (...)
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  14. John Martin Fischer & Mark Ravizza (eds.) (1993). Perspectives on Moral Responsibility. Cornell University Press.
    Explores aspects of responsibility, including moral accountability; hierarchy, rationality, and the real self; and ethical responsibility and alternative ...
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  15. Harry Frankfurt (1987). Identification and Wholeheartedness. In Ferdinand David Schoeman (ed.), Responsiblity, Character, and the Emotions: New Essays in Moral Psychology. Cambridge University Press.
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  16. Harry G. Frankfurt (1971). Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person. Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
    It is my view that one essential difference between persons and other creatures is to be found in the structure of a person's will. Besides wanting and choosing and being moved to do this or that, men may also want to have (or not to have) certain desires and motives. They are capable of wanting to be different, in their preferences and purposes, from what they are. Many animals appear to have the capacity for what I shall call "first-order desires" (...)
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  17. Christopher Evan Franklin (forthcoming). If Anyone Should Be an Agent-Causalist, Then Everyone Should Be an Agent-Causalist. Mind.
    Nearly all defenses of the agent-causal theory of free will portray the theory as a distinctively libertarian one—a theory that only libertarians have reason to accept. According to what I call ‘the standard argument for the agent-causal theory of free will’, the reason to embrace agent-causal libertarianism is that libertarians can solve the problem of enhanced control only if they furnish agents with the agent-causal power. In this way it is assumed that there is only reason to accept the agent-causal (...)
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  18. Christopher Evan Franklin (2014). Event-Causal Libertarianism, Functional Reduction, and the Disappearing Agent Argument. Philosophical Studies 170 (3):413-432.
    Event-causal libertarians maintain that an agent’s freely bringing about a choice is reducible to states and events involving him bringing about the choice. Agent-causal libertarians demur, arguing that free will requires that the agent be irreducibly causally involved. Derk Pereboom and Meghan Griffith have defended agent-causal libertarianism on this score, arguing that since on event-causal libertarianism an agent’s contribution to his choice is exhausted by the causal role of states and events involving him, and since these states and events leave (...)
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  19. Jason Gray (2012). Dueling Interveners: A Challenge to Frankfurt's Conception of Free Will and Acting Freely. Thought 1 (1):56-61.
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  20. P. S. Greenspan (1999). Impulse and Self-Reflection: Frankfurtian Responsibility Versus Free Will. [REVIEW] Journal of Ethics 3 (4):325-341.
    Harry Frankfurt''s early work makes an important distinction between moral responsibility and free will. Frankfurt begins by focusing on the notion of responsibility, as supplying counterexamples to the principle of alternative possibilities; he then turns to an apparently independent account of free will, in terms of his well-known hierarchy of desires. But the two notions seem to reestablish contact in Frankfurt''s later discussion of issues and cases. The present article sets up a putative Frankfurtian account of moral responsibility that involves (...)
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  21. Christopher S. Hill (1984). Watsonian Freedom and the Freedom of the Will. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 (September):294-98.
  22. Jasper Hopkins, Freedom of the Will : Parallels Between Frankfurt and Augustine.
    At first glance it seems strange to compare the views of two philosophers from such different contexts as are Harry G. Frankfurt1 and Aurelius Augustinus. After all, Frankfurt makes virtually no use of Augustine, virtually no mention of his philosophical doctrines—whether on free will or anything else.2 And yet, the two have more to do with each other than initially meets the eye. For in their own ways both of them sketch a respective theory of freedom that is similarly insightful; (...)
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  23. Waheed Hussain (2010). Autonomy, Frankfurt, and the Nature of Reflective Endorsement. Journal of Value Inquiry 44 (1):61-79.
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  24. Matt King & Peter Carruthers (2012). Moral Responsibility and Consciousness. Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (2):200-228.
    Our aim in this paper is to raise a question about the relationship between theories of responsibility, on the one hand, and a commitment to conscious attitudes, on the other. Our question has rarely been raised previously. Among those who believe in the reality of human freedom, compatibilists have traditionally devoted their energies to providing an account that can avoid any commitment to the falsity of determinism while successfully accommodating a range of intuitive examples. Libertarians, in contrast, have aimed to (...)
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  25. Asger Kirkeby-Hinrup (2014). How to Get Free Will From Positive Reinforcement. SATS 15 (1):20-38.
    I will start by noting that Harry Frankfurt’s concept of wholeheartedness is in conflict with the intuition that free will should be efficacious in general rather than pertain only to a small subset of decisions. To replace wholeheartedness I introduce a heuristic account for deliberation and decisions. I will show that introspective activity can lead to the individual having two types of “introspective revelations”. By the onset of the introspective revelations, a self-perpetuating loop is initiated. The loop consists of two (...)
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  26. Christine M. Korsgaard (2009). Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity. Oxford University Press.
    Agency and identity -- Necessitation -- Acts and actions -- Aristotle and Kant -- Agency and practical identity -- The metaphysics of normativity -- Constitutive standards -- The constitution of life -- In defense of teleology -- The paradox of self-constitution -- Formal and substantive principles of reason -- Formal versus substantive -- Testing versus weighing -- Maximizing and prudence -- Practical reason and the unity of the will -- The empiricist account of normativity -- The rationalist account of normativity (...)
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  27. Mark Leon (2001). The Willing Addict: Actor or (Helpless) Bystander? Philosophia 28 (1-4):437-443.
  28. Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen (2003). Identification and Responsibility. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 6 (4):349-376.
    Real-self accounts of moral responsibility distinguish between various types of motivational elements. They claim that an agent is responsible for acts suitably related to elements that constitute the agent's real self. While such accounts have certain advantages from a compatibilist perspective, they are problematic in various ways. First, in it, authority and authenticity conceptions of the real self are often inadequately distinguished. Both of these conceptions inform discourse on identification, but only the former is relevant to moral responsibility. Second, authority (...)
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  29. Dennis Loughrey (1998). Second-Order Desire Accounts of Autonomy. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 6 (2):211 – 229.
    The autonomous person is one who has, in some sense, mastery over their desires. The prevailing way to understand such personal autonomy is in terms of a hierarchy of desires. For Harry Frankfurt, persons not only have first-order desires, but possess the additional capacity to form second-order desires. Second-order desires are formed through reflection on first-order desires and are thus expressive of the rational capacity which is characteristic of persons. Frankfurt's account of freedom of the will is founded on his (...)
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  30. Kevin Magill (1997). Freedom and Experience: Self-Determination Without Illusions. St. Martin's Press/Palgrave Macmillan.
    Most of us take it for granted that we are free agents: that we can sometimes act so as to shape our own lives and those of others, that we have choices about how to do so and that we are responsible for what we do. But are we really justified in believing this? For centuries philosophers have argued about whether free will and moral responsibility are compatible with determinism or natural causation, and they seem no closer to agreeing about (...)
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  31. Patricia Marino (2011). Ambivalence, Valuational Inconsistency, and the Divided Self. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (1):41-71.
    Is there anything irrational, or self-undermining, about having "inconsistent" attitudes of caring or valuing? In this paper, I argue that, contra suggestions of Harry Frankfurt and Charles Taylor, the answer is "No." Here I focus on "valuations," which are endorsed desires or attitudes. The proper characterization of what I call "valuational inconsistency" I claim, involves not logical form (valuing A and not-A), but rather the co-possibility of what is valued; valuations are inconsistent when there is no possible world in which (...)
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  32. Christian Miller (2007). The Policy-Based Approach to Identification. Philosophical Psychology 20 (1):105 – 125.
    In a number of recent papers, Michael Bratman has defended a policy-based theory of identification which represents the most sophisticated and compelling development of a broadly hierarchical approach to the problems about identification which Harry Frankfurt drew our attention to over thirty years ago. Here I first summarize the bare essentials of Bratman's view, and then raise doubts about both its necessity and sufficiency. Finally I consider his objections to rival value-based models, and find those objections to be less compelling (...)
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  33. Christian Miller (2004). Agency and Moral Realism. Dissertation, University of Notre Dame
    Much of the literature in contemporary analytic metaethics has grown rather stale – the range of possible positions seems to have been exhaustively delineated, and most of the important arguments on all sides have been clearly articulated and evaluated. In order to advance discussion in this area, I examine more fundamental issues about the nature of agency. In my view, the heart of what it is to exhibit intentional agency in the world is to identify with the relevant components of (...)
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  34. Emer O'Hagan (2001). Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency Michael Bratman Cambridge Studies in Philosophy New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999, Xiii + 288 Pp., $59.95, $18.95 Paper. [REVIEW] Dialogue 40 (02):393-.
  35. Wlodek Rabinowicz & Christian List, Two Intuitions About Free Will: Alternative Possibilities and Endorsement.
    An agent’s action counts as free only if the action is endorsed by the agent in an appropriate way, as opposed to having been merely indeterministically picked from some set of alternative possibilities, for instance by randomization or some contingency outside the agent’s control.
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  36. Constantine Sandis & Timothy O'Connor (eds.) (2010). A Companion to the Philosophy of Action. Blackwell.
  37. Edward T. Sankowski (1980). Freedom, Determinism and Character. Mind 89 (January):106-113.
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  38. Thomas M. Scanlon (2002). Reasons and Passions. In Sarah Buss & Lee Overton (eds.), Contours of Agency: Essays for Harry Frankfurt. MIT Press.
    This sense of attributability, or internality, is the quarry in many of Frankfurt's articles, and it has proved to be an elusive one. In this paper I want to explore, in a tentative fashion, the question of why we should be interested in finding this quarry. It seems to me that there are at least two quite distinct kinds of reason for this concern, and that when they are distinguished the problem may look less difficult than it has seemed.
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  39. Hans Bernhard Schmid (2011). The Sense of Ability and the Phenomenology of Action. In Anita Konzelmann & Hans Bernhard Schmid (eds.), Self-Evaluation. Affective and Social Grounds of Intentionality. Springer. 215-236.
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  40. Ferdinand David Schoeman (ed.) (1987). Responsibility, Character, and the Emotions: New Essays in Moral Psychology. Cambridge University Press.
    This volume of original essays addresses a range of issues concerning the responsibility individuals have for their actions and for their characters. Among the central questions considered are: what scope is there for regarding a person as responsible for his character given genetic and environmental factors; does an account of responsiblity provide a legitimate basis for the retributive emotions; are we ever justified in feeling guilty for occurrences over which we have no control; does responsibility for the consequences of our (...)
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  41. François Schroeter (2004). Endorsement and Autonomous Agency. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (3):633 - 659.
    We take self-governance or autonomy to be a central feature of human agency: we believe that our actions normally occur under our guidance and at our command. A common criticism of the standard theory of action is that it leaves the agent out of his actions and thus mischaracterizes our autonomy. According to proponents of the endorsement model of autonomy, such as Harry Frankfurt and David Velleman, the standard theory simply needs to be supplemented with the agent's actual endorsement of (...)
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  42. Krister Segerberg (1983). Could Have but Did Not. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 64 (July):230-241.
  43. David Shatz (1985). Free Will and the Structure of Motivation. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 10 (1):451-82.
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  44. David W. Shoemaker (2003). Caring, Identification, and Agency. Ethics 114 (1):88-118.
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  45. Michael A. Slote (1980). Understanding Free Will. Journal of Philosophy 77 (March):136-51.
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  46. Eleonore Stump (2002). Control and Causal Determinism. In S. Buss & L. Overton (eds.), Contours of Agency: Essays on Themes From Harry Frankfurt. MIT Press.
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  47. Eleonore Stump (1996). Persons, Identification, and Freedom. Philosophical Topics 24:183-214.
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  48. Eleonore Stump (1988). Sanctification, Hardening of the Heart, and Frankfurt's Concept of Free Will. Journal of Philosophy 85 (8):395-420.
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  49. J. S. Swindell Blumenthal-Barby (2010). Harry G. Frankfurt (Author), Christine Korsgaard (Commentary), Michael Bratman (Commentary), Meir Dan-Cohen (Commentary), Debra Satz (Editor), Taking Ourselves Seriously and Getting It Right. [REVIEW] Journal of Value Inquiry 44 (1):117-121.
    Taking Ourselves Seriously and Getting It Right is written in a manner that is accessible to all. Frankfurt’s arguments are, as usual, clear and persuasive. Korsgaard’s, Bratman’s, and Dan-Cohen’s comments are thought provoking. There are, however, two main areas in which Frankfurt’s arguments need clarification (the notion of wholehearted identification, and the concept of ambivalence), and there are misunderstandings of Frankfurt at work in Korsgaard’s (relationship between the self and the will, and concept of the will for Frankfurt) and Bratman’s (...)
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  50. Irving Thalberg (1978). Hierarchical Analyses of Unfree Action. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 8 (2):211 - 226.
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