Incompatibilism, the view that free will and determinism are incompatible, subsists on two widely accepted, but deeply confused, theses concerning possibility and causation: (1) in a deterministic universe, one can never truthfully utter the sentence “I could have done otherwise,” and (2) in such universes, one can never really receive credit or blame for having caused an event, since in fact all events have been predetermined by conditions during the universe’s birth. Throughout the free will literature one finds variations on these two themes, often intermixed in various ways. When Robert Nozick2 describes our longing for “originative value” he apparently has thesis (2) in mind, and thesis (1) may underlie his assertion that “we want it to be true that in that very same situation we could have done (significantly) otherwise.” John Austin, in a famous footnote, flirts with thesis (1).
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