Introduction: The Contours of Contemporary Free-Will Debates (Part 2)
Abstract and Keywords
This article describes the contours of contemporary debates about free will and provides an overview of the topics in this volume. It considers the following issues: free will and conflicting views about persons; the determinist question and modern science; the compatibility question and arguments for incompatibilism; classical compatibilism; new compatibilist approaches to freedom and responsibility; moral responsibility and alternative possibilities; libertarian or incompatibilist theories of free will; further views and debates on hard determinism, hard incompatibilism, free-will skepticism, illusionism, revisionism, promises, and rollbacks; neuroscience, psychology, experimental philosophy, and free will; divine foreknowledge, human freedom, and theological dimensions of free-will debates.
This second edition of the Oxford Handbook of Free Will, like the first edition published a decade ago, is meant to be a sourcebook or guide to current work on free will and related subjects. The first edition focused on writings of the last forty years of the twentieth century, in which there was a resurgence of interest in traditional issues about the freedom of the will in light of new developments in the sciences, philosophy, and humanistic studies. This second edition continues that focus, but adds discussion of debates about free will from the first decade of the twenty-first century. All the essays of this second edition have been newly written or rewritten for this volume. In addition, there are new essayists and essays surveying topics that have become prominent in debates about free will since the publication of the first edition.
What is often called “the free-will issue” or “the problem of free will,” when viewed in historical perspective, is related to a cluster of philosophical issues—all of them dealt with to some degree in this volume.1 These include issues about (1) moral agency and responsibility, dignity, desert, accountability, and blameworthiness in ethics; (2) the nature and limits of human freedom, autonomy, coercion, and control in social and political theory; (3) compulsion, addiction, self-control, self-deception, and weakness of will in philosophy and psychology; (4) criminal liability, responsibility, and punishment in legal theory; (5) the relation of mind to body, (p. 4) consciousness, the nature of action, and personhood in the philosophy of mind and the cognitive and neurosciences; (6) the nature of rationality and rational choice in philosophy and social theory; (7) questions about divine foreknowledge, predestination, evil, and human freedom in theology and philosophy of religion; and (8) general metaphysical issues about necessity and possibility, determinism, time and chance, quantum reality, laws of nature, causality, and explanation in philosophy and the sciences. Obviously, this volume does not discuss every aspect of these complex issues, but it does attempt to show how contemporary debates about free will are related to them.
In this introduction, I describe the contours of contemporary debates about free will and in the process provide an overview of the essays of the volume.
Free Will and Conflicting Views about Persons
The problem of free will arises when humans reach a certain higher stage of self-consciousness about how profoundly the world may influence their behavior in ways of which they are unaware (Kane 1996, 95–96). The advent of doctrines of determinism or necessity in the history of ideas is an indication that this higher stage of awareness has been reached—which accounts for the importance of such doctrines in the long history of debates about free will (Woody 1998).
Determinist or necessitarian threats to free will have taken many historical forms—fatalist, theological, physical or scientific, psychological, social, and logical—all of which are discussed in this volume. But there is a core notion running through all forms of determinism that accounts for why these doctrines appear to threaten free will. Any event is determined, according to this core notion, just in case there are conditions (e.g., the decrees of fate, the foreordaining acts of God, antecedent physical causes plus laws of nature) whose joint occurrence is (logically) sufficient for the occurrence of the event: It must be the case that if these determining conditions jointly obtain, the determined event occurs. Determination is thus a kind of conditional necessity that can be described in variety of ways. In the language of modal logicians, the determined event occurs in every logically possible world in which the determining conditions (e.g., antecedent physical causes plus laws of nature) obtain. In more familiar terms, the occurrence of the determined event is inevitable, given these determining conditions.
Historical doctrines of determinism refer to different kinds of determining conditions, but they all imply that every event (including every human choice or action) is determined in this general sense.2 To understand why such doctrines might seem to pose a threat to free will, consider that when we view ourselves as agents with free will from a personal standpoint, we think of ourselves as capable (p. 5) of influencing the world in various ways. Open alternatives seem to lie before us. We reason or deliberate among them and choose. We feel it is “up to us” what we choose and how we act; and this means that we could have chosen or acted otherwise—for, as Aristotle (1915, 1113b6) succinctly put it, “when acting is ‘up to us,’ so is not acting.” This “up to us-ness” also suggests that the origins or sources of our actions lie in us and not in something else over which we have no control—whether that something else is fate or God, the laws of nature, birth or upbringing, or other humans.
Historical doctrines of determinism may seem to pose a threat to either or both these conditions for free will. If one or another form of determinism were true, it may seem that it would not be (a) “up to us” what we chose from an array of alternative possibilities, since only one alternative would be possible; and it may seem that (b) the origin or source of our choices and actions would not ultimately be “in us” but in conditions, such as the decrees of fate, the foreordaining acts of God or antecedent causes and laws, over which we had no control. Yet these apparent conflicts can only be the first word on a subject as difficult as this one. Many philosophers, especially in modern times, have argued that, despite intuitions to the contrary, determinism (in all of its guises) poses no threat to free will, or at least to any free will “worth wanting,” as Daniel Dennett (1984) has put it.3
As a consequence, debates about free will in the modern era since the seventeenth century have been dominated by two questions, not one—the “Determinist Question”: “Is determinism true?” and the “Compatibility Question”: “Is free will compatible or incompatible with determinism?” Answers to these questions have given rise to two of the major divisions in contemporary free will debates, between determinists and indeterminists, on the one hand, and between compatibilists and incompatibilists, on the other. There are other questions central to modern debates about free will, as we shall see. But let us look at these two first.
The Determinist Question and Modern Science
One may legitimately wonder why worries about determinism persisted at all in the twentieth century, when the physical sciences—once the stronghold of determinist thinking—seemed to turn away from determinism. Modern quantum physics, according to its usual interpretations, has introduced indeterminism into the physical world, giving us a more sophisticated version of the Epicurean chance “swerve of the atoms” than the ancient philosophers could ever have conceived. We have come a long way since the eighteenth century when Pierre Simon, Marquis de Laplace, could claim that discoveries in mechanics and astronomy unified by Newton's theory of gravitation, have made it possible
(p. 6) to comprehend in the same analytical expressions the past and future states of the system of the world…. Given for an instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings who compose it—an intelligence sufficiently vast to submit these data to analysis—it would embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atom; for it, nothing would be uncertain and the future, as the past, would be present to its eyes (Laplace 1951, 3–4).
Twentieth-century physics threatened this Laplacean or Newtonian determinist vision in several related ways. Quantum theory, according to its usual interpretations, denies that elementary particles composing the “system of the world” have exact positions and momenta that could be simultaneously known by any such intelligence (i.e., Heisenberg's “uncertainty principle”); and it implies that much of the behavior of elementary particles, from quantum jumps in atoms to radioactive decay, is not precisely predictable and can be explained only by probabilistic, not deterministic, laws. Moreover, the uncertainty and indeterminacy of the quantum world, according to the orthodox view of it, is not merely due to our limitations as knowers but to the nature of the physical world itself.
In the light of these indeterministic developments of twentieth-century physics, one may wonder why physical or natural determinism continues to be regarded as a serious threat to free will. That it continues to be so regarded is evident from many of the essays of this volume. Indeed, it is an important fact about the intellectual history of the past century that, while universal determinism has been in retreat in the physical sciences, determinist and compatibilist views of human behavior have been thriving while traditional anti-determinist and incompatibilist views of free will continue to be on the defensive.
What accounts for these apparently paradoxical trends? There are four reasons, I believe, why indeterministic developments in modern physics have not disposed of determinist threats to free will, all of them on display in this volume. First, there has been, and continues to be, considerable debate about the conceptual foundations of quantum physics and much disagreement about how it is to be interpreted. Orthodox interpretations of quantum phenomena are indeterministic, but they have not gone unchallenged. These issues about determinism and indeterminism in physics and the physical sciences generally—and their implications for the free-will problem—are the subject of essays of this volume by David Hodgson, Robert Bishop, and Harald Atmanspacher.
Hodgson's essay, “Quantum Physics, Consciousness, and Free Will,” begins with an account of how quantum physics represents physical systems and how it differs from classical physics, focusing on three features of quantum theory that have been thought to be relevant to free will: indeterminism, nonlocality, and observer-participation. Hodgson critically examines various interpretations of quantum theory, including deterministic interpretations, such as the “many-worlds” interpretation and hidden variable interpretations (of Bohm and others). In the process he discusses, among other topics, puzzles about Schrodinger's cat and a recent challenge to deterministic (p. 7) interpretations of quantum theory in the form of a theorem devised by mathematicians John Conway and Simon Kochen, which they provocatively call “the free will theorem” (Conway and Kochen 2006, 2009). Hodgson then turns to the possible relations between quantum physics, consciousness, and free will, discussing the views of three thinkers who have argued in different ways for the relevance of quantum theory to both consciousness and free will: mathematician Roger Penrose, physicist Henry Stapp, and neuroscientist and Nobel laureate John Eccles. The essay concludes with a discussion of Hodgson's own distinctive view about the relation of quantum physics, consciousness, and free will.
