Leeway vs. Sourcehood Conceptions of Free Will

In Kevin Timpe, Meghan Griffith & Neil Levy (eds.), Routledge Companion to Free Will. Routledge. pp. 213-224 (2016)

Kevin Timpe
Calvin College
One reason that many of the philosophical debates about free will might seem intractable is that di erent participants in those debates use various terms in ways that not only don't line up, but might even contradict each other. For instance, it is widely accepted to understand libertarianism as\the conjunction of incompatibilism [the thesis that free will is incompatible with the truth of determinism] and the thesis that we have free will" (van Inwagen (1983), 13f; see also Kane (2001), 17; Pereboom (2006), xiv). However, for van Inwagen's later reservations about the use of the term `libertarianism', see van Inwagen (2008), relevant pages). This makes perplexing a number of views that have the name `libertarian compatibilism' (see Vihvelin (2000) and Arvan (2013)) as on the standard use of the terms involved, the name appears to involve a contradiction. Even the meaning and usage of the term `free will' is itself contested. Manuel Vargas writes that \`free will' is a term of both ordinary and technical discourse" (Vargas (2013), 325). However, it is not clear if the ordinary use of the term always tracks the technical use. But in an in uential paper on \How to Think about About the Problem of Free Will," Peter van Inwagen claims that \the phrase `free will' . . . hardly exists except as a philosophical term of art. Its non- philosophical uses are pretty much con ned to the phrase `of his/her own free will' which means `uncoerced"' (van Inwagen (2008), 320 footnote 1). To many of us, a look at the philosophical and literatures of the past millennium suggest a use that need not be a technical notion, even if it is often used in a technical way. No matter how this debate about the `ordinary use' of the phrase turns out, recognizing that `free will' gets used in di erent ways and being careful in such usage is important in order to avoid what Chalmers has called `merely verbal disputes' (Chalmers (2011)). For this reason, we want to be very clear in how we understand and de ne free will. There seem to be at least two di erent fundamental notions of what free will is in the contemporary literature. The rst of these, which seems to have garnered the most attention in the last century, works under the assumption that for a person to rightly be said to have free will, she must have the ability 1 to do otherwise than what she does, in fact, do. Under this view I could be said to have freely chosen to drive to work only if I also could have freely chosen, for example, to bike to work or to skip work altogether. This approach to free will is referred to as a `leeway-based approach' (cite my book) or an `alternative- possiblities approach' (see Sartorio (2016).) In contrast, a smaller percentage of the extant literature focuses primarily on the issues of `source,' `ultimacy,' and `origination'. This second approach doesn't focus immediately on the presence or absence of alternative possibilities. On this approach, I freely choose to drive to work only if I am the source of my choice and there is nothing outside of me from which the choice is ultimately derived. In what follows, we refer to the rst of these conceptions|the conception that free will is primarily a matter of having alternative possibilities|as the `leeway- based' conception. Similarly, we will refer to the second of these conceptions| that free will is primarily a matter of our being the source of our choices in a particular way|as the `sourcehood' conception. (John Fischer and Carolina Sartorio refers to sourcehood views as `actual sequence' views; see Fischer (2006) and Sartorio (2016)). Both of these notions can be seen in the following passage taken from Robert Kane: We believe we have free will when we view ourselves as agents ca- pable of in uencing the world in various ways. Open alternatives, or alternative possibilities, seem to lie before us. We reason and deliberate among them and choose. We feel (1) it is `up to us' what we choose and how we act; and this means we could have chosen or acted otherwise. As Aristotle noted: when acting is `up to us,' so is not acting. This `up-to-us-ness' also suggests (2) the ultimate control of our actions lies in us and not outside us in factors beyond our control (Kane (2005), 6). In the next two sections, I look in greater detail at each of these two approaches to the nature of free will, and how they each seek to approach what it means for an action to be `up to us'. I also show how the di erences between these two conceptions cut across the debate about what Kane refers to as the Com- patibility Question: \Is free will compatible with determinism?" (Kane (1996), 13). Along the way, I also brie y point out a number of ways how which of these conceptions is at work shapes how one engages various arguments and other issues regarding
Keywords Leeway  Sourcehood  Free Will
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