Dissertation, University of Leeds (2020)

Plausibly, agents act freely iff their actions are responses to reasons. But what sort of relationship between reason and action is required for the action to count as a response? The overwhelmingly dominant answer to this question is modalist. It holds that responses are actions that share a modally robust or secure relationship with the relevant reasons. This thesis offers a new alternative answer. It argues that responses are actions that can be explained by reasons in the right way. This explanationist answer comes apart from the modalist answer. For it holds that actions are responses to reasons if they are explained by those reasons even if they don’t share a modally robust relationship. Explanationism thus offers a novel way of vindicating the intuition that alternative possibilities don’t matter to responding to reasons and (consequently) free agency. The key dialectical position the thesis develops is that both modalism and explanationism constitute attempts to capture he core type of relationship encoded by the notion of a response. Responses to reasons, at core, involve a non-accidental relationship between reason and action. We can either understand non-accidentality as a modal phenomenon – as a modally robust tracking between two facts. Or we can understand non-accidentality as an explanatory phenomenon – as a special explanatory relationship between two facts. According to my rival explanationist proposal, two facts share a non-accidental relationship iff we can give a unified explanation of why both obtain. Unified explanations are explanations of why [p&q] that cannot be decomposed into two (or more) separate independent explanations of p and of q. Consequently, according to explanationism about responding to reasons, actions are responses to reasons iff those reasons offer a rational explanation of the action that cannot be decomposed into separate independent components.
Keywords Free Will  Non-Accidentality  Reasons-Responsiveness  Rational Agency  Actual Sequence  Frankfurt Cases
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On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.

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