Free Will: A Philosophical Study

Free Will: A Philosophical Study

Free Will: A Philosophical Study

Free Will: A Philosophical Study

Excerpt

Among the other great philosophical issues--the nature of truth, the foundation of ethics, the existence of God, the source of political authority, the possibility and scope of human knowledge, and the nature of meaning, causation, and consciousness--the problem of free will takes its place prominently as one both vigorously debated through philosophical history and to this day largely unsolved. Philosophers continue to debate not only the empirical question of whether or not we have free will, but also certain deeper and more fundamental theoretical questions: What is the essence or nature of a free act? Is our having the ability to act freely consistent or inconsistent with certain other propositions about the nature of the supernatural and the natural world? Would our having free will be, in fact, a good? And if so, what kind?

This book is designed both to highlight central issues in recent discussions of free will and to propose a particular indeterminist account of its nature. Various developments of the consequence argument for incompatibilism and the consequent debates over the properties of power necessity have been for many philosophers the centerpiece of free will theory during the past two decades. Discussion of the issues relevant to assessing the incompatibilist arguments thus takes a prominent place in this book. But it is also important to set out and examine directly the differing conceptions of free action itself underlying the arguments for incompatibilism and the compatibilist responses to those arguments. Hence I spend some time, following discussion of the arguments, making explicit and critically evaluating not just one compatibilist and one incompatibilist understanding of the nature of freedom, but rather a number of particular versions of each type of account, culminating in the proposal of a particular libertarian theory. This theory makes appeal, as libertarians traditionally have, to agent causation but proposes, contrary to tradition, that the notion is reducible to purely event-causal terms.

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