The consequence argument for the incompatibility of freeaction and determinism has long been under attack, but two important objections have only recently emerged: Warfield’s modal fallacy objection and Campbell’s no past objection. In this paper, I explain the significance of these objections and defend the consequence argument against them. First, I present a novel formulation of the argument that withstands their force. Next, I argue for the one controversial claim on which this formulation relies: the trans-temporality thesis. (...) This thesis implies that an agent acts freely only if there is one time at which she is able to perform an action and a distinct time at which she actually performs it. I then point out that determinism, too, is a thesis about trans-temporal relations. I conclude that it is precisely because my formulation of the consequence argument emphasizes trans-temporality that it prevails against the modal fallacy and no past objections. (shrink)
I argue for the following analysis of a freely willed action: an act is done of one's own free will, if and only if, it is an intentional act performed by one acting as a rational agent from unobstructed reasons, and so situated that he or she has the capacity to forbear from performing it.
Key elements of Randolph Clarke's libertarian account of freedom that requires both agent-causation and non-deterministic event-causation in the production of freeaction is assessed with an eye toward determining whether agent-causal accounts can accommodate the truth of judgments of moral obligation.
The doctrine of agent-causation has been suggested by many interested in defending libertarian theories of freeaction to provide the conceptual apparatus necessary to make the notion of incompatibility freedom intelligible. In the present essay the conceptual viability of the doctrine of agent-causation will be assessed. It will be argued that agent-causation is, insofar as it is irreducible to event-causation, mysterious at best, totally unintelligible at worst. First, the arguments for agent-causation made by such eighteenth-century luminaries as Samuel (...) Clarke and Thomas Reid will be considered alongside the defenses of agent-causation proffered in this century by C.A. Campbell, Roderick Chisholm, and Richard Taylor. It will be shown that the case for agent-causation made by these figures is ultimately unconvincing. Two defenses of agent-causation made within the past ten years will then be taken up for examination and critique. First, Timothy O'Connor's attempt at advancing an unrefined and unrepentant doctrine of agent-causation will be shown to suffer from the same maladies as its predecessors. Next, Randolph Clarke's causal agent-causal theory of freeaction, which seeks a via media between agent-causal theories of freeaction and causal theories of action, is examined. Clarke's theory is an attempt at providing an account of how both events and agents qua substances can be the codeterminants of free actions. Despite the improvement of Clarke's theory over more conventional agent-causal theories of freeaction, it will be shown that agent-causation makes his theory more cumbersome than it needs to be. Clarke is able to get as much mileage out of a causal indeterminacy theory of action that does not require him to posit obscure agent-causes. Finally, a sketch of an alternative theory of freeaction will be offered. While it may suffer from its own conceptual deficiencies, it may not suffer from the same conceptual problems as agent-causal theories of freeaction. (shrink)
The naturalistic voluntary control (VC) theory explains free will and consciousness in terms of each other. It is central to free voluntary control of action that one can control both what one is conscious of, and also what one is not conscious of. Furthermore, the specific cognitive ability or skill involved in voluntarily controlling whether information is processed consciously or unconsciously can itself be used to explain consciousness. In functional terms, it is whatever kind of cognitive processing (...) occurs when a conscious state is voluntarily chosen. This leads to a bivalent view of cognitive processing in which there is voluntary choice either of non-routine (conscious) or routine (unconscious) kinds of processing. On this VC account, consciousness could not exist without its being possible to voluntarily choose a non-routine kind of processing. (shrink)
The chance objection to incompatibilist accounts of freeaction maintains that undetermined actions are not under the agent’s control. Some attempts to circumvent this objection locate chance in events posterior to the action. Indeterministic-causation theories locate chance in events prior to the action. However, neither type of response gives an account of freeaction which avoids the chance objection. Chance must be located at the act of will if actions are to be both undetermined (...) and under the agent’s control. This dissolves the apparent paradox of Frankfurt-type cases as well as the chance objection to incompatibilist free will. (shrink)
Galen Strawson has claimed that “the impossibility of free will and ultimate moral responsibility can be proved with complete certainty.” Strawson, I take it, thinks that this conclusion can be established by one argument which he has developed. In this argument, he claims that rational free actions would require an infinite regress of rational choices, which is, of course, impossible for human beings. In my paper, I argue that agent causation theorists need not be worried by Strawson’s argument. (...) For agent causation theorists are able to deny a key principle which drives the regress. Oversimplifying things a bit, the principle states that if one is responsible for her rational actions, then she was antecedently responsible for the reasons on which she acted. (shrink)
