Free will, narrative, and retroactive self-constitution

Roman Altshuler
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
John Fischer has recently argued that the value of acting freely is the value of self-expression. Drawing on David Velleman’s earlier work, Fischer holds that the value of a life is a narrative value and free will is valuable insofar as it allows us to shape the narrative structure of our lives. This account rests on Fischer’s distinction between regulative control and guidance control. While we lack the former kind of control, on Fischer’s view, the latter is all that is needed for self-expression. I first develop Fischer’s narrative account, focusing on his reliance on temporal loops as giving us control over the value of our lives. Second, I argue that the narrative account grants us greater power over the past than Fischer would allow: since narrative allows not only for changes in how we feel about episodes in our past but what those episodes in fact were, it allows for a kind of retroactive self-constitution. Finally, I suggest that this modification of the narrative view opens the possibility of a conception of freedom far stronger than guidance control. It does not give us the libertarian control over whether to choose A or B in the present, but it does provide a measure of control over the sort of person an agent has been, and thus whether she is the sort of person who will choose A or B in the future.
Keywords Free will  Narrative  John Fischer  David Velleman  Practical rationality  Self-constitution
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11097-014-9365-z
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory.Alasdair C. MacIntyre - 2007 - University of Notre Dame Press.
The Significance of Free Will.Robert Kane - 1996 - Oxford University Press USA.
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

View all 28 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Based on a True Story.Meghan Griffith - 2011 - Social Theory and Practice 37 (1):19-34.
Narrativity, Freedom, and Redeeming the Past.Ben Bradley - 2011 - Social Theory and Practice 37 (1):47-62.
Comments on John Martin Fischer's Our Stories. [REVIEW]J. Velleman - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 158 (3):515-521.
Default Compatibilism and Narrativity.Michael Nelson - 2011 - Social Theory and Practice 37 (1):35-45.
Responsibility and Self-Expression.John Martin Fischer - 1999 - The Journal of Ethics 3 (4):277-297.
Responsibility, Control, and Omissions.John Martin Fischer - 1997 - The Journal of Ethics 1 (1):45-64.
A Problem for Guidance Control.Patrick Todd & Neal A. Tognazzini - 2008 - Philosophical Quarterly 58 (233):685-692.
L'Imagination poético-pratique dans l'identité narrative.Jean-Luc Amalric - 2012 - Études Ricoeuriennes / Ricoeur Studies 3 (2):110-127.
Embodied Narratives.Richard Menary - 2008 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (6):63-84.


Added to PP index

Total downloads
228 ( #22,392 of 2,293,920 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
28 ( #15,167 of 2,293,920 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature