This essay is an investigation into the sense of ‘able’ relevant to free will, where free will is understood as requiring the ability to do otherwise. I argue that van Inwagen's recent functional specification of the relevant sense of ‘able’ is flawed, and that explicating the powers involved in free will shall likely require paying detailed attention to the semantics and pragmatics of ‘can’ and ‘able’. Further, I argue that van Inwagen's promise-level ability requirement on free will is too strong. (...) I also argue that Mele's conjecture that the strength of the ability to perform the ‘alternative’ action be no higher than the strength of the ability exercised in performing an action is mistaken. I suggest there is an asymmetry in the strengths of the abilities which make up the n-way power that comprises free will, and that this looks to have some interesting consequences for the connection between the abilities required for free will and, e.g. the ‘up to us’ locution. (shrink)
This Element considers the relationship between the traditional view of God as all-powerful, all-knowing and wholly good on the one hand, and the idea of human free will on the other. It focuses on the potential threats to human free will arising from two divine attributes: God's exhaustive foreknowledge and God's providential control of creation.
According to some, free will requires alternative possibilities. But not any old alternative possibility will do. Sometimes, being able to bring about an alternative does not bestow any control on an agent. In order to bestow control, and so be directly relevant qua alternative to grounding the agent's moral responsibility, alternatives need to be robust. Here, I investigate the nature of robust alternatives. I argue that Derk Pereboom's latest robustness criterion is too strong, and I suggest a different criterion based (...) on the idea that what agents need to be able to do is keep open the possibility of securing their blamelessness, rather than needing to directly ensure their own blamelessness at the time of decision. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that there are different ways that an agent may be able to do otherwise and that therefore, when free will is understood as requiring that an agent be able to do otherwise, we face the following question: which way of being able to do otherwise is most relevant to free will? I answer this question by first discussing the nature of intrinsic dispositions and abilities, arguing that for each action type there is a spectrum of (...) intrinsic abilities. I suggest that recognising this allows us to articulate two ways in which an intrinsic ability is general (such that there are two kinds of non-general ability). And I argue that the abilities most relevant to free will need to be non-general in both of the ways identified. Along the way I show why these points threaten to undermine Vihvelin’s dispositionalist account of free will. (shrink)
Philosophers disagree over whether dispositions can be intrinsically ﬁnked or masked. Choi suggests that there are no clear, relevant differences between cases where intrinsic ﬁnks would be absurd and those where they seem plausible, and as a result rejects them wholesale. Here, I highlight two features of dispositional properties which, when considered together, provide a plausible explanation for when dispositions can be subject to intrinsic ﬁnks and when not.
Stump and Timpe have recently proposed Thomistic based solutions to the traditional problem in Christian theology of how to relate grace and free will. By taking a closer look at the notion of control, I subject Timpe’s account – itself an extension of Stump’s account – to extended critique. I argue that the centrepiece of Timpe’s solution, his reliance on Dowe’s notion of quasi-causation, is misguided and irrelevant to the problem. As a result, Timpe’s account fails to avoid Semi-Pelagianism. I (...) canvass two alternatives, each of which adheres to the broad theological assumptions made by Stump and Timpe, including the positing of only one “unique” grace. I conclude that each of these proposals fails, although I argue that one comes as close as it is possible to get to a solution given the assumptions made. -/- . (shrink)
Christopher Franklin argues that, despite appearances, everyone thinks that the ability to do otherwise is required for free will and moral responsibility. Moreover, he says that the way to decide which ability to do otherwise is required will involve settling the nature of moral responsibility. In this paper I highlight one point on which those usually called leeway theorists - i.e. those who accept the need for alternatives - agree, in contradistinction to those who deny that the ability to do (...) otherwise is needed for free will. And I explain why it falsifies both of Franklin’s claims. (shrink)
Vihvelin argues that Frankfurt-style cases should be divided into two kinds, according to when the trigger for the intention takes place: either prior to the agent's choice or after it. Most agree that only the former, which I call pre-decisional intervention, stands a chance of removing all of an agent's alternatives. Vihvelin notes that both sides in the dispute over whether there is a successful case of pre-decisional intervention assume that if there is a successful case, then it will be (...) a case where the agent has no alternative. Vihvelin thinks this is a mistake: agents subject to pre-decisional intervention still have alternatives, and the intricate discussion and development of ever more complex Frankfurt-style cases is beside the point. She argues for this by presenting a case, purportedly analogous to Frankfurt-style cases, where it is clear that there are alternatives available. Fischer has replied by disputing the analogy. In this paper I argue that Vihvelin is right to think the cases are analogous, but that both Fischer and Vihvelin are wrong to think that Vihvelin's parallel case is one where there are alternatives. Despite appearances, this is not the case, and I construct a Fischer-inspired argument to show this. (shrink)
Frankfurt-style cases purport to show that an agent can be morally responsible for an action despite not having any alternatives. Some critics have responded by highlighting various alternatives that remain in the cases presented, while Frankfurtians have objected that such alternatives are typically not capable of grounding responsibility. In this essay I address the recent suggestion by Seth Shabo that only alternatives associated with the ‘up to us’ locution ground moral responsibility. I distinguish a number of kinds of ability, suggest (...) which kinds of abilities ground the truth of the ‘up to us’ locution, and outline how these distinctions apply to the indeterministic buffer cases. (shrink)
I examine three accounts of divine freedom. I argue that two recent accounts which attempt to explain God’s freedom without appealing to alternative possibilities fail. I then show how a view of divine freedom based on Robert Adams’s idea that God’s grace means he has no obligation to create the best world is able to explain how God can be free while also being perfectly good and perfectly rational.
Several recent authors have suggested that much of the discussion on divine action is flawed since it presupposes that divine and human agency compete. Such authors advocate a reappropriation of the Scholastic distinction between primary and secondary causation which, it is suggested, solves many problems in the theology of divine action. This article (i) critiques defences of the primary/secondary cause distinction based on appeals to analogical predication, and (ii) argues that, even assuming an adequate account of the primary/secondary cause distinction, (...) the distinction provides no help in the development of non-interventionist accounts of special divine action. (shrink)
Several recent incompatibilist accounts of divine grace and human free will have appealed to the notion of quiescence in an attempt to avoid semi-Pelagianism while retaining the fallen person’s control over coming to faith and thus the agent’s responsibility for failing to come to faith. In this essay I identify three distinct roles that quiescence has been employed to play in the recent literature. I outline how an account of divine grace and human free will may employ quiescence to play (...) one role without playing either of the others. I also note that getting clear about these roles allows us to see that so-called sourcehood accounts of free will do not need to appeal to quiescence to avoid semi-Pelagianism. Far from being a benefit of sourcehood accounts, however, this highlights a serious defect in such accounts; I draw out this defect, developing it into a general argument against sourcehood accounts of free will. (shrink)
I distinguish two ways an ability might be general: (i) an ability might be general in that its possession doesn't entail the possession of an opportunity; (ii) an ability might be general in virtue of pertaining to a wide range of circumstances. I argue that these two types of generality – I refer to them with the terms ‘general’ and ‘generic’, respectively – produce two orthogonal distinctions among abilities. I show that the two types of generality are sometimes run together (...) by those writing on free will and argue that both types of generality are relevant to understanding the modality of abilities. (shrink)
In this essay I identify four different problems of heavenly freedom; i.e., problems that arise for those who hold that the redeemed in heaven have free will. They are: the problem arising from God's own freedom, the problem of needing to praise the redeemed for not sinning in heaven, the problem of needing to affirm that the redeemed freely refrain from sinning, and the problem arising from a commitment to the free will defence. I explore how some of these problems (...) vary depending on the notion of free will which is endorsed. And I suggest that because these differing problems arise from distinct theological and/or philosophical commitments, there is little reason to think that one and the same feature or property of an account of heavenly freedom will address them all. (shrink)
In this chapter I argue that the necessity of the present counts against theories of synchronic free will, according to which a person may have free will at a time t0 even once that person has decided at t0 to do something. I defend the theory of diachronic free will against recent critiques drawn from the work of Michael Rota and Katherin Rogers. And I chart some of the implications for the philosophy of religion.
A proper understanding of agentive modals promises to clarify issues to do with free will, know how, and other philosophically interesting topics. In this paper I identify one constraint on, and one structural feature of, trying-based versions of the conditional analysis of the agentive modals. I suggest that the constraint and structural feature together provide a novel account of why the famous Lehrer-Chisholm objection to conditional analyses of ability modals is so powerful. I argue that Mandelkern et al.’s ‘Agentive Modals’ (...) (Philosophical Review,126/3, 301–343, 2017) conditional analysis of the agentive modals fails to avoid this problem. I also identify two further problems for their account. I close by summarising a number of criteria which any successful semantic analysis of the agentive modals should satisfy. (shrink)
Sennett (1999) and Pawl & Timpe (2009; 2013) attempt to show how we can praise heavenly agents for things they inevitably do in heaven by appealing to the notion of derivative freedom. Matheson (2017) has criticized this use of derivative freedom. In this essay I show why Matheson's argument is inconclusive but also how the basic point may be strengthened to undermine the use Sennett and Pawl & Timpe make of derivative freedom. I then show why Matheson is mistaken to (...) claim that the value of free choice depends on an agent retaining the ability to change their mind; in so doing I demonstrate that some choices which result in fixed outcomes - a feature of the choices leading to impeccability - can indeed be valuable even if they cannot be undone. (shrink)
I review W. Matthews Grant's book Free Will and God's Universal Causality. While I note that Grant's book is a systematic and wide-ranging defence of a strong doctrine of divine concurrence, I suggest that in the end the core of Grant's view fails to overcome the metaphysical objection to divine concurrence, roughly, that there cannot be two causes both of which (but not together) cause the entirety of an event.