Free will can be understood as a novel form of action control that evolved to meet the escalating demands of human social life, including moral action and pursuit of enlightened self-interest in a cultural context. That understanding is conducive to scientific research, which is reviewed here in support of four hypotheses. First, laypersons tend to believe in free will. Second, that belief has behavioral consequences, including increases in socially and culturally desirable acts. Third, laypersons can reliably (...) distinguish free actions from less free ones. Fourth, actions judged as free emerge from a distinctive set of inner processes, all of which share a common psychological and physiological signature. These inner processes include self-control, rational choice, planning, and initiative. (shrink)
1. One of the main aims of this paper is to study the possibilities for free-riding type of behavior in various kinds of many-person interaction situations. In particular it will be of interest to see what kinds of game-theoretic structures, defined in terms of the participants' outcome-preferences, can be involved in cases of free-riding. I shall also be interested in the related problem or dilemma of collective action in a somewhat broader sense. By the dilemma of collective (...)action I mean, generally speaking, the conflict between individual and collective rationality and the conflict between corresponding actions, in the sense it has been discussed in recent literature. Typically (although not invariably) collective action problems and free-rider problems coexist. Let me start my discussion by considering what Elster (1985) has to say about the subject. First, the notion of collective action itself should be characterized. Elster defines it as follows (p. 137): "By collective action I mean the choice by all or most individuals of the course of action that, when chosen by all or most individuals, leads to the collectively best outcome." While this characterization is informative in the present context, I think that it is not appropriate as a general characterization. It may provide a sufficient condition, but it fails as a necessary condition. One reason for this is that there may not be a single collectively best outcome at all. Instead, I suggest we follow common sense and take collective action simply to be action by a collection or group of people, where these people (or at least many of them) act with the aim of achieving a common end or goal (this notion understood very broadly so as to include e.g. following norms, practices, and customs). We also require of a situation of collective action that the participants have several (or at least two) possible courses of action open to them. Elster's above definition of collective action goes in terms of the collectively best outcome or goal.. (shrink)
While other philosophers have pointed out that Libet’s experiment is compatible with compatibilist free will and also with some kinds of libertarian free will, this article ar- gues that it is even compatible with strong libertarian free will, i.e. a person’s ability to initiate causal processes. It is widely believed that Libet’s experiment has shown that all our actions have preceding unconscious causes. This article argues that Libet’s claim that the actions he invest- igated are voluntary is (...) false. They are urges, and there- fore the experiment shows at most that our urges have preceding unconscious causes, which is what also strong libertarianism leads us to expect. Further, Libet’s correct observation that we can veto urges undermines his claim that our actions are initiated unconsciously and supports the thesis that we have strong libertarian free will. (shrink)
Determinism seems incompatible with free will. However, even indeterminism seems incompatible with free will, since it seems to make free actions random. Popper contends that free agents are not bound by physical laws, even indeterministic ones, and that undetermined actions are not random if they are influenced by abstract entities. I argue that Popper could strengthen his account by drawing upon his theories of propensities and of limited rationality; but that even then his account would not (...) fully explain why free actions are not random. I offer a solution to this problem which draws on Hornsby’s analysis of action. I then borrow an idea of Kant about self-consciousness to distinguish free agents from sub-human animals. I make a brief evaluation of Popper’s contribution. (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 (...) class='Hi'>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)
It is a commonplace of philosophy that the notion of free will is a hard nut to crack. A simple, compelling argument can be made to show that behavior for which an agent is morally responsible cannot be the outcome of prior determining causal factors.1 Yet the smug satisfaction with which we incompatibilists are prone to trot out this argument has a tendency to turn to embarrassment when we're asked to explain just how it is that morally responsible (...) class='Hi'>action might obtain under the assumption of indeterminism. Despair over the prospect of giving a satisfactory answer to this question has led some contemporary philosophers to a position rarely, if ever, held in the history of philosophy: free, responsible action is an incoherent concept.2. (shrink)
According to agent-causal accounts of free will, agents have the capacity to cause actions, and for a given action, an agent could have done otherwise. This paper uses existing results and presents experimental evidence to argue that young children deploy a notion of agent-causation. If young children do have such a notion, however, it remains quite unclear how they acquire it. Several possible acquisition stories are canvassed, including the possibility that the notion of agent-causation develops from a prior (...) notion of obligation. Finally, the paper sets out how this work might illuminate the philosophical problem of free will. (shrink)
This book explores classic philosophical questions regarding the phenomenon of weakness of will or ‘akrasia’: doing A, even though all things considered, you judge it best to do B. Does this phenomenon really exist and if so, how should it be explained? Nacht van Descartes -/- The author provides a historical overview of some traditional answers to these questions and addresses the main question: how does the phenomenon of 'going against your own judgment' relate to the idea that we are (...) rational beings? She elaborates on the notion of rational agency and shows how different types of behaviour express or fail to express our rational agency. This leads to the speculation of what is needed for akratic action to be freeaction. -/- A novel position is developed, stating that certain widespread philosophical accounts of freeaction must conclude that 'going against your own judgment' is necessarily unfree. This also requires a reflection on possible implications for moral responsibility. Would it mean that people cannot be held accountable for irrational behaviour? -/- Kalis offers insight on whether everyday irrational behaviour differs from irrational behaviour occurring in the context of psychiatric dysfunction, and develops a view on how we should understand ourselves when we do something other than what we judge best. -/- Written for philosophers, psychologists and psychiatrists interested in issues of irrationality and philosophy of action, this is an indispensable book for both professionals and students interested in interdisciplinary endeavours in the science of mind and behaviour. (shrink)
Some philosophers argue that Descartes was wrong when he characterized animals as purely physical automata – robots devoid of consciousness. It seems to them obvious that animals (tigers, lions, and bears, as well as chimps, dogs, and dolphins, and so forth) are conscious. There are other philosophers who argue that it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that robots and other artificial agents may someday be conscious – and it is certainly practical to take the intentional stance toward them (...) (the robots as well as the philosophers) even now. I'm not sure that there are philosophers who would deny consciousness to animals but affirm the possibility of consciousness in robots. In any case, and in whatever way these various philosophers define consciousness, the majority of them do attribute consciousness to humans. Amongst this group, however, there are philosophers and scientists who want to reaffirm the idea, explicated by Shadworth Holloway Hodgson in 1870, that in regard to action the presence of consciousness does not matter since it plays no causal role. Hodgson's brain generated the following thought: neural events form an autonomous causal chain that is independent of any accompanying conscious mental states. Consciousness is epiphenomenal, incapable of having any effect on the nervous system. James (1890, 130) summarizes the situation. (shrink)
The passages translated here show that Hegel espoused ‘moderate collectivism’, a social ontology consisting in three theses: (1) Individuals are fundamentally social practitioners. Everything a person does, says, or thinks is formed in the context of social practices that provide material and conceptual resources, objects of desire, skills, procedures, techniques, and occasions and permissions for action, etc. (2) What individuals do depends on their own response to their social and natural environment. (3) There are no individuals, no social practitioners, (...) without social practices, and vice versa, there are no social practices without social practitioners, without individuals who learn, participate in, perpetuate, and who modify those social practices as needed to meet their changing needs, aims, and circumstances (including information). (shrink)
Choice is one of the central elements in the experience of free will, but it has not received a good account from either compatibilists or libertarians. This paper develops an account of choice based around three features: (i) choice is an action; (ii) choice is not determined by one's prior beliefs and desires; (iii) once the question of what to do has arisen, choice is typically both necessary and sufficient for moving to action. These features might appear (...) to support a libertarian account, but they do not. Instead it is argued that all three features can be accommodated within a compatibilist account, where choice is needed because of agents' inabilities to arrive at judgements about what is best. Choice differs though from random picking: in choosing, agents frequently (though not always) deploy abilities that enable them to make good choices. In such cases, judgements about what is best will frequently follow the choice. Finally choice is distinguished from agency, and, on the basis of the distinction, the claim that choice is an action is made good. (shrink)
The luck argument raises a serious challenge for libertarianism about free will. In broad outline, if an action is undetermined, then it appears to be a matter of luck whether or not one performs it. And if it is a matter of luck whether or not one performs an action, then it seems that the action is not performed with free will. This argument is most effective against event-causal accounts of libertarianism. Recently, Christopher Franklin (2011) (...) has defended event-causal libertarianism against four formulations of the luck argument. I will argue that three of Franklin’s responses are unsuccessful and that there are important versions of the luck challenge that his defense has left unaddressed. (shrink)
This book deals with foundational issues in the history of the nature of action, the intentionality of action, the compatibility of freedom of action with determinism, and the explanation of action. Ginet's is a volitional view: that every action has as its core a "simple" mental action. He develops a sophisticated account of the individuation of actions and also propounds a challenging version of the view that freedom of action is incompatible with determinism.
Scholars working in philosophy of action still struggle with the freedom/determinism dichotomy that stretches back to Hellenist philosophy and the metaphysics that gave rise to it. Although that metaphysics has been repudiated in current philosophy of mind and cognitive science, the dichotomy still haunts these fields. As such, action is understood as distinct from movement, or motion. In early China, under a very different metaphysical paradigm, no such distinction is made. Instead, a notion of self-caused movement, or spontaneity, (...) is elaborated. In this article a general conception of spontaneity from early Daoism is explained, detailing its constituent aspects. Similar notions appeared from time to time in Western philosophy, and these instances are pursued, exploring how their instantiations differed from Daoist spontaneity and why. Based on these approximate examples of spontaneity and on early Daoist spontaneity, new criteria are postulated for a plausible theory of action that dispenses with presuppositions that eventuate in a freedom/determinism dichotomy, and instead the possibility is offered of a general model of action that can be applied smoothly across current philosophical and cognitive scientific subdisciplines. (shrink)
To the extent that indeterminacy intervenes between our reasons for action and our decisions, intentions and actions, our freedom seems to be reduced, not enhanced. Free will becomes nothing more than the power to choose irrationally. In recognition of this problem, some recent libertarians have suggested that free will is paradigmatically manifested only in actions for which we have reasons for both or all the alternatives. In these circumstances, however we choose, we choose rationally. Against this kind (...) of account, most fully developed by Robert Kane, critics have pressed the demand for contrastive explanations. Kane has responded by arguing that the demand does not need to be met: responsibility for an action does not require that there be a contrastive explanation of that action. However, this response proves too much: it implies that agents are responsible not only for the actions they choose, but also for the counterfactual actions which were equally available to them. (shrink)
Abstract : Libet’s famous experiments, showing that apparently we become aware of our intention to act only after we have unconsciously formed it, have widely been taken to show that there is no such thing as free will. If we are not conscious of the formation of our intentions, many people think, we do not exercise the right kind of control over them. I argue that the claim this view presupposes, that only consciously initiated actions could be free, (...) places a condition upon freedom of action which it is in principle impossible to fulfil, for reasons that are conceptual and not merely contingent. Exercising this kind of control would require that we control our control system, which would simply cause the same problem to arise at a higher-level or initiate an infinite regress of controllings. If the unconscious initiation of actions, as well as the takings of decisions, is incompatible with control over them, then free will is impossible on conceptual grounds. Thus, Libet’s experiments do not constitute a separate, empirical, challenge to our freedom. (shrink)
This article argues against Benjamin Libet’s claim that his experiment has shown that our actions are caused by brain events which begin before we decide and before we even think about the action. It assumes, contra the com- patibilists and pro Libet, that this claim is incompatible with free will. It clarifies what exactly should be meant by saying that the readiness potential causes, initiates, or pre- pares an action. It shows why Libet’s experiment does not support (...) his claim and why the experiments by Herrmann et al. and by Trevena & Miller provide evidence against it. The empirical evidence is compatible with strong liber- tarian free will. Neither the readiness potential nor the lateralized readiness potential causes our actions. (shrink)
Physicalism holds that the laws of physics are inviolable and ubiquitous and thereby account for all of reality. Laws leave no “wiggle room” or “gaps” for action by numinous agents. They cannot be invoked, however, without boundary stipulations that perforce are contingent and which “drive” the laws. Driving contingencies are not limited to instances of “blind chance,” but rather span a continuum of amalgamations with regularities, up to and including nearly determinate propensities. Most examples manifest directionality, and their very (...) definition encompasses intentionality. Contingencies, via their interactions with laws, can reinforce and maintain one another, thereby giving rise to enduring, ordered configurations of constraints. All of ordered nature thus results from ongoing transactions between mutualistic contingencies that constrain possibilities and entropic chance events that degrade order but diversify opportunities. Laws do not of themselves determine reality; interactions among contingencies do. For believers, the robust abundance of indeterminacies provides ample latitude for divine intervention, free will, and prayer. The priority of contingency also affords some insight into the meaning of suffering and evil. (shrink)
In terms of my own first-personal narrative, the most obvious proximal cause of my theorizing about agency was a graduate seminar on free will taught by Peter van Inwagen. It was my first semester of graduate school, and van Inwagen’s forceful presentation of incompatibilism made a big impression on me. I left that course thinking incompatibilism was both obvious and irrefutable. The only problem was that I didn’t stay at Notre Dame. I transferred to Stanford in the following year, (...) where I discovered the truth of a remark John Fischer once made: Indiana is for Incompatibilists and California is for Compatibilists. Some of the folks there who most influenced me, especially Michael Bratman and Ken Taylor, are thoroughgoing compatibilists. I was really struck by the fact that both of these smart, thoughtful guys seemed genuinely puzzled by the impulse to incompatibilism. I wasn’t entirely ready to give up on my incompatibilism (which was by then shifting from libertarianism to hard incompatibilism), but I felt a need to be able to find some way to reconcile it with an appreciation for the appeal that compatibilism clearly seemed to have for some otherwise compelling philosophers. And, so my interest in thinking about free agency and freeaction began to take root. So, that’s the intellectualized part of the story. But there is also the fact of my local conditions when all of this was going on. For good or ill, I kept taking seminars where the problem of free will would crop up in the course of things. Out of sheer laziness (or, as I like to think about it, out of a dimly sensed need to conserve my energies for later), I kept seizing on the topic as a subject matter for seminar papers, whether the course was on Hume, Aristotle, Nietzsche, philosophy of mind, or philosophy action. Thus, when it came time to write a dissertation, free will seemed like an obvious choice.. (shrink)
What does free will mean to laypersons? The present investigation sought to address this question by identifying how laypersons distinguish between free and unfree actions. We elicited autobiographical narratives in which participants described either free or unfree actions, and the narratives were subsequently subjected to impartial analysis. Results indicate that free actions were associated with reaching goals, high levels of conscious thought and deliberation, positive outcomes, and moral behavior (among other things). These findings suggest that lay (...) conceptions of free will fit well with the view that free will is a form of action control. (shrink)
In this comprehensive new study of human free agency, Laura Waddell Ekstrom critically surveys contemporary philosophical literature and provides a novel account of the conditions for freeaction. Ekstrom argues that incompatibilism concerning free will and causal determinism is true and thus the right account of the nature of freeaction must be indeterminist in nature. She examines a variety of libertarian approaches, ultimately defending an account relying on indeterministic causation among events and appealing (...) to agent causation only in a reducible sense. Written in an engaging style and incorporating recent scholarship, this study is critical reading for scholars and students interested in the topics of motivation, causation, responsibility, and freedom. In broadly covering the important positions of others along with its exposition of the author’s own view, Free Will provides both a significant scholarly contribution and a valuable text for courses in metaphysics and action theory. (shrink)
This paper proposes a reconciliation between libertarian freedomand causal indeterminism, without relying on agent-causation asa primitive notion. I closely examine Peter van Inwagen''s recentcase for free will mysterianism, which is based in part on thewidespread worry that undetermined acts are too chancy to befree. I distinguish three senses of the term chance I thenargue that van Inwagen''s case for free will mystrianism fails,since there is no single construal of the term change on whichall of the premises of his (...) argument for free will–causalindeterminism incompatibilism are true. By use of a particularevent-causal indeterminist account of freeaction, I support thecase for free will–indeterminism compatibilism. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: This paper serves two purposes: (i) it can be used by students as an introduction to chapters 1-5 of book iii of the NE; (ii) it suggests an answer to the unresolved question what overall objective this section of the NE has. The paper focuses primarily on Aristotle’s theory of what makes us responsible for our actions and character. After some preliminary observations about praise, blame and responsibility (Section 2), it sets out in detail how all the key notions (...) of NE iii 1-5 are interrelated (Sections 3-9). The setting-out of these interconnections makes it then possible to provide a comprehensive interpretation of the purpose of the passage. Its primary purpose is to explain how agents are responsible for their actions not just insofar as they are actions of this kind or that, but also insofar as they are noble or base: agents are responsible for their actions qua noble or base, because, typically via choice, their character dispositions are a causal factor of those actions (Section 10). The paper illustrates the different ways in which agents can be causes of their actions by means of Aristotle’s four basic types of agents (Section 11). A secondary purpose of NE iii 1-5 is to explain how agents can be held responsible for consequences of their actions (Section 12), in particular for their character dispositions insofar as these are noble or base, i.e. virtues or vices (Section 13). These two goals are not the only ones Aristotle pursues in the passage. But they are the ones Aristotle himself indicates in its first sentence and summarizes in its last paragraph; and the ones that give the passage a systematic unity. The paper also briefly consider the issues of freedom-to-do-otherwise, free choice and free-will in the contexts in which they occur (i.e. in the final paragraphs of Sections 6, 7, 12, 13). (shrink)
(3) A compatibilist needs to explain how free will can co-exist with determinism, paradigmatically by offering an analysis of ‘free’ action that is demonstrably compatible with determinism. (Here is the late Roderick Chisholm, in defense of irreducible or libertarian agent-causation: ‘Now if you can analyze such statements as “Jones killed his uncle” into event-causation statements, then you may have earned the right to make jokes about the agent as cause. But if you haven’t done this, and if (...) all the same you do believe such things as that I raised my arm and that Jolns [sic] killed his uncle, and if moreover you still think it’s a joke to talk about the agent as cause, then, I’m afraid, the joke is entirely on you.’). (shrink)
Introduction -- The nature of free will -- Requirements of freedom : preeminently deliberation -- Free will requires the absence of thought-external -- Determination over choices and decisions -- Choice and decision are crucial -- Doing and trying -- Freeaction and agent causality -- Modes of freedom -- Metaphysical and moral freedom -- Moral freedom is removed by manipulation and especially -- Compulsion -- Intention and moral standing -- Moral freedom of the will involves agent (...) intent and motivation -- Ramifications of freedom -- Free will requires up-to-the-end revisability but this does not gainsay probabilistic predictability -- Issues of revision and control -- The counterfactual dimension : "could have done otherwise" -- Problem cases : machines and lunatics -- Free will as outside causality but compatible with it -- Averting the zenonic fallacy of casual regression -- Averting predetermination (contrasting pre-determination with precedence determination) -- The crucial contrast between events and eventuations -- Choices and decisions as terminating eventuations -- Free will stands outside the stream of natural causality -- On freedom and causality -- Free will excludes pre-determinism but not motive determinism -- Motivational determinism vs. casual necessitation -- Motivations and motives -- Freedom from what? : certainly not from one's own motives -- And reasons: freedom demands motivational determination -- Free will requires motivational determinism -- Determination by one's autonomous motives is the crux of moral freedom -- Compulsion is impulsion -- Objections to motive determinism can be met -- Freedom and motivation -- Must an agent choose his motives for a decision to qualify (morally) as free? -- Freedom does not require motivational self-construction -- Does freedom require self-understanding? -- Willing to will : does freedom require the will to be self-endorsing? -- Does freedom require the approval of intellect and reason? -- Does freedom require self-approved motives? -- Buridan's ass : a random willfulness is not freedom -- Compatibilism regains : what free will excludes is not agent -- Determination but gant-bypassing nature determination -- The explanation of free acts via agent determination -- Freedom, responsibility, and "could have done otherwise" -- Reasons and motives impel but do not compel -- Compatibilism again -- Mind-matter partnership -- A two-sided coin -- The issue of initiative -- A salient duality -- Mind-brain interaction works by coordination not by causality -- Does free will exist? deliberations -- Pro and con -- On evidentiating free will -- Is free will unscientific? -- So does science counter-indicate free will -- Free-will naturalism and evolution. (shrink)
It is my purpose to explore some of the problems concerning the relation between divine creation and creaturely freedom by criticizing various versions of the Free Will Defense (FWD hereafter).1 The FWD attempts to show how it is possible for God and moral evil to co-exist by describing a possible world in which God is morally justified or exonerated for creating persons who freely go wrong. Each version of the FWD has its own story to tell of how it (...) is possible that God be frustrated in his endeavor to create a universe containing moral good sans moral evil. The value of free will is supposed to be so great that God is morally exonerated under such circumstances for creating the Mr. Rogers type persons you know, the very same people who are good sometimes are bad sometimes. If it is objected that God could not be unlucky in this manner, that it necessarily is within his power to create goody-goody persons, either by supernaturally willing in his own inimitable manner that it be so, which is the theological compatibilist objection, or by a judicious selection of the initial state of the universe and operant causal laws which together entail that every freeaction be morally right, which is the causal compatibilist objection, the response is that it is logically incompatible that a creaturely freeaction be determined by God or by anything external to the agent, such as causes outside of the agent. (shrink)
This book is aimed primarily at the practitioners of morals such as psychiatrists,lawyers and policy-makers. My professional background is clinical psychiatry It is divided into three parts. The first of these provides an overview of moral theory, morality in non-human species and recent developments in neuroscience that are of relevance to moral and legal responsibility. In the second part I offer a new paradigm of freeaction based on the overlaps between free will, moral value and art. (...) In the overlap between free will and moral value we find moral responsibility and moral autonomy. Free will and art share characteristics of originality, spontaneity and creativity. Art and moral value are related by way of the moral content of art and the formal similarities of moral and aesthetic judgments. In the overlap between art, free will and moral value we find religious belief, the creation of moral value and the creation of moral identity. In the third part, I discuss the application of these ideas to common clinical conditions such as eating disorders, addictions, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and the dissociative disorders. Wherever possible, I illustrate the points that are made with real-life clinical examples. I finish by considering how ideas of free will and responsibility are relevant to psychotherapy. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: A systematic reconstruction of Chrysippus’ theory of causes, grounded on the Stoic tenets that causes are bodies, that they are relative, and that all causation can ultimately be traced back to the one ‘active principle’ which pervades all things. I argue that Chrysippus neither developed a finished taxonomy of causes, nor intended to do so, and that he did not have a set of technical terms for mutually exclusive classes of causes. Rather, the various adjectives which he used for (...) causes had the function of describing or explaining particular features of certain causes in particular philosophical contexts. I challenge the sometimes assumed close connection of Chrysippus’ notion of causation with explanation. I show that the standard view that the distinction between proximate and auxiliary causes and perfect and principal causes corresponds to the distinction between internal and external determining factors is not born out by the evidence, and argue that causes of the two types were not thought to co-operate, but rather conceived of as alternatives. (shrink)
(H1) ‘Freeaction’ is subject to the causal theory of reference and thus that (H2) The essential nature of free actions can be discovered only by empirical investigation, not by conceptual analysis. Heller’s proposal, if true, would have significant philosophical implications. Consider the enduring issue we will call the Compatibility Issue (hereafter CI): whether the thesis of determinism is logically compatible with the claim that..
My primary objective is to motivate the concern that leading libertarian views of freeaction seem unable to account for an agent’s behavior in a way that reveals an explanatorily apt connection between the agent’s prior reasons and the intentional behavior to be explained. I argue that it is this lack of a suitable reasons explanation of purportedly free decisions that underpins the objection that agents who act with the pertinent sort of libertarian freedom cannot be morally (...) responsible for what they do because their intentional behavior is a matter of luck. The accounts scrutinized include a Kane-type event-causal view, Clarke’s account that appeals to both agent causation and event causation in the production of freeaction, and O’Connor’s pure agent-causal account. I conclude by discussing an advantage these libertarian accounts enjoy over compatibilist contenders: they possess a feature necessary to accommodate the truth of judgments of moral obligation. (shrink)
(H1) ‘Freeaction’ is subject to the causal theory of reference and thus that (H2) The essential nature of free actions can be discovered only by empirical investigation, not by conceptual analysis. Heller’s proposal, if true, would have significant philosophical implications. Consider the enduring issue we will call the Compatibility Issue (hereafter CI): whether the thesis of determinism is logically compatible with the claim that..
We present a solution to the paradox of free choice permission by introducing strong and weak permission in a deontic logic of action. It is shown how counterintuitive consequences of strong permission can be avoided by limiting the contexts in which an action can be performed. This is done by introducing the only operator, which allows us to say that only is performed (and nothing else), and by introducing contextual interpretation of action terms.
Consider the following principle: (LP) If an action is undetermined at a time t, then its happening rather than not happening at t would be a matter of chance or luck, and so it could not be a free and responsible action. This principle (which we may call the luck principle, or simply LP) is false, as I shall explain shortly. Yet it seems true.
This paper examines recent attempts to revive a classic compatibilist position on free will, according to which having an ability to perform a certain action is having a certain disposition. Since having unmanifested dispositions is compatible with determinism, having unexercised abilities to act, it is held, is likewise compatible. Here it is argued that although there is a kind of capacity to act possession of which is a matter of having a disposition, the new dispositionalism leaves unresolved the (...) main points of dispute concerning free will. (shrink)
The study of rationality and practical reason, or rationality in action, has been central to Western intellectual culture. In this invigorating book, John Searle lays out six claims of what he calls the Classical Model of rationality and shows why they are false. He then presents an alternative theory of the role of rationality in thought and action. -/- A central point of Searle's theory is that only irrational actions are directly caused by beliefs and desires—for example, the (...) actions of a person in the grip of an obsession or addiction. In most cases of rational action, there is a gap between the motivating desire and the actual decision making. The traditional name for this gap is "freedom of the will." According to Searle, all rational activity presupposes free will. For rationality is possible only where one has a choice among various rational as well as irrational options. -/- Unlike many philosophical tracts, Rationality in Action invites the reader to apply the author's ideas to everyday life. Searle shows, for example, that contrary to the traditional philosophical view, weakness of will is very common. He also points out the absurdity of the claim that rational decision making always starts from a consistent set of desires. Rational decision making, he argues, is often about choosing between conflicting reasons for action. In fact, humans are distinguished by their ability to be rationally motivated by desire-independent reasons for action. Extending his theory of rationality to the self, Searle shows how rational deliberation presupposes an irreducible notion of the self. He also reveals the idea of free will to be essentially a thesis of how the brain works. (shrink)
Philosophers working in the nascent field of ‘experimental philosophy’ have begun using methods borrowed from psychology to collect data about folk intuitions concerning debates ranging from action theory to ethics to epistemology. In this paper we present the results of our attempts to apply this approach to the free will debate, in which philosophers on opposing sides claim that their view best accounts for and accords with folk intuitions. After discussing the motivation for such research, we describe our (...) methodology of surveying people’s prephilosophical judgments about the freedom and responsibility of agents in deterministic scenarios. In two studies, we found that a majority of participants judged that such agents act of their own free will and are morally responsible for their actions. We then discuss the philosophical implications of our results as well as various difficulties inherent in such research. (shrink)
Introduction: New approaches to knotty old problems -- Avoiding Cartesian materialism -- From causal reductionism to self-directed systems -- From mindless to intelligent action -- How can neural nets mean? -- How does reason get its grip on the brain? -- Who's responsible? -- Neurobiological reductionism and free will.
Intuitions about intentional action have turned out to be sensitive to normative factors: most people say that an indifferent agent brings about an effect of her action intentionally when it is harmful, but unintentionally when it is beneficial. Joshua Knobe explains this asymmetry, which is known as ‘the Knobe effect’, in terms of the moral valence of the effect, arguing that this explanation generalizes to other asymmetries concerning notions as diverse as deciding and being free. I present (...) an alternative explanation of the Knobe effect in terms of normative reasons. This explanation generalizes to other folk psychological notions such as deciding, but not to such notions as being free. I go on to argue against Knobe that offering a unified explanation of all the asymmetries he discusses is in fact undesirable. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: 1. This paper argues that Epicurus had a notion of moral responsibility based on the agent’s causal responsibility, as opposed to the agent’s ability to act or choose otherwise; that Epicurus considered it a necessary condition for praising or blaming an agent for an action, that it was the agent and not something else that brought the action about. Thus, the central question of moral responsibility was whether the agent was the, or a, cause of the (...) class='Hi'>action, or whether the agent was forced to act by something else. Actions could be attributed to agents because it is in their actions that the agents, qua moral beings, manifest themselves. 2. As a result, the question of moral development becomes all important. The paper collects and discusses the evidence for Epicurus views on moral development, i.e. (i) on how humans become moral beings and (ii) on how humans can become morally better. It becomes clear that Epicurus envisaged a complex web of hereditary and environmental factors to shape the moral aspect of a human being. 3. In line with Epicurus’ theory of moral responsibility and moral development, Epicurus ethics does not have the function of developing or justifying a moral system that allows for the effective allocation of praise and blame. Rather, for him the function of ethics – and in fact of the whole of philosophy – is to give everyone a chance to morally improve. (shrink)
Abstract I argue that the empirical literature on priming effects does not warrant nor suggest the conclusion, drawn by prominent psychologists such as J. A. Bargh, that we have no free will or less free will than we might think. I focus on a particular experiment by Bargh ? the ?elderly? stereotype case in which subjects that have been primed with words that remind them of the stereotype of the elderly walk on average slower out of the experiment?s (...) room than control subjects ? and I show that we cannot say that subjects cannot help walking slower or that they are not free in doing do. I then illustrate how these cases can be reconciled and normalized within a Davidsonian theory of action to show that, in walking slower, subjects are acting intentionally. My argument applies across various experiments, including those of goal priming. In the final section I argue that the only cases in which priming effects are efficacious are so-called Buridan cases. (shrink)
As good a definition as any of a _philosophical_ conundrum is a problem all of whose possible solutions are unsatisfactory. The problem of understanding the springs of action for morally responsible agents is commonly recognized to be such a problem. The origin, nature, and explanation of freely-willed actions puzzle us today as they did the ancients Greeks, and for much the same reasons. However, one can carry this ‘perennial-puzzle’ sentiment too far. The unsatisfactory nature of philosophical theories is a (...) more or less matter, and some of them have admitted of improvement over time. This, at any rate, is what we self-selecting metaphysicians tend to suppose, and I will pursue that high calling by suggesting a few improvements to a theory of metaphysical freedom, or freedom of the will. (shrink)
The concept of luck has played an important role in debates concerning free will and moral responsibility, yet participants in these debates have relied upon an intuitive notion of what luck is. Neil Levy develops an account of luck, which is then applied to the free will debate. He argues that the standard luck objection succeeds against common accounts of libertarian free will, but that it is possible to amend libertarian accounts so that they are no more (...) vulnerable to luck than is compatibilism. But compatibilist accounts of luck are themselves vulnerable to a powerful luck objection: historical compatibilisms cannot satisfactorily explain how agents can take responsibility for their constitutive luck; non-historical compatibilisms run into insurmountable difficulties with the epistemic condition on control over action. Levy argues that because epistemic conditions on control are so demanding that they are rarely satisfied, agents are not blameworthy for performing actions that they take to be best in a given situation. It follows that if there are any actions for which agents are responsible, they are akratic actions; but even these are unacceptably subject to luck. Levy goes on to discuss recent non-historical compatibilisms, and argues that they do not offer a viable alternative to control-based compatibilisms. He suggests that luck undermines our freedom and moral responsibility no matter whether determinism is true or not. (shrink)
Like many people, I was initially attracted to free will issues – at first embracing hard determinism, as part of a general rejection of doctrines associated with religion, though exposure to Kant’s views in my first philosophy course made me begin to consider nonreligious grounds for an indeterminist conception of freeaction. Of course, Kant also takes belief in God and immortality as presupposed by moral agency, but I was never much moved by those arguments. On (...) class='Hi'>free will, though, I thought seeing my acts as determined would give me a reason to expend less effort on them. (shrink)
According to the analysis of intentional action that Michael Bratman has dubbed the 'Simple View', intending to x is necessary for intentionally x-ing. Despite the plausibility of this view, there is gathering empirical evidence that when people are presented with cases involving moral considerations, they are much more likely to judge that the action (or side effect) in question was brought about intentionally than they are to judge that the agent intended to do it. This suggests that at (...) least as far as the ordinary concept of intentional action is concerned, an agent need not intend to x in order to x intentionally. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: I argue that there is no evidence that Epicurus dealt with the kind of free-will problem he is traditionally associated with; i.e. that he discussed free choice or moral responsibility grounded on free choice, or that the "swerve" was involved in decision processes. Rather, for Epicurus, actions are fully determined by the agent's mental disposition at the outset of the action. Moral responsibility presupposes not free choice but that the person is unforced and causally (...) responsible for the action. This requires the agent's ability to influence causally, on the basis of their beliefs, the development of their behavioral dispositions. The "swerve" was intended to explain the non-necessity of agency without undermining Epicurus' atomistic explanation of the order in the universe, viz. by making the mental dispositions of adults non-necessary. (shrink)
A new event is defined as an intervention in the time reversible dynamical trajectories of particles in a system. New events are then assumed to be quantum fluctuations in the spatial and momentum coordinates, and mental action is assumed to work by ordering such fluctuations. It is shown that when the cumulative values of such fluctuations in a mean free path of a molecule are magnified by molecular interaction at the end of that path, the momentum of a (...) molecule can be changed from its original direction to any other direction. In this way mental action can produce effects through the ordering of thermal motions. Examples are given which show that the ordering of 10^4 10^5 molecules is sufficient to (a) produce detectible PK results and (b) open sufficient ion channels in the brain to initiate a physical action. The relationship of the above model to the arrow of time is discussed. (shrink)