The libertarian predicament: a plea for action theory

Synthese 196 (1):161-178 (2019)
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Abstract

Libertarians in the contemporary free will debate find themselves under attack from two angles. They face the challenge of defending the necessity of indeterminism for freedom against the philosophical mainstream position of compatibilism. And second, they are increasingly forced to argue for the very possibility of indeterministic free will, in the face of the so-called luck objection. Many contemporary libertarians try to overcome the second problem by adopting the causal theory of action. We argue that this move at the same time undermines their ability to answer the first challenge. On the basis of this, we suggest that CTA might be a theory of action that is biased towards compatibilism. We thus argue that the best strategy for the libertarian is to insist that intentional action itself requires indeterminism. Recent agent-causal accounts offer a promising way of developing such an alternative libertarianism, but we argue that they currently suffer from problems similar to the ones we identify for the event-causalist. If we are correct, then this has an important implication for the contemporary free will debate: action theory should take centre stage.

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