A Companion to Free Will

Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell (2022)
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The concept of free will is fraught with controversy, as readers of this volume likely know. Philosophers disagree about what free will is, whether we have it, what mitigates or destroys it, and what it's good for. Indeed, philosophers even disagree about how to fix the referent of the term 'free will' for purposes of describing and exploring these disagreements. What one person considers a reasonably neutral working definition of 'free will' is often considered question-begging or otherwise misguided by another. Such disputes make it difficult to summarize the problem of free will, roughly the debate over the nature and existence of free will, in a clear and uncontentious way. In generic terms, however, the two basic solutions to the problem of free will are free-willism, the view that we have free will, and free-will denialism, i.e. the view that we do not have free will. As stated here, neither denialism nor free-willism constitutes a complete solution to the problem of free will; to be complete, a proposed solution must also tell us a convincing story about what free will is and that, as it turns out, is a very difficult task indeed. One historically popular way of approaching the problem of free will is to ask about the relationship between free will and determinism: "Does free will stand in relation R to determinism: yes or no?" This is just a template for a question, of course. To transform this template-question into a substantive question with a clear meaning, we need to flesh out the template's free-will relatum, its determinism relatum, and give a precise value to relation R. There is, however, no uncontroversial way to do this. In addition to the standard difficulties raised by fixing the referent of 'free will', philosophers hold radically different views about what is-or should be-meant by 'determinism', Shabo ), and they identify relations which are as substantively different as correlation and causation when characterizing relation R. In practical terms, then, it may be best to think of the problem of determinism as a loose collection of disagreements about how to best spell out and answer the template-question, and how asking and answering such questions would help us to solve the problem of free will.



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Author Profiles

Villard Alan White
University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
J. Campbell
Georgia Southern University
Joe Campbell
Washington State University
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