In Sophie C. Gibb & Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson (eds.), Mental Causation and Ontology. Oxford University Press (2013)

Jonathan D. Jacobs
Saint Louis University
Timothy O'Connor
Indiana University, Bloomington
Freedom and moral responsibility have one foot in the practical realm of human affairs and the other in the esoteric realm of fundamental metaphysics—or so we believe. This has been denied, especially in the metaphysics-bashing era occupying the first two-thirds or so of the twentieth century, traces of which linger in the present day. But the reasons for this denial seem to us quite implausible. Certainly, the argument for the general bankruptcy of metaphysics has been soundly discredited. Arguments from Strawson and others that our moral practices are too deeply embedded in human life to rest on anything as tenuous as a metaphysical doctrine far from the thoughts of ordinary people would seem to prove too much: we can easily imagine fantastic scenarios far from the thoughts of ordinary people—involving, say, alien manipulation or massive deception—that, if true, would clearly undermine claims to freedom and responsibility. For still other philosophers, the separation of the moral life from (some) metaphysical issues is prescriptive, not descriptive: it is a recommendation that we revise ordinary moral thought by severing its allegedly problematic links to metaphysics. (Some philosophers appear to hover undecided between such a prescriptive project and a Strawsonian descriptive claim.) We suspect that the prospects of retaining the binding force of ordinary moral thought, were such a reconceived moral practice widely embraced, are bleak. A transition to something closer to moral nihilism seems at least as likely. In any case, our interest here is in descriptive metaphysics, not revisionary. To say as we do that freedom and moral responsibility have a partly metaphysical character is not to suggest that they can be had only if some highly specific version of a particular metaphysical framework is correct. Instead, we suggest in what follows, it is a broadly neo-Humean metaphysics that is not hospitable to freedom (for reasons distinctive to the metaphysics), while a broadly neo-Aristotelian metaphysics is. But we also think (and it is the main aim of our paper to show) that different versions of the neo- Aristotelian metaphysics lead to rather different metaphysical accounts of free and responsible action. Specifically, we will argue that (1) the most satisfactory account of human freedom within the broadly neo-Aristotelian metaphysics is agent-causal, but that (2) two different versions of the general metaphysics will lead to important differences in the agent-causal account of freedom. Adjust the details of your general metaphysics, and the details of your account of freedom are transformed in significant ways. Action theory cannot properly be pursued in isolation from general metaphysics.
Keywords Neo-Aristotelian Metaphysics  Agency  Agent Cuasation  Action Theory
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,163
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

Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
The Significance of Free Will.Robert Kane - 1996 - Oxford University Press USA.
Causality.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 42 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Abilities to Act.Randolph Clarke - 2015 - Philosophy Compass 10 (12):893-904.
A Critique of Substance Causation.Andrei Buckareff - 2017 - Philosophia 45 (3):1019-1026.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Substance Causation, Powers, and Human Agency.E. J. Lowe - 2013 - In S. C. Gibb, E. J. Lowe & R. D. Ingthorsson (eds.), Mental Causation and Ontology. Oxford Up. pp. 153--172.
Causal Powers: A Neo-Aristotelian Metaphysic.Jonathan D. Jacobs - 2007 - Dissertation, Indiana University
Agent Causation Before and After the Ontological Turn.Daniel von Wachter - 2003 - In Edmund Runggaldier, Christian Kanzian & Josef Quitterer (eds.), Persons: An Interdisciplinary Approach. öbvhpt.
Agent-Causal Theories.Timothy O'Connor - 2011 - In Robert Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will: Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 309-328.
Event Causation and Agent Causation.E. J. Lowe - 2001 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 61 (1):1-20.
Active Control, Agent-Causation and Free Action.Ishtiyaque Haji - 2004 - Philosophical Explorations 7 (2):131-148.
A Compatibilist Version of the Theory of Agent Causation.Ned Markosian - 1999 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 80 (3):257-277.
Must Rational Intentions Maximize Utility?Ralph Wedgwood - 2017 - Philosophical Explorations 20 (sup2):73-92.


Added to PP index

Total views
140 ( #83,517 of 2,506,844 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #140,003 of 2,506,844 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes