Deliberation and the presumption of open alternatives

Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (April):230-51 (1986)
Abstract
By deliberation we understand practical reasoning with an end in view of choosing some course of action. Integral to it is the agent's sense of alternative possibilities, that is, of two or more courses of action he presumes are open for him to undertake or not. Such acts may not actually be open in the sense that the deliberator would do them were he to so intend, but it is evident that he assumes each to be so. One deliberates only by taking it for granted that both performing and refraining from any of the acts under consideration are possible for one, and that which is to be selected is something entirely up to oneself. What is it for a course of action to be presumed as open, or for several courses of action to present themselves as a range of open alternatives? Answering these questions is essential for an understanding of deliberation and choice and, indeed, for the entire issue of free will and responsibility. According to one common view, a deliberator takes the considered options to be open only by assuming he is free to undertake any of them and, consequently, that whichever he does undertake is, as yet, a wholly undetermined matter. Built into the structure of deliberation, on this theory, is an indeterministic bias relative to which any deliberator with deterministic beliefs is either inconsistent or condemned to a fatalistic limbo. An unmistakable challenge is thereby posed: is there an alternative conception of the presuppositions underlying deliberation more congenial to a deterministic perspective yet adequate to the data? Convinced that there is, I develop a partial account of deliberation that, though highly similar to the aforementioned view, diverges at a critical juncture
Keywords Action  Choice  Deliberation  Metaphysics  Castaneda, H
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