This thesis is an investigation into the nature of those abilities that are relevant to free will when the latter is understood as requiring the ability to do otherwise. I assume from the outset the traditional and intuitive picture that being able to do otherwise bestows a significant kind of control on an agent and I ask what kinds of ability are implicated in such control. In chapter 1 I assess the simple conditional analysis of the sense of ‘can’ relevant (...) to free will, and I agree with the consensus that this analysis fails. In chapter 2 I consider Kadri Vihvelin’s contemporary version of the conditional account, which is cast in terms of dispositions. I develop, via engagement with Vihvelin’s view, an account of how modal properties such as dispositions and abilities should be individuated. In chapter 3 I use this account to show why Vihvelin’s account of free will is unsatisfactory. I also show how it helps us to better understand a distinction that is often made in the free will literature, namely, that between some notion of ‘general’ ability on the one hand and a notion of ‘specific’ or ‘particular’ abilities on the other. I argue that there are two important distinctions, both of which are relevant to free will. In chapter 4 I consider Keith Lehrer’s analysis of ‘can’ and conclude that while it fails to achieve Lehrer’s stated aim – namely, that of demonstrating that free will is compatible with determinism – it does contain some useful insights about the kinds of ability relevant to free will. In the fifth and final chapter I switch gears somewhat; I argue that various conditions typically treated under the banner of ‘the epistemic criteria on moral responsibility’ should instead be treated as conditions on an agent’s being able to do otherwise. (shrink)
This book is the first systematic treatment of the strengths and limitations of personal and a-personal conceptions of the divine. It features contributions from Jewish, Islamic, Chinese, Indian and naturalistic backgrounds in addition to those working within a decidedly Christian framework. This book discusses whether the concept of God in classical theism is coherent at all and whether the traditional understanding of some of the divine attributes need to be modified. The contributors explore what the proposed spiritual and practical merits (...) and demerits of personal and a-personal conceptions of God might be. Additionally, their diverse perspectives reflect a broader trend within the analytic philosophy of religion to incorporate various non-Western religious traditions. Tackling these issues carefully is needed to do justice to the strengths and limitations of personal and a-personal accounts to the divine. The Divine Nature: Personal and A-Personal Perspectives will be of interest to scholars and advanced students working in philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. (shrink)
Is it consistent to maintain that human free will is incompatible with determinism in the natural world while also maintaining that it is compatible with divine universal causation? On the face of it, divine universal causation looks like a form of determinism. And the intuitions which lead to incompatibilism about free will and natural determinism also lead to incompatibilism about free will and divine determinism. Several thinkers have attempted to resist this conclusion. This essay critiques that view, with a special (...) focus on how it is developed in the work of W. Matthews Grant (2016, 2019). Grant contends that we can understand all of God’s activity as an exercise of divine “libertarian” free will and can construe God’s actions as nothing over and above the (created) effects brought about. I argue that Grant’s attempted reconciliation of human free will and universal divine causation fails, and on two counts. First, Grant does not succeed in presenting an account of the interaction of divine agency and created agency which avoids occasionalism; second, even if we assume Grant’s account successfully avoids the charge of occasionalism, it fails to reconcile divine agency with created free agency. The latter is illustrated by exploring the nature of the determination relation required by incompatibilist, agent-causation based accounts of free will. (shrink)
Mindfulness meditation seems to generate the following puzzle: On one hand, mindfulness reveals to the meditator that many of their thoughts are outside of their control and leads to a diminished sense of self; on the other, regular mindfulness practice is supposed to lead to greater self-awareness and self-control. In this article, the author develops an agent-causal account of agential control that explains both claims. It is suggested that the work of phenomenologist Hans Reiner shows us why the feeling of (...) agency extends further than that which is directly controlled; this provides a way of addressing the puzzle above, while also explaining why many beginner meditators are surprised that much conscious thought is uncontrolled. The author then extends the account by appealing to William James’s notion of the fringe of consciousness, a notion that has been extensively developed by thinkers in the phenomenological tradition, in particular, Aron Gurwitsch. Inspired by Bruce Mangan’s use of the fringe in service of “explanatory phenomenology,” the author argues that Gurwitsch’s model of awareness suggests that the fringe makes possible a distinctive type of choice. This facilitates an account of agency that can explain the types of control possessed during different stages of mindfulness practice. (shrink)