Freedom and Incompatibilism: On the Possibility of Undetermined Free Action

Dissertation, University of Notre Dame (2002)

Alicia Finch
Northern Illinois University
There is a very popular, very potent argument for the impossibility of undetermined free action---call it the naysayer's argument . The argument as I have formulated it is this: If an act is undetermined, it is impossible to account for the occurrence of that act. If it is impossible to account for the occurrence of an act, that act occurs by mere chance. If an act occurs by mere chance, that act falls under no one's control. If an act falls under no one's control, that act is not free. Thus, if an act is undetermined, that act is not free. In this dissertation, I will delve into this argument, considering how the proponent of undetermined free action---the yeasayer---ought to respond. ;First, I will argue that in order to answer this question, one must reformulate the argument in terms of agent-controlled indeterminacy resolution . Once I have reformulated the argument in these terms, it will be clear that the yeasayer must respond to this argument by denying either: If an instance of indeterminacy resolution occurs, it is impossible to account for its occurrence. or If it is impossible to account for an occurrence, the occurrence occurs by mere chance. I will then consider which proposition the yeasayer ought to deny. ;I will argue that the yeasayer cannot refute the naysayer via a denial of and that he must deny . Indeed, he must affirm not only that there is a distinction between events that cannot be accounted for and those that occur by mere chance but that instances of agent-controlled indeterminacy resolution fall into the former category but not the latter. ;Once I have reached this conclusion, I will thoroughly explore the difficulties involved in affirming the thesis in question. I will argue that one's prephilosophical and metaphilosophical convictions determine whether one can reasonably affirm it. I will ultimately conclude that though the thesis is true, it is reasonable for the naysayer to deny it and, thus, that the naysayer cannot be refuted on his own terms
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