This essay will canvass recent philosophical discussion of accounts of human (free) agency that deploy a notion of agent causation . Historically, many accounts have only hinted at the nature of agent causation by way of contrast with the causality exhibited by impersonal physical systems. Likewise, the numerous criticisms of agent causal theories have tended to be highly general, often amounting to no more that the bare assertion that the idea of agent causation is obscure or mysterious. But in the (...) past decade, detailed accounts of agent causation have been offered (chiefly by Randolph Clarke and Timothy O’Connor), and they have occasioned more specific objections in turn. These recent accounts and objections to them will be my primary focus in what follows. But first I will identify two distinct motivations that have been advanced for adopting an agent causal approach to human agency and the ontological and metaphysical commitments common to any version of this approach. (shrink)
We present an original emergent individuals view of human persons, on which persons are substantial biological unities that exemplify metaphysically emergent mental states. We argue that this view allows for a coherent model of identity-preserving resurrection from the dead consistent with orthodox Christian doctrine, one that improves upon alternatives accounts recently proposed by a number of authors. Our model is a variant of the “falling elevator” model advanced by Dean Zimmerman that, unlike Zimmerman’s, does not require a closest continuer account (...) of personal identity. We end by raising some remaining theological concerns. (shrink)
A Companion to the Philosophy of Action offers a comprehensive overview of the issues and problems central to the philosophy of action. -/- * The first volume to survey the entire field of philosophy of action (the central issues and processes relating to human actions) * Brings together specially commissioned chapters from international experts * Discusses a range of ideas and doctrines, including rationality, free will and determinism, virtuous action, criminal responsibility, Attribution Theory, and rational agency in evolutionary perspective * (...) Individual chapters also cover prominent historic figures from Plato to Ricoeur * Can be approached as a complete narrative, but also serves as a work of reference * Offers rich insights into an area of philosophical thought that has attracted thinkers since the time of the ancient Greeks. (shrink)
I propose a theory of freedom of choice on which it is a variable quality of individual conscious choices that has several dimensions that admit of degrees, even though - as many theorists have traditionally supposed - it also has as a necessary condition the possession of a capacity that is all or nothing. I argue that the proposed account better fits the phenomenology of ostensibly free actions, as well as empirical findings in the human sciences.
An expansive, yet succinct, analysis of the Philosophy of Religion --from metaphysics through theology. Organized into two sections, the text first examines truths concerning what is possible and what is necessary. These chapters lay the foundation for the book’s second part -- the search for a metaphysical framework that permits the possibility of an ultimate explanation that is correct and complete.
A central argument of Alfred Mele's Free Will and Luck (2006) is that the problem of luck poses essentially the same problem for all the main indeterministic accounts of free will. Consequently, there is no advantage is certain theories (notably, agent-causal theories) in their capacity to respond to the problem of luck. I argue that Mele has not made a persuasive case for these claims.
The church-going philosopher who settles in for an extended reading of Dan Dennett’s new book will find himself in a familiar circumstance. What one confronts is a lot more like an extended sermon than it is a typical philosophical treatise. And, whatever one’s Sunday morning habits, one can’t help but admire the preaching skills artfully displayed. The delivery is powerful and assured; the argument is streamlined, peppered with evocative and delightful illustrations that will be recalled long after the particular points (...) have faded from memory; dangerous errors are clearly identified, and while we are urged to pity rather than to hate their purveyors, we are also repeatedly warned about the fateful consequences of their mistakes; tropes are repeated to growing effect; finally, the tone is one of earnest exhortation, relieved intermittently with some well-chosen humor, while it lays the necessary foundations for several closing points of practical application. (shrink)
“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. Which sort is the free will sort is what all the fuss is about. (And what a fuss it has been: philosophers have debated this question for over two millenia, and just about every major philosopher has had something to say about it.) Most philosophers suppose that the concept of free will is very (...) closely connected to the concept of moral responsibility. Acting with free will, on such views, is just to satisfy the metaphysical requirement on being responsible for one's action. (Clearly, there will also be epistemic conditions on responsibility as well, such as being aware—or failing that, being culpably unaware—of relevant alternatives to one's action and of the alternatives' moral significance.) But the significance of free will is not exhausted by its connection to moral responsibility. Free will also appears to be a condition on desert for one's accomplishments (why sustained effort and creative work are praiseworthy); on the autonomy and dignity of persons; and on the value we accord to love and friendship. (See Kane 1996, 81ff. and Clarke 2003, Ch.1.). (shrink)
