Modal principles in the metaphysics of free will

Philosophical Perspectives 10:419-45 (1996)
Discussions of free will have frequently centered on principles concerning ability, control, unavoidability and other practical modalities. Some assert the closure of the latter over various propositional operations and relations, for example, that the consequences of what is beyond one's control are themselves beyond one's control.1 This principle has been featured in the unavoidability argument for incompatibilism: if everything we do is determined by factors which are not under our control, then, by the principle, we are unable to act and choose other than we actually did. A second family of principles concerns the fixity of the past and the laws of nature. If no one is able to alter the past or violate the laws it seems but a small step to conclude that no one can do anything such that if they did it then the past would be altered or the laws violated. Accordingly, if an agent's performing an act is necessitated by the past and laws, then the agent is unable to refrain from that act at that time. Generalizing, determinism precludes anyone from doing anything other than what he or she did.2
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