David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Robert H. Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will. Oxford University Press 127--157 (2002)
The past 25 years have witnessed a vigorous discussion of an argument directed against the compatibilist approach to free will and responsibility. This reasoning, variously called the “consequence argument,” the “incompatibility argument,” and the “unavoidability argument,” may be expressed informally as follows: If determinism is true then whatever happens is a consequence of past events and laws over which we have no control and which we are unable to prevent. But whatever is a consequence of what’s beyond our control is not itself under our control. Therefore, if determinism is true then nothing that happens is under our control, including our own actions and thoughts. Instead, everything we do and think, everything that happens to us and within us, is akin to the vibration of a piano string upon being struck, with the past as pianist, and could not be otherwise than it is. While a number of philosophers take this reasoning to crush the prospects of compatibilism, others challenge its assumption that unavoidability “transfers” from sufficient condition to necessary condition or from cause to effect. The ensuing debate has occasionally been vitriolic— Hume once remarked that the free will issue is “the most contentious question of metaphysics, the most contentious science”—yet undeniably fruitful in generating more detailed examinations of ability and practical freedom. Whether we incline towards compatibilism or 2 incompatibilism, this latter development is likely to be of lasting value. As a compatibilist, I believe that the consequence argument fails to prove incompatibilism, and here I will develop criticisms of it that, for the most part, are already in the existing literature. Although a short essay cannot provide the theoretical account of practical freedom needed to underpin and justify this compatibilist critique, it will clarify the tasks that lie ahead
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Neil Levy & Michael McKenna (2009). Recent Work on Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Philosophy Compass 4 (1):96-133.
Alicia Finch (2013). On Behalf of the Consequence Argument: Time, Modality, and the Nature of Free Action. Philosophical Studies 163 (1):151-170.
Stefaan E. Cuypers (2006). The Trouble with Externalist Compatibilist Autonomy. Philosophical Studies 129 (2):171-196.
Mark Balaguer (2009). The Metaphysical Irrelevance of the Compatibilism Debate (and, More Generally, of Conceptual Analysis). Southern Journal of Philosophy 47 (1):1-24.
Michael McKenna (2010). Whose Argumentative Burden, Which Incompatibilist Arguments?—Getting the Dialectic Right. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (3):429-443.
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