Robert Kane provides a critical overview of debates about free will of the past half century, relating this recent inquiry to the broader history of the free will issue and to vital currents of twentieth century thought. Kane also defends a traditional libertarian or incompatibilist view of free will, employing arguments that are both new to philosophy and that respond to contemporary developments in physics and biology, neuro science, and the cognitive and behavioral sciences.
Consider the following principle: (LP) If an action is undetermined at a time t, then its happening rather than not happening at t would be a matter of chance or luck, and so it could not be a free and responsible action. This principle (which we may call the luck principle, or simply LP) is false, as I shall explain shortly. Yet it seems true.
Accessible to students with no background in the subject, A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will provides an extensive and up-to-date overview of all the latest views on this central problem of philosophy. Opening with a concise introduction to the history of the problem of free will--and its place in the history of philosophy--the book then turns to contemporary debates and theories about free will, determinism, and related subjects like moral responsibility, coercion, compulsion, autonomy, agency, rationality, freedom, and more. Classical compatibilist (...) and new compatibilist theories of free will are considered along with the latest incompatibilist or libertarian theories and the most recent skeptical challenges to free will. Separate chapters are devoted to the relation of free will to moral responsibility and ethics; to modern science; and to religious questions about predestination, divine foreknowledge, and human freedom. Numerous down-to-earth examples and challenging thought experiments enliven the text. The book is an ideal addition to introduction to philosophy, metaphysics, and free will courses. (shrink)
This comprehensive reference provides an exhaustive guide to current scholarship on the perennial problem of Free Will--perhaps the most hotly and voluminously debated of all philosophical problems. While reference is made throughout to the contributions of major thinkers of the past, the emphasis is on recent research. The essays, most of which are previously unpublished, combine the work of established scholars with younger thinkers who are beginning to make significant contributions. Taken as a whole, the Handbook provides an engaging and (...) accessible roadmap to the state of the art thinking on this enduring topic. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to respond to recent discussion of, and objections to, the libertarian view of free will I have developed in many works over the past four decades. The issues discussed all have a bearing on the central question of how one might make sense of a traditional free will requiring indeterminism in the light of modern science. This task involves, among other things, avoiding all traditional libertarian appeals to unusual forms of agency or causation that (...) cannot be accounted for by ordinary modes of explanation familiar to the natural and human sciences. Doing this, I argue, requires piecing together a “complex tapestry” of ideas and arguments that involve rethinking many traditional assumptions about free will. The paper also argues that one cannot get to the heart of historical debates about free will without distinguishing different kinds of freedom, different senses of will, and different notions of control, among other distinctions. I especially focus here on different notions of freedom and control that are necessary to make sense of free will. (shrink)
In a recent paper in this journal, “How should libertarians conceive of the location and role of indeterminism?” Christopher Evan Franklin critically examines my libertarian view of free will and attempts to improve upon it. He says that while Kane's influential [view] offers many important advances in the development of a defensible libertarian theory of free will and moral responsibility … [he made] “two crucial mistakes in formulating libertarianism” – one about the location of indeterminism, the other about its role (...) – “both of which have helped fan the flame of the luck argument”. In this paper, I respond to Franklin's criticisms, arguing that, so far from making it significantly more difficult to answer objections about luck and control, as he claims, giving indeterminism the location and role I do makes it possible to answer such objections and many other related objections to libertarian free will. A central theme of this paper will emerge in my responses: In order to make sense of freedom of will... (shrink)
