Kristin M. Mickelson University of Minnesota, Morris
Areas of specialization
Areas of interest
My research focuses on metaphysical issues related to free will--including mental causation, personal identity, and natural laws. I also work on the logic & modal semantics used to formalize standard arguments for free will. In my view, the limits of classically-based logics have led philosophers to conflate substantively different arguments and views. By introducing a key distinction between explanatory and non-explanatory free-will views along with a logic that can handle entailment claims between these views, I clarify the overall dialectic of the free-will debate. The end results? Every argument for the positive, explanatory view that deterministic laws undermine free will depends on a best-explanation argument. This means, for example, that standard deductive versions of the Consequence Argument have a substantively weaker (negative, non-explanatory) conclusion than is commonly supposed. Once our attention turns to best-explanation arguments, it seems that proponents of the view that deterministic laws pose a threat to free will carry the burden of showing that constitutive luck is NOT sufficient to undermine free will. But how can this burden be met without showing that free will is possible in universes at which determinism is false--that is, without defending a broadly libertarian view of free will? Those who reject libertarianism, I argue, should accept that the fundamental threat to free will is constitutive luck, which has nothing to do with the diachronic evolution of the universe. In short, once the logical structures of standard arguments for incompatibilism are clear, it seems that these arguments are best understood as arguments *for* free-will impossibilism and *against* the view that deterministic laws undermine free will.