Free will

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006)
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Abstract

Most of us are certain that we have free will, though what exactly this amounts to is much less certain. According to David Hume , the question of the nature of free will is “the most contentious question of metaphysics.” If this is correct, then figuring out what free will is will be no small task indeed. Minimally, to say that an agent has free will is to say that the agent has the capacity to choose his or her course of action. But animals seem to satisfy this criterion, and we typically think that only persons, and not animals, have free will. Let us then understand free will as the capacity unique to persons that allows them to control their actions. It is controversial whether this minimal understanding of what it means to have a free will actually requires an agent to have a specific faculty of will, whether the term "free will" is simply shorthand for other features of persons, and whether there really is such a thing as free will at all.

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