This paper responds to three critical essays on my book, The Significance of Free Will(Oxford, 1996) by Randolph Clarke, Istiyaque Haji and Alfred Mele (which essays appear in this issue and an earlier issue of this journal). This response first explains crucial features of the theory of free will of the book, including the notion of ultimate responsibility.The paper then answers objections of Haji and Mele that the occurrence of undetermined choices would be matters of luck or chance, and so (...) could not be responsible actions. It then responds to concerns of Clarke that indeterminism provides no greater degree of control for defenders of incompatibilist free will and to concerns Clarke has about the notions of "effort" and "willing" in the book. Finally, the paper addresses objections of Haji concerning Frankfurt type-examples and the relation of moral responsibility to the power to act otherwise, and it addresses a concern of Mele's about why we should want a free will that is incompatible with determinism. (shrink)
The present essay is about this problem of the intelligibility of incompatibilist freedom. I do not think Kant, Nagel and Strawson are right in thinking that incompatibilist theories cannot be made intelligible to theoretical reason, nor are those many others right who think that incompatibilist accounts of freedom must be essentially mysterious or terminally obscure. I doubt if I can say enough in one short paper to convince anyone of these claims who is not already persuaded. But I hope to (...) persuade some readers that new ways of thinking about the problem are necessary and, more to the point, that new ways of thinking about the problem are possible. As Nagel says, "nothing approaching the truth has yet been said on this subject." Parts V and VI of this paper present one new way of thinking about the problem. Parts II through IV prepare for this way by distinguishing and discussing two kinds of incompatibilist theories. (shrink)
If among the spate of books on free will in recent years there are any that a philosopher concerned with that topic should have handy, this is one of them. Its coverage of the free-will issues debated in the philosophical literature of the last twenty years or so is penetrating, instructive, and by far the most thorough I’ve seen. Kane defends his own positions, but he is unusually fair, even generous, in expounding opposing views. And, while the book is not (...) a popular treatment, it is written in an accessible and engaging style. It could have been shorter, by being less repetitious and in places more succinctly written, without loss of content or accessibility—indeed with some gain in accessibility for those who are not engaged in reading it through but just wish to consult it for what it has to say on particular issues. There is a fairly extensive and helpful index. It is altogether a very appealing and useful book. (shrink)
_ _ _Free Will_ brings together the essential readings on the debate of free will and determinism.Written by top scholars in the field, the essays represent some of the clearest and most accessible thinking on this subject. The introduction offers a concise yet thorough mapping of this age-old debate as well as a helpful overview of the selections.
Over the past five decades, I have been developing a distinctive view of free will according to which it requires that agents be to some degree ultimately responsible for the formation of their own wills. To act ‘of one's own free will’ in this sense is to act ‘from a will’ that is to some extent ‘of one's own free making’. A free will of this ultimate kind has been under attack in the modern era as obscure and unintelligible. In (...) this paper, I discuss the arguments for such a view and compare it to other contemporary views of free will and action. I then address criticisms that such a non‐determinist free will cannot be made intelligible or reconciled with modern science, does not allow sufficient agent control, reduces to mere chance or luck or randomness, leads to various regresses, or fails to account for moral responsibility, among other criticisms. (shrink)
Free Will.Robert Kane - 2007 - Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 81:291-302.details
Over the past three decades, I have been developing a distinctive view of free will motivated by a desire to reconcile a non-determinist view of free will with modern science as well as with recent developments in philosophy. A view of free will of the kind I defend did not exist in a developed form before the 1980s, but is now discussed in the philosophical literature as one of three chief options an incompatibilist or libertarian view of free will might (...) take. As such, this view has been the subject of much recent discussion. In this paper, I explain and defend my view of free will, and answer recent criticisms of it. Some of these criticisms are made by Robert Allen in his paper “Self-forming Actions,” a contribution to the seminar of which the present paper is a part. I also respond to Katherin Rogers’ contribution to this seminar “Libertarianism in Kane and Anselm.” Her book, Anselm on Freedom, argues that Anselm defended a unique libertarian view of free will, avoiding both Pelagianism and Augustine’s later compatibilism, a view that she argues has affinities to my view of free will. I also discuss these affinities to Anselm in my paper and their theological and well as philosophical implications. (shrink)
For four decades, I have been developing a distinctive view of free will according to which agents are required to be ultimately responsible for the creation or formation of their own wills (characters and purposes). The aim of this paper is to explain how a free will of this traditional kind -which..
Perhaps the best way to understand the novelty of Berofsky’s approach is to discuss two prevailing views about autonomy he rejects. On one of these views, we have the following picture: Autonomous agents develop powers to critically reflect upon and evaluate their past and present motivations. Such reflection inevitably leads to conflicts between reflective evaluation and existing motivation. The workaholic judges that he should spend more time with his family; the smoker does not want to have the craving for cigarettes (...) she does have. When such conflicts arise, one exercises autonomy by choosing in favor of the evaluations or higher-order desires over one’s first-order desires. Reason wins out over desire, or the higher self—the “true” or “real” self—wins out over the lower self. (shrink)
The structure of the second, Or so-Called modal version of anselm's ontological argument is discussed in relation to various systems of alethic modal logic. It is argued that there are three current problems standing in the way of acceptance of the argument, Each related to its modal structure, And each an analogue of a traditional objection to anselm's original argument. Two of these problems can probably be solved, But the third remains recalcitrant.
Modernity has challenged the ancient ideal of a universal quest for wisdom, and today's world of conflicting cultures and values has raised further doubts regarding the possibility of objective ethical standards. Robert Kane refocuses the debate on the philosophical quest for wisdom, and argues that ethical principles about right action and the good life can be seen to emerge from that very quest itself. His book contends that the search for wisdom involves a persistent striving to overcome narrowness of vision (...) that comes from the inevitable limitations of finite points of view. When applied to questions of value and the good life, this striving has ethical implications about the way we should treat ourselves and others. This study argues for the merits of this central thesis against alternative theories in contemporary normative ethics, and discusses its practical applications for social ethics, political philosophy, law and moral education. (shrink)
_Some say there is no progress in philosophy, and certainly there is one sense in_ _which they are wrong. There are at least significant developments in philosophical_ _doctrines that have been persistently advocated in the past. With confidence I leave_ _you to arrive at a satisfactory understanding of 'significant'. There is no doubt that_ _Robert Kane has made some progress, probably more than any other contemporary_ _philosopher, in the laying out and defending of the doctrine that an understandable_ _freedom is (...) importantly inconsistent with determinism, and that we do have this_ _freedom. If the past is any guide to the present, I myself, with the aid of further_ _study, will come to disagree. But certainly this summation of Kane's views, put_ _together for the Determinism and Freedom Philosophy Website, is strongly_ _commended to you._. (shrink)
R. Jay Wallace’s Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments develops an original compatibilist approach to issues about moral responsibility and freedom that cannot be ignored by anyone working on these topics. Wallace’s theory is “Strawsonian” in the sense that it is heavily indebted to P. F. Strawson’s influential work on reactive attitudes. But we would seriously underestimate the originality of Wallace’s accomplishment if we said that his theory was merely an extension of Strawson’s. It includes new twists that Strawson did not (...) envisage and removes some weaknesses in Strawson’s position that are clearly there. The Strawsonian approach is one of several new compatibilist approaches to responsibility and freedom that have changed the face of debates about these topics over the past four decades; and Wallace’s book is the most developed and challenging Strawsonian view available. I have reservations about some of Wallace’s conclusions, but I have nothing but admiration for the book. It develops an original position and is written with critical acumen and in a lucid style that could be shown to graduate students as a model of what good philosophical writing can be. (shrink)
In his influential paper, “Freedom and Resentment,” P. F. Strawson argued that our ordinary practices of holding persons morally responsible and related reactive attitudes were wholly “internal” to the practices themselves and could be insulated from traditional philosophical and metaphysical concerns, including concerns about free will and determinism. This “insulation thesis” is a controversial feature of Strawson’s influential paper; and it has had numerous critics. The first purpose of this paper is to explain my own reasons for thinking that our (...) practices of holding responsible cannot be entirely insulated from incompatibilist concerns about freedom and determinism. The second purpose is to argue that these incompatibilist concerns are in fact legitimate concerns: There are sound reasons to believe that our ordinary practices of holding persons morally responsible do require at least sometimes in our lives that we must be capable of acting freely in a manner that is not determined. I defend this thesis by spelling out why I believe various compatibilist strategies attempting to show that moral responsibility is compatible with determinism fail to show this. In the course of this critique, a general theme will emerge: In order to do full justice to our ordinary practices of holding persons responsible and the freedoms thus involved, one must distinguish between different types of freedom, and in particular, between freedom of action and freedom of will. (shrink)