Consider the idea of God in classical philosophical theology. God is a personal being perfect in every way: absolutely independent of everything, such that nothing exists apart from God's willing it to be so; unlimited in power and knowledge; perfectly blissful, lacking in nothing needed or desired; morally perfect. If such a being were to create, on what basis would He choose? Let us assume (as perfect being theologians generally do) that there is an objective, degreed property of intrinsic goodness, (...) such that every possible object is intrinsically good to some degree. We need not assume that this property is 'well ordered' in the sense that every object is comparable to every other, only that it is 'partially ordered' in the sense that every object belongs to one or another well ordered set of objects and has less goodness than God Himself. We thus replace the image of a linear 'great chain of being' with that of a branching structure whose branches reconnect only at their limit, which is God. And let us further suppose that whole systems of objects and their total histories -- possible worlds -- are likewise partially ordered by their intrinsic goodness. Now, if one or more of these creative options on each of the branches are of maximal overall value, is it inevitable that He would choose one of those? It seems passing strange that God would opt for less than the best when creating the best involves no cost at all. Yet supposing the choice of the best is inevitable for a perfect Creator seems at odds with the common assumption that God is perfectly free in choosing what He will. Perhaps, though, there is no set of one or more best creative choices. For every option, there is a better, with no finite upper bound on the ranked series. Here, matters are more puzzling. It appears that no matter which option God might choose, He must do so in the knowledge that there are options of arbitrarily greater value. It seems an odd constraint for a perfect being to have to live with.. (shrink)
The objective probability of every physical event is fixed by prior physical events and laws alone. (This thesis is sometimes expressed in terms of explanation: In tracing the causal history of any physical event, one need not advert to any non-physical events or laws. To the extent that there is any explanation available for a physical event, there is a complete explanation available couched entirely in physical vocabulary. We prefer the probability formulation, as it should be acceptable to any physicalist, (...) though some reject the explanation formulation.) (3) Causal Exclusion. (shrink)
Philosophical discussion of theistic arguments mainly focus on their first (existence) stage, which argues for the existence of something having some very general, if suggestive, feature. I shall instead consider only the second (identification) stage of one such argument, the cosmologic al argument from contingency. Taking for granted the existence of an absolutely necessary being, I develop an extended line of argument that supports the..
We explain the thesis that human mental states are ontologically emergent aspects of a fundamentally biological organism. We then explore the consequences of this thesis for the identity of a human person over time. As these consequences are not obviously independent of one's general ontology of objects and their properties, we consider four such accounts: transcendent universals, kind-Aristotelianism, immanent universals, and tropes. We suggest there are reasons for emergentists to favor the latter two accounts. We then argue that within such (...) ontologies, emergentism about properties pushes one to the stronger claim that there are emergent individuals, though not individuals which are dual to person's bodies—substance emergentism, but not substance dualism. (shrink)
Philosophy of Mind: Contemporary Readings is a comprehensive anthology that draws together leading philosophers writing on the major topics within philosophy of mind. Robb and O'Connor have carefully chosen articles under the following headings: *Substance Dualism and Idealism *Materialism *Mind and Representation *Consciousness Each section is prefaced by an introductory essay by the editors which guides the student gently into the topic in which leading philosophers are included. The book is highly accessible and user-friendly and provides a broad-ranging exploration of (...) the subject. Ideal for any philosophy student, this book will prove essential reading for any philosophy of mind course. The readings are designed to complement John Heil's Philosophy of Mind:A Contemporary Introduction, (Routledge 1998), although the anthology can also be used as a stand-alone volume. (shrink)
I Introduction This essay will canvass recent philosophical accounts of human agency that deploy a notion of 'self' (or 'agent') causation. Some of these accounts try to explicate this notion, whereas others only hint at its nature by way of contrast with the causality exhibited by impersonal physical systems. In these latter theories, the authors' main argumentative burden is that the apparent fundamental differences between personal and impersonal causal activity strongly suggest mind-body dualism. I begin by noting two distinct, yet (...) not commonly distinguished, philosophical motivations for pursuing an agent-causal account of human agency. In the course of discussing the accounts that some philosophers have developed in response to these considerations, I reconsider both the linkage of agent causation with mind-body dualism and its sharp cleavage from impersonal (or 'event') causation. (shrink)
One familiar affirmative answer to this question holds that these facts suffice to entail that Descartes' picture of the human mind must be mistaken. On Descartes' view, our mind or soul (the only essential part of ourselves) has no spatial location. Yet it directly interacts with but one physical object, the brain of that body with which it is, 'as it were, intermingled,' so as to 'form one unit.' The radical disparity posited between a nonspatial mind, whose intentional and conscious (...) properties are had by no physical object, and a spatial body, all of whose properties are had by no mind, has prompted some to conclude that, pace Descartes, causal interaction between the two is impossible. Jaegwon Kim has recently given a new twist to this old line of thought.(1) In the present essay, I will use Kim's argument as a springboard for motivating my own favored picture of the metaphysics of mind and body and then discussing how an often vilified account of freedom of the will may be realized within it. (shrink)
This provocative book refurbishes the traditional account of freedom of will as reasons-guided "agent" causation, situating its account within a general metaphysics. O'Connor's discussion of the general concept of causation and of ontological reductionism v. emergence will specially interest metaphysicians and philosophers of mind.
According to many philosophical theologians, God is metaphysically simple: there is no real distinction among His attributes or even between attribute and existence itself. Here, I consider only one argument against the simplicity thesis. Its proponents claim that simplicity is incompatible with God's having created another world, since simplicity entails that God is unchanging across possible worlds. For, they argue, different acts of creation involve different willings, which are distinct intrinsic states. I show that this is mistaken, by sketching (...) an adequate account of reasons-guided activity that does not require distinct intrinsic states of willing corresponding to each possible act of creation. (shrink)
I Introduction The question of this paper is, what would it be to act with freedom of the will? What kind of control is inchoately in view when we speak, pretheoretically, of being ‘self- determining’ beings, of ‘freely making choices in view of consciously considered reasons’ (pro and con) - of its being ‘up to us’ how we shall act? My question here is not whether we have (or have any reason to think we have) such freedom, or what is (...) the most robust account of our freedom compatible with late twentieth-century science. Many contemporary philosophers are all too ready to settle for a deflationary account of freedom and declare victory, with some brief remarks reminding us that we were created a little lower than the angels. I am not so sanguine about the ability of such accounts to leave reasonably intact our judgments about human autonomy, dignity, and responsibility. But, as I’ve said, that’s not my concern here. Instead, I want to revisit the question of what exactly ‘self-determination’, on our ordinary conception, comes to. (shrink)
In what follows, I will contend that the commonsense view of ourselves as fundamental causal agents - for which some have used the term “unmoved movers" but which I think might more accurately be expressed as “not wholly moved movers” - is theoretically understandable, internally consistent, and consistent with what we have thus far come to know about the nature and workings of the natural world. In the section that follows, I try to show how the concept of ‘agent’ causation (...) can be understood as a distinct species (from ‘event’ causation) of the primitive idea, which I’ll term “causal production”, underlying realist or non-Humean conceptions of event causation. In section III, I respond to a number of contemporary objections to the theory of agent causation. Sections IV-V are devoted to showing that the theory is compatible with ordinary reasons explanations of action, which then places me in a position to respond, in the final section, to the contention that we could never know, in principle, whether the agency theory actually describes a significant portion of human activity. (shrink)
Many philosophers are persuaded by familiar arguments that free will is incompatible with causal determinism. Yet, notoriously, past attempts to articulate how the right type of indeterminism might secure the capacity for autonomous action have generally been regarded as either demonstrably inadequate or irremediably obscure. This volume gathers together the most significant recent discussions concerning the prospects for devising a satisfactory indeterministic account of freedom of action. These essays give greater precision to traditional formulations of the problems associated with indeterministic (...) accounts and to the range of theoretical avenues for pursuing resolutions. The first four essays set out different challenges (from both compatibilists and those skeptical of the possibility of free will) to the adequacy of standard indeterministic theories. The next seven essays meet one or more of these challenges. Each of the fundamental types of approach--simple indeterminism, causal indeterminism, and agent causation--is represented in these novel and sophisticated proposals. The collection finishes with two essays that debate whether compatibilism entails that freedom of choice is a comparatively rare phenomenon within an individual's life. Eloquently presenting some of the most compelling and accessible arguments surrounding this central philosophical issue, Agents, Causes, and Events makes a valuable contribution to courses in free will/action theory and metaphysics. (shrink)
In his recently published two-volume work in epistemology,1 Alvin Plantinga rounds out the discussion (in characteristic fashion) with a subtle and ingenious argument for a striking claim: in this case, his conclusion is that belief in evolutionary naturalism is irrational. Now this claim is not of itself so very surprising; the tantalizing feature here lies rather in the nature of the argument itself. Plantinga contends that taking seriously the hypothesis of evolutionary naturalism [hereafter, N&E] ought to undermine one's confidence in (...) the reliability of our basic cognitive faculties. And if one withholds belief in cognitive reliability, it seems that one ought to likewise refrain from believing propositions that are the output of such faculties. And, for evolutionary naturalists, one such output is belief in evolutionary naturalism itself. Hence, quite apart from comparative evidential considerations that might lead one to prefer theism (or one of its competitors) to N&E, but rather owing to a sort of internal inconsistency (in a suitably broad sense), belief in N&E is shown to be epistemically defective. A bold and intriguing suggestion indeed. Let us take a closer look. (shrink)