Free Will

Free Will

Free Will

Free Will


The question whether human choices and actions are causally determined or are in a way free, and the implications of this for our moral, personal and social lives continues to challenge philosophers. This book explores the determinist rejection of free will through a detailed exposition of the central determinist argument and a consideration of the responses to each of its premises. At every stage familiar examples and case studies help frame and ground the argument. The discussion is at no time peremptory and the invitation to the reader to be drawn in and to contribute to the debate as an engaged participant is palpable in the manner and approach adopted throughout. "Free Will" will be welcomed by students looking for an engaging and clear introduction to the subject, and as a rigorous exercise in philosophical argument it will serve, for the beginning student new to philosophy, as an excellent springboard into the subject more generally.


Few issues in philosophy are as interesting, both to lay person and professional, as the problem of the freedom of the will (or freedom of action – the two descriptions I take to mean the same thing). For, as noted in the Preface (and as we will see), the central issue here concerns the ability to initiate (or possibility of initiating) action: that is, of there being (genuine) actions at all. Merely being able to will certain actions, actions not then performed, would be indistinguishable from just wishing for impossible outcomes. And would be accommodated to the degree that such wishing itself counts as action.

Equally, over the years, few problems have seemed as intractable to philosophical solution as the problem of free action. In what follows I will both lay out the central issues involved in this philosophical problem, and consider various ways in which human concerns with freedom, responsibility and the understanding of other people are involved. Further, I shall offer (in later chapters) some thoughts on possible lines of solution. However, as a beginning, it is important to understand what the issue might be, or, more exactly, why there is an issue here at all.

Two important distinctions for understanding human activity

When we consider the world around us, and our place in it, we regularly note two related contrasts whose closer identification will take us into the question of the freedom of the will. The first . . .

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