The State of the Free Will Debate: From Frankfurt Cases to the Consequence Argument

In this paper I tie together the reasoning used in the Consequence Argument with the intuitions that drive Frankfurt cases in a way that illuminates some of the underlying differences between compatibilists and incompatibilists. I begin by explaining the ‘basic mechanism’ at work in Frankfurt cases: the existence of sufficient conditions for an outcome that do not actually bring about that outcome. I suggest that other potential threats to free will, such as God’s foreknowledge, can be understood in terms of this basic mechanism. I then turn to the Consequence argument, which concludes that determinism precludes free will, and I adopt the structure of this argument to create parallel ‘progeny’ arguments using the basic mechanism of Frankfurt cases. By thus forcing the Consequence argument and Frankfurt cases into such close proximity, we can see more clearly some of the crucial issues that separate incompatibilists and compatibilists. Doing so will illustrate that for determinism to be a threat to free will requires a particular conception of the laws of nature, one that is more specific and robust than suggested by the Consequence argument alone. I conclude by showing how these questions about laws of nature lead the free will debate towards the mind-body debate and questions about reductionism and supervenience.
Keywords free will  compatibilism  Consequence Argument  Frankfurt cases
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