Robert Bishop's essay, “Chaos, Indeterminism, and Free Will,” begins with a discussion of modern efforts to clarify and define the meaning of physical determinism. Four features of the Laplacean vision of physical determinism are distinguished—differential dynamics, unique evolution, value determinateness, and absolute prediction—and the relevance of each to free-will debates is discussed. Bishop then turns to the role of indeterminism in quantum mechanics and discusses current philosophical debates about the nature of indeterministic or probabilitic causation. He also considers debates about the possible relevance of chaos theory and nonlinear dynamics in physical systems to free will as well as the possible relevance of recent research on far-from equilibrium physical systems pioneered by Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine. Bishop concludes with some general remarks about the causal completeness of physical explanations and the possibility of emergent phenomena in physical systems.
These last two topics are considered in greater detail in the next essay by Bishop and physicist and philosopher Harald Atmanspacher, “The Causal Closure of Physics and Free Will.” The focus of their essay is the thesis known as the causal closure (or causal completeness) of physics (CoP)—the thesis, roughly, that all physical events can be fully explained by physical causes governed by the fundamental laws of physics. This thesis raises well-known questions central to free-will debates about the nature and possibility of “mental causation” of physical events, i.e., causation by psychological states and events (e.g., beliefs, desires, intentions). If all causes are physical causes, as CoP implies, it would seem that psychological states or events must be fully reducible to physical events or they would be epiphenomenal (see Kim 1998, 2005). Bishop and Atmanspacher consider objections to this closure principle and raise questions about it. In the light of their discussion of closure, they critically examine recent arguments by Lockwood (2005) and Levin (2007) (anticipated by Rietdijik 1966) that the theory of special relativity in physics has deterministic implications. Finally, they introduce a notion of “contextual emergence” (according to which lower-level descriptions of events in physical terms contain necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for higher-level descriptions in mental terms) and argue that such a notion of contextual emergence allows one to answer objections to the possibility of mental causation.
I suggested that there were four reasons why indeterministic developments in modern physics have not disposed of worries about determinism and free will. The first reason concerns the continuing debates just mentioned about the (p. 8) interpretation of modern physical theories, such as quantum theory and relativity. A second reason is that contemporary determinists and skeptics about free will are often willing to concede (for the sake of argument) that the behavior of elementary particles is not always determined (cf. Honderich 1988; Weatherford 1991; Pereboom 1995). But they insist that this has little bearing on how we should think about human behavior, since quantum indeterminacy is comparatively negligible in macroscopic physical systems as large as the human brain and body. If physical systems involving many particles and higher energies tend to be regular and predictable in their behavior, modern determinists argue that we can continue to regard human behavior as determined at the macroscopic level “for all practical purposes” (or “near-determined,” as Honderich [1988, 1993] put it) even if microphysics should turn out to be indeterministic; and this is all that determinists need to affirm in free will debates. (This line of thought is developed by Honderich in his essay, which I discuss below.)
In addition, one often hears the argument that if undetermined quantum events did sometimes have nonnegligible effects on the brain or behavior, this would be of no help to defenders of free will. Such undetermined events would be unpredictable and uncontrollable, like the unanticipated emergence of a thought or the uncontrolled jerking of an arm—just the opposite of what we think free and responsible actions would be like (see, e.g., Dennett 1984; G. Strawson 1986; Honderich 1988; Double 1991). This argument has been made in response to suggestions by prominent twentieth-century scientists (such as Nobel prize-winning physicist A. H. Compton ) that room might be made for free will in nature if undetermined events in the brain were somehow amplified to have large-scale effects on human choice and action. Unfortunately, this modern version of the Epicurean swerve of the atoms seems to be vulnerable to the same criticisms as its ancient counterpart. It seems that such undetermined events in the brain or body would occur spontaneously and would be more of a nuisance—or perhaps a curse, like epilepsy—than an enhancement of an agent's freedom. As a result, modern debates about free will, as we see in many essays of this volume, have not only been concerned with questions about whether free will is compatible with determinism, but also about whether it is compatible with indeterminism.
A fourth, and perhaps the most important, reason why indeterministic developments in modern physics have not disposed of worries about determinism and free will has to do with developments in other sciences. While determinism has been in retreat in the physical sciences, developments in other sciences—biology, neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, social and behavior sciences—have been moving in the opposite direction. They have convinced many persons that more of our behavior is determined by causes unknown to us and beyond our control than previously believed. These scientific developments include a greatly enhanced knowledge of the influence of genetics and heredity upon human behavior; a rapidly growing body of research on the functioning of the brain in the neurosciences; a greater awareness of biochemical influences on the brain; the susceptibility of human moods and behavior to drugs; the advent of psychoanalysis and other theories of unconscious (p. 9) motivation; the development of computers and intelligent machines that mimic aspects of human cognition in deterministic ways; comparative studies of animal and human behavior that suggest that much of our motivational and behavioral repertoire is a product of our evolutionary history; and the influences of psychological, social, and cultural conditioning upon upbringing and subsequent behavior. (The impact of such trends on contemporary free-will debates is considered in many essays of this volume to which I will refer below, including those of Mele, Walter, McKenna, Taylor and Dennett, Knobe and Nichols, and Nahmias.)
The Compatibility Question and Arguments for Incompatibilism
These continuing concerns about determinism make the second pivotal question of modern free-will debates, the Compatibility Question, all the more important: Is free will compatible or incompatible with determinism? If it should turn out that determinism poses no real threat to free will because the two can be reconciled, then continuing worries about determinism in physics and other sciences would be misplaced. We could have all the freedom “worth wanting,” even if determinism should turn out to be true. To show that this is so has been the goal of modern compatibilists about free will since Thomas Hobbes in the seventeenth century. And compatibilist views continue to be popular in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries because they seem to offer a simple resolution of the conflict between ordinary views of human behavior from a practical standpoint and theoretical images of human beings in the natural and social sciences.
The prevalence of compatibilist views has in turn shifted the burden of proof back upon those who believe that free will is incompatible with determinism to provide arguments in support of their view; and one of the interesting developments of the past forty years is that new arguments for incompatibilism have appeared to meet this challenge. Recall the two features of free will mentioned earlier that seem to imply its incompatibility with determinism—(a) it is “up to us” what we choose from an array of alternative possibilities and (b) the origin or source of our choices and actions is in us and not in anything else over which we have no control. Most modern arguments for the incompatibility of free will and determinism have proceeded from condition (a)—the requirement that an agent acted freely, or of his or her own free will, only if the agent had alternative possibilities, or could have done otherwise. Let us refer to this requirement as the “alternative possibilities” (AP) condition. (It is also sometimes called the “could have done otherwise” condition or the “avoidability” condition.)
The case for incompatibility from this AP (or “could have done otherwise”) condition has two premises: (p. 10)
1. The existence of alternative possibilities (or the agent's power to do otherwise) is a necessary condition for acting freely, or acting “of one's own free will”;
2. Determinism is not compatible with alternative possibilities (it precludes the power to do otherwise).
Since it follows from these premises that determinism is not compatible with acting freely, or acting of one's own free will, the case for incompatibilism from AP (and the case against) must focus on one of these premises. In fact, there have been heated and labyrinthine debates in recent philosophy about both premises. Premise 1 is just the AP condition itself (i.e., free will requires alternative possibilities or the power to do otherwise) and it has been subjected to searching criticisms. But I shall begin with premise 2, which has usually been regarded as the most crucial (and vulnerable) premise since it asserts the incompatibility of determinism with the power to do otherwise.
The most widely discussed argument in support of premise 2 in recent philosophy, the so-called “Consequence Argument,” is the subject of two further essays (comprising Part III) in this volume by Daniel Speak and Tomis Kapitan. The Consequence Argument was first formulated in varying ways in modern times by Carl Ginet (1966, 1980), David Wiggins (1973), Peter van Inwagen (1975, 1983), James Lamb (1977), and (in a theological form) by Nelson Pike (1965).4 Alternative formulations have since been proposed and defended by many others. Van Inwagen, who offers three versions of the argument, regards the three as versions of the same basic argument, which he calls the “Consequence Argument” and states informally as follows:
If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born; and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us (van Inwagen 1983, 16).
To say “it is not up to us what went on before we were born” or “what the laws of nature are” is to say that there is nothing we can now do to alter the past before we were born or the laws of nature. But if determinism is true, the past before we were born and the laws of nature jointly entail our present actions. So it seems that there is nothing we can now do to make our present actions other than they are. In sum, if determinism were true we would never have the power to do otherwise than we actually do, and hence determinism would preclude alternative possibilities, as premise 2 asserts.
Daniel Speak, in “The Consequence Argument Revisited,” surveys the most recent versions of this Consequence Argument and objections to them. He points out that “the” Consequence Argument, as stated by van Inwagen in the above quote, is really a schema for a whole family of arguments that may be regarded as particular versions or instantiations of the Consequence Argument. Speak considers objections made to some of the more well-known versions of the argument and recent (p. 11) attempts by defenders to answer these objections by offering reformulated versions of it. Many objections involve a principle van Inwagen called “Beta,” which is regarded by many as the most controversial assumption of the argument.5 Beta is a “transfer of powerlessness” principle, which states, roughly, that if you are powerless to change something “p” (e.g., the past or the laws of nature), then you are also powerless to change any of the logical consequences of “p.” Speak discusses various formulations of Beta as well as purported counterexamples to it and responses to these counterexamples by current defenders of the Consequence Argument. He also considers other issues related to the argument, e.g., about the fixity of the laws and the past, among others.
Tomis Kapitan's essay offers, as its title indicates, “A Compatibilist Reply to the Consequence Argument.” Like many compatibilist critics of the argument, Kapitan believes its soundness depends upon how one interprets modal notions such as power or ability (to bring something about) and avoidability (the power to do otherwise). Kapitan's essay explores these “practical modalities,” and he shows how different interpretations of them yield different versions of the Consequence Argument. In the light of this discussion, he critically examines some familiar compatibilist responses to the argument, including those based on conditional analyses of the ability to do otherwise (which are discussed in the next section) and the response of David Lewis (1981), and finds them wanting. An adequate response, Kapitan argues, must identify an ability to act that is adequate for moral responsibility, yet invalidates the Consequence Argument; and the remainder of his essay attempts to identify such a notion.
Classical Compatibilism: Interpretations of “Can,” “Power,” and “Could Have Done Otherwise”
Historically, most compatibilists have believed, like Kapitan, that the Consequence Argument and all arguments for incompatibilism can be defeated by giving a proper analysis of what it means to say that agents can (or have the power or ability to) do something; and consequently there has been much debate in recent philosophy about the meaning of these notions. Traditionally, compatibilists have defined freedom generally in terms of “can,” “power,” and “ability.” To be free, they have insisted, means in ordinary language (i) to have the power or ability to do what you will (desire or choose or try) to do, and this entails (ii) an absence of constraints or impediments preventing you from doing what you will (desire or choose or try) to do. Note how the notion of “will” enters this picture. To be able to do what you will to do may variously mean what you desire (or want) to do or what you choose (or intend) to do or what you try (or make an effort) to do. “Will” thus becomes a cover (p. 12) term for several different notions, all expressing in one way or another what we “will” to do. (In Kane 1996, chapter 2, I showed how these different notions relate to different senses of the term “will” in historical debates about free will, e.g., appetitive will, rational will, and striving will.6)
The constraints or impediments compatibilists typically have in mind preventing us from doing “what we will” may be internal constraints, such as paralysis or mental impairment, that affect our abilities to act, or external constraints, such as being physically restrained or coerced, that affect our ability and/or opportunities to act. You lack the freedom to meet a friend in a café across town if you are paralyzed or unconscious, tied to a chair, in a jail cell, lack transportation, or someone is holding a gun to your head preventing you. In this manner, compatibilists have insisted that (i) and (ii) capture what freedom means in everyday life—i.e., an absence of such constraints and hence the power (which equals ability plus opportunity) to do what you will to do.
A view that defines freedom in this way has been called classical compatibilism by Gary Watson (1975), and this is a useful designation. Classical compatibilists include well-known philosophers of the modern era such as Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, and John Stuart Mill, as well as numerous twentieth century figures (e.g., A. J. Ayer , Moritz Schlick , and Donald Davidson ). Despite differences in detail, we can say that what these classical compatibilists have in common is that they define the freedom to do something in terms of (i) and (ii). What do they say about the freedom to do otherwise? They typically offer conditional or hypothetical analyses of the freedom to do otherwise in terms of (i) and (ii): Given that you have acted in a certain way, to say (iii) you were “free to do otherwise” or “could have done otherwise,” is to say that no constraints or impediments would have prevented you from doing otherwise, had you willed to do so. In other words, “you would have done otherwise, if you had willed (desired or chosen or tried) to do otherwise.” Classical compatibilists then typically argue that if the freedom to do otherwise has such a conditional or hypothetical meaning, it would be compatible with determinism. For it may be that you would have done otherwise, if you had willed to do otherwise (since nothing would have prevented you), even though you did not in fact will to do otherwise and even if what you in fact willed to do was determined.
Recent debates about the adequacy of such conditional analyses of freedom and about classical compatibilism in general are the subject of Bernard Berofsky's essay, “Compatibilism After Frankfurt: Dispositional Analyses of Free Will,” which is the first of four essays (of Part IV) surveying recent compatibilist theories of freedom and responsibility. Berofsky's essay begins with a discussion of objections to conditional or hypothetical analyses of freedom (and hence objections to classical compatibilism) that began to surface in the 1950s and 1960s in the work of Austin (1961), Chisholm (1964), Lehrer (1964, 1968), Anscombe (1971), and others. Four such objections to conditional analyses are discussed by Berofsky, some of which, he argues, can be successfully rebutted by classical compatibilists, but several of which present serious problems. These problems, as he explains, have led over the past fifty years (p. 13) to the abandonment of conditional analyses of freedom (and hence to the abandonment of classical compatibilism) by many “new” compatibilists inspired by the work of Harry Frankfurt (1969, 1971), P. F. Strawson (1962), and others. These “new” compatibilist views are the subjects of the essays by Michael McKenna and Paul Russell (also in Part IV), to which I turn in the next section.
The concern of Berofsky's essay, by contrast, is with the work of recent compatibilists who have resisted attempts to abandon classical compatibilism altogether and have attempted instead to offer improved conditional analyses of freedom that might escape the usual criticisms of such analyses. These new “conditionalist compatibilists,” as Berofsky calls them (who include Michael Smith , Kadri Vivhelin , Michael Fara ), among others),7 appeal to insights from the rich recent philosophical literature on dispositions, or dispositional powers, and subjunctive conditionals to argue that free will is a kind of dispositional power and that dispositional powers are analyzable in terms that are compatible with determinism. Berofsky critically examines these views and the recent work on dispositions to which they appeal, arguing that while they are an improvement over classical compatibilist analyses of freedom, they face certain objections that have not yet been successfully answered. Berofsky thinks compatibilists must look beyond conditional accounts of freedom (to issues about the nature and alterability of laws) if they are to fully blunt the force of incompatibilist arguments; and he explains his own compatibilist alternative in these terms at the end of his essay.
Beyond Classical Compatibilism: New Compatibilist Approaches to Freedom and Responsibility
As noted, the two essays of Part IV following Berofsky's, by Michael McKenna and Paul Russell, deal with “new” compatibilist theories of freedom and moral responsibility that emerged in the past fifty years, inspired by the work of Harry Frankfurt (1969, 1971) (in the case of McKenna's essay) and by work of P. F. Strawson (1962) (in the case of Russell's essay).
McKenna, in “Contemporary Compatibilism: Mesh Theories and Reasons-Responsive Theories,” considers two of the most widely discussed types of new compatibilist theories under the headings of “mesh theories” and “reasons-responsive theories.” To understand the motivations for mesh theories, one must consider another shortcoming of classical compatibilism that was pointed out by Frankfurt and other modern philosophers. In a seminal paper (“Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person,” 1971), Frankfurt argued that to have freedom of will it is not sufficient to be able to do what you will or desire without impediments, as classical compatibilists such as Hobbes held. For it may be that your lack of freedom lies not (p. 14) in the inability to express your will or desires in action, but rather in the nature and structure of your will or desires themselves. For example, persons who act on desires arising from compulsions, phobias, addictions, psychotic episodes, or other disorders of the will, may be free to act on those desires without impediments (nothing, for example, may be preventing the drug addict from taking drugs), and yet there is another more important sense in which their acting on such (compulsive or addictive) desires is not free.
In order to explain freedom of will in the light of these facts, Frankfurt (1971: 7) argued that persons, unlike similar animals, “have the capacity for reflective self-evaluation that is manifested in the formation of second-order desires”—desires to have or not to have various first-order desires. Free will and responsibility require that we assess our first-order desires or motives and form “second-order volitions” about which of our first-order desires should move us to action. Our “wills”—the first-order desires that move us to action—are free, according to Frankfurt, when they are in conformity with our second-order volitions, so that we have the will (first-order desires) we want (second-order desires) to have, and in that sense we “identify” with our will. In this manner, free will consists in a certain “mesh” or conformity between our first-order desires and higher-order desires.8
Mesh theories of such kinds are called hierarchical theories of free will for obvious reasons. Classical compatibilism is deficient, according to hierarchical theorists such as Frankfurt, because it gives us only a theory of freedom of action (being able to do what we will) without a theory of freedom of will in terms of the conformity of first- and higher-order desires. But hierarchical theories of this kind can remain compatibilist since they define free will in terms of a mesh between desires at different levels without requiring that desires at any of these levels be undetermined. It does not matter, as Frankfurt puts it, how we came to have the wills we want to have, whether by a deterministic process or not. What matters is that we have the wills we want and the power to realize them in action. That is what makes us free.
The first part of McKenna's essay critically examines hierarchical theories, focusing initially on Frankfurt's theory, which is the most widely discussed of such theories.9 McKenna considers three kinds of objections that have been made of Frankfurt's hierarchical theory—concerning manipulation, weakness of will, and “identification” with higher-order desires—and critically examines Frankfurt's recent attempts to answer these objections. In the light of these objections, McKenna then discusses other mesh theories put forward by new compatibilists, including the “valuational” or “structural” theory of Gary Watson (1975, 1987a) and the “planning” theory of Michael Bratman (1997, 2003, 2004, 2007). For Watson, the relevant “mesh” required for free agency is not between higher- and lower-order desires, as with Frankfurt, but between an agent's “valuational system” (i.e., beliefs about what is good or ought to be done), which has its source in the agent's reason, and the “motivational system” (which includes desires and other motives). Watson thus revives the ancient Platonic opposition between reason and desire, arguing that freedom consists in a certain conformity of desire to reason. For Bratman, the relevant mesh required for free agency is between desires and general intentions (rather (p. 15) than between lower and higher-order desires) where intentions are construed as self-governing policies of practical reasoning. McKenna critically examines how these alternative mesh theories fare in the light of the original objections made to Frankfurt's theory.
In the second half of his essay, McKenna turns to reasons-responsive compatibilist views of free agency. Such views require that for agents to be free and responsible, they must be “responsive to reasons,” in the sense that they must be able to recognize and evaluate reasons for action, and be able to act in some manner that is sensitive to a suitable range of reasons. To be reasons-responsive in this sense does not necessarily require that agents could have done otherwise (e.g., they may not have had any good reasons to do otherwise) and so such responsiveness to reasons is compatible with determinism. McKenna first considers Susan Wolf's “reason view,” which he interprets as a reasons-responsive view with a strong normative content. For Wolf, freedom consists in the ability to do “the right thing for the right reasons,” and so requires the normative ability to appreciate and to act in accordance with “the True and the Good.”10 McKenna discusses common objections that have been made to this “reason view” and Wolf's recent attempts to answer them. The remainder of his essay is devoted to the most widely discussed reasons-responsive view in the contemporary philosophical literature, that of John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza. After a careful analysis of the Fischer/Ravizza view, McKenna examines six objections that have been made to it in the extensive literature on this view over the past ten years and Fischer's attempts to respond to these criticisms.
Paul Russell's essay, “Moral Sense and the Foundations of Responsibility,” discusses another important class of new compatibilist theories of agency and responsibility, frequently referred to as reactive attitude theories. Such theories have their roots in another seminal essay of modern free-will debates, P. F. Strawson's “Freedom and Resentment” (1962). In that essay, Strawson argued that free-will issues are crucially about the conditions required to hold persons responsible for their actions and that responsibility is constituted by persons adopting certain “reactive attitudes” toward themselves and others—attitudes such as resentment, admiration, gratitude, indignation, guilt, and the like. To be responsible, according to Strawson, is to be a fit subject of such attitudes. It is to be enmeshed in a “form of life” (to use Wittgenstein's apt expression for this view) in which such reactive attitudes play a constitutive role.
Moreover, this form of life of which the reactive attitudes are constitutive is such that, according to Strawson, we could not give it up, even if we found that determinism was true, because we could not give up assessing ourselves and others in terms of the reactive attitudes if we continued to live a human form of life. Strawson thus contends that the freedom and responsibility required to live a human life (whatever else they may involve) must be compatible with determinism. Freedom and responsibility do not require some mysterious indeterminist or “contra-causal” free will, as incompatibilists claim.11
This Strawsonian reactive attitude view has inspired considerable debate since the 1960s, which is documented in Russell's essay. Russell begins with a detailed (p. 16) analysis of Strawson's view itself, disentangling three strands of Strawson's argument—rationalist, naturalist, and pragmatic. While Russell is broadly sympathetic to reactive attitude views, he identifies and discusses difficulties with all three strands of Strawson's argument. He then considers other recent reactive attitude views that have attempted to remedy flaws in Strawson's view, focusing particularly on the view of R. Jay Wallace (1994). Wallace supplies an account of moral capacity, which is missing in Strawson's view, in terms of an account of what Wallace calls “reflective self-control.” And Wallace explains our susceptibility to distinctively “moral” reactive attitudes, such as indignation, resentment, and guilt, in terms of this account of moral capacity. Russell examines objections to Wallace's view, including a recent objection by Angela Smith (2007), and objections to reactive attitude views generally by compatibilists, such as Gary Watson and hard incompatibilists, such as Derk Pereboom. He concludes with suggestions of his own about how a reactive attitude approach to moral responsibility that builds on the work of Strawson, Wallace, and others might be successfully developed.
In the final essay of Part IV, “Who's Still Afraid of Determinism?: Rethinking Causes and Possibilities,” Christopher Taylor and Daniel Dennett argue, in defense of compatibilism, that objections to compatibilist accounts of free agency are based on a flawed understanding of the relationship of such notions as possibility and causation to freedom and agency. They undertake an analysis of the relevant notions of possibility and causation to show this. Dennett is a long-time proponent of his own brand of compatibilism, which he has defended in influential works, such as Elbow Room (1984) and the more recent Freedom Evolves (2003). Taylor and Dennett's essay develops a compatibilist view consistent with these works, with special attention to technical issues about the nature of causation and possibility. In the process, they discuss recent technical views about the nature of causality, particularly that of Judea Pearl (2000). They also develop some interesting analogies concerning the functioning of computers to argue that the flexibility, reflexivity, and creativity that free will requires are consistent with the hypothesis that human behavior, like that of intelligent machines, is determined.
Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities: Frankfurt-Type Examples
An important part of contemporary debates about free will has concerned the nature and requirements for moral responsibility (and related notions such as desert, blameworthiness, and praiseworthiness for actions). Indeed, many contemporary philosophers who engage in these debates define “free will” as the kind of freedom—whatever it may be—that is required for genuine moral responsibility. As a result, debates about free will have been impacted in the past forty years by (p. 17) important new arguments suggesting that moral responsibility does not require alternative possibilities and hence that free will might not have such a requirement as well (in which case arguments for incompatibilism, such as the Consequence Argument, would fail). The three essays comprising Part V of this volume, by John Martin Fischer, David Widerker, and Ishtiyaque Haji, examine the extensive recent literature on this topic.
The most important of the new arguments that moral responsibility does not imply alternative possibilities, and by far the most widely discussed, appeal to what have come to be known as “Frankfurt-type examples” (or “Frankfurt-style examples,” or sometimes simply “Frankfurt-examples”).12 Such examples were first introduced into contemporary free-will debates about forty years ago in another seminal article by Frankfurt (1969, 829) with the intent of undermining what he called the “principle of alternative possibilities” (PAP): “a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise.”
Frankfurt-type examples, including Frankfurt's original example, typically involve a controller who can make an agent do whatever the controller wants (perhaps by direct control over the agent's brain). This controller will not intervene, however, if the agent is going to do on his or her own what the controller wants. Frankfurt argues that if the controller does not intervene because the agent performs the desired action entirely on his or her own, the agent can then be morally responsible for what he or she does (since the agent acted on his or her own and the controller was not involved)—even though the agent literally could not have done otherwise (because the controller would not have allowed it). If this is so, PAP would be false: The agent would be morally responsible, though the agent could not in fact have done otherwise. And if “free will” is regarded as the kind of freedom that is required for moral responsibility, as it is by many philosophers on different sides of the free-will debate, then free will would also not require alternative possibilities (the AP condition would fail as well). Neither moral responsibility nor free will would require alternative possibilities, and arguments for incompatibilism, such as the Consequence Argument, would be thwarted.
Note that one might go on to imagine, as defenders of Frankfurt-type examples have done, a “global” Frankfurt controller hovering over agents throughout their lifetimes, so that the agents never could have done otherwise; and yet the controller never in fact intervenes because the agents always do on their own what the controller wants. Such a global controller would be a mere observer of events, never actually intervening in the agents’ affairs (a mere “counterfactual intervener,” in John Fischer's words). It seems that the agents would act “on their own” throughout their lifetimes and could thus be responsible for many of their actions even though they never could have done otherwise and never had any alternative possibilities.
The first essay of Part V by John Martin Fischer, “Frankfurt-Type Examples and Semicompatibilism: New Work,” provides an overview of arguments for and against Frankfurt-type examples over the past few decades. Fischer considers various strategies by which critics of these examples have tried to rescue PAP, or variations of it, and he considers various responses to these critics. Fischer is a defender (p. 18) of Frankfurt-type examples, whose prior writings have contributed as much as any other contemporary philosopher to our understanding of their implications. He believes that moral responsibility does not require alternative possibilities (i.e., he denies PAP). But, surprisingly, Fischer is also an advocate of his own version of the Consequence Argument (Fischer 1994) and believes that freedom does imply alternative possibilities. The resulting view, which Fischer calls semicompatibilism, has been defended by him as well as Mark Ravizza in a number of writings (Fischer 1994; Ravizza 1994; Fischer and Ravizza 1998). According to semicompatibilism, moral responsibility is compatible with determinism (since it does not require the power to do otherwise), whereas freedom (which does require this power) is not compatible with determinism. Fischer concludes with an explanation of what motivates this semicompatibilist position and how he has tried to give a positive compatibilist account of moral responsibility in terms of notions of guidance control and reasons-responsiveness.
In contrast to Fischer, David Widerker is a long-time critic of Frankfurt-type examples and a defender of PAP. His essay, “Frankfurt-Friendly Libertarianism,” begins by reviewