Kristin M. Mickelson University of Minnesota, Morris
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  • Faculty, University of Minnesota, Morris
  • PhD, University of Colorado, Boulder, 2012.

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My research focuses on metaphysical issues related to free will--including mental causation, personal identity, and natural laws. I also work on the logic & modal semantics used to formalize standard arguments for free will. In my view, the limits of classically-based logics have led philosophers to conflate substantively different arguments and views. By introducing a key distinction between explanatory and non-explanatory free-will views along with a logic that can handle entailment claims between these views, I clarify the overall dialectic of the free-will debate. The end results? Every argument for the positive, explanatory view that deterministic laws undermine free will depends on a best-explanation argument. This means, for example, that standard deductive versions of the Consequence Argument have a substantively weaker (negative, non-explanatory) conclusion than is commonly supposed. Once our attention turns to best-explanation arguments, it seems that proponents of the view that deterministic laws pose a threat to free will carry the burden of showing that constitutive luck is NOT sufficient to undermine free will. But how can this burden be met without showing that free will is possible in universes at which determinism is false--that is, without defending a broadly libertarian view of free will? Those who reject libertarianism, I argue, should accept that the fundamental threat to free will is constitutive luck, which has nothing to do with the diachronic evolution of the universe. In short, once the logical structures of standard arguments for incompatibilism are clear, it seems that these arguments are best understood as arguments *for* free-will impossibilism and *against* the view that deterministic laws undermine free will.
My works
6 items found.
  1.  69
    Kristin Mickelson, The Manipulation Argument.
    Draft; in preparation for the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Free Will (editors: Meghan Griffith , Kevin Timpe & Neil Levy).
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  2. Kristin Mickelson (2015). A Critique of Vihvelin's Three-Fold Classification. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (1):85-99.
    In this essay, I argue for the rejection of Vihvelin's ‘Three-fold Classification’ , a nonstandard taxonomy of free-will compatibilism, incompatibilism, and impossibilism. Vihvelin is right that the standard taxonomy of these views is inadequate, and that a new taxonomy is needed to clarify the free-will debate. Significantly, Vihvelin notes that the standard formal definition of ‘incompatibilism’ does not capture the historically popular view that deterministic laws pose a threat to free will. Vihvelin's proposed solution is to redefine ‘incompatibilism.’ However, Vihvelin's (...)
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  3. Kristin Mickelson (2015). The Zygote Argument is Invalid: Now What? Philosophical Studies 172 (11):2911-2929.
    Alfred Mele’s original Zygote Argument is invalid. At most, its premises entail the negative thesis that free action is incompossible with deterministic laws, but its conclusion asserts the positive thesis that deterministic laws preclude free action. The original, explanatory conclusion of the Zygote Argument can be defended only by supplementing the Zygote Argument with a best-explanation argument that identifies deterministic laws as menacing. Arguably, though, the best explanation for the manipulation victim’s lack of freedom and responsibility is his constitutive luck, (...)
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  4. Kristin Mickelson (2010). The Soft-Line Solution to Pereboom's Four-Case Argument. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (4):595-617.
    Derk Pereboom's Four-Case Argument is among the most famous and resilient manipulation arguments against compatibilism. I contend that its resilience is not a function of the argument's soundness but, rather, the ill-gotten gain from an ambiguity in the description of the causal relations found in the argument's foundational case. I expose this crucial ambiguity and suggest that a dilemma faces anyone hoping to resolve it. After a thorough search for an interpretation which avoids both horns of this dilemma, I conclude (...)
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  5. Kristin Mickelson, The Explanation-Based Taxonomy of Free-Will Views [Temporarily Unavailable].
    The standard definitions of terms such as ‘incompatibilism’ and ‘compatibilism’ are problematic because these definitions do not capture the robust metaphysical and explanatory commitments of the historical views associated with these terms. As a result of equivocation on such terms is commonplace and the dialectic of the free-will debate has been obscured. In this essay, I defend a new and more exhaustive taxonomy of free-will views, the “Explanation-based Taxonomy.” This new taxonomy avoids the problems of its predecessors, and gives philosophers (...)
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  6. Kristin Mickelson & Christian Lee, Determinism and Deterministic Laws [Temporarily Unavailable].
    The thesis of determinism is not equivalent to the thesis that the laws of nature are deterministic. Because this small but rather uncontentious distinction is widely ignored, philosophers have misunderstood the lesson of those arguments which conclude that the truth of determinism is incompatible with the free-will thesis that someone performs a free action.
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