Two Intuitions about Free Will: Alternative Possibilities and Intentional Endorsement

Philosophical Perspectives 28 (1):155-172 (2014)
Free will is widely thought to require (i) the possibility of acting otherwise and (ii) the intentional endorsement of one’s actions (“indeterministic picking is not enough”). According to (i), a necessary condition for free will is agential-level indeterminism: at some points in time, an agent’s prior history admits more than one possible continuation. According to (ii), however, a free action must be intentionally endorsed, and indeterminism may threaten freedom: if several alternative actions could each have been actualized, then none of them is necessitated by the agent’s prior history, and the actual action seems nothing more than the result of indeterministic picking. We argue that this tension is only apparent. We distinguish between actions an agent can possibly do and actions he or she can do with endorsement. One can consistently say that someone who makes a choice has several alternative possibilities, and yet that, far from merely indeterministically picking an action, the agent chooses one he or she endorses. An implication is that although free will can consistently require (i) and (ii), it cannot generally require the possibility of acting otherwise with endorsement.
Keywords Free will  intentionality  Determinism  Indeterminism  Rationality  Endorsement  Choice  Alternative possibilities
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DOI 10.1111/phpe.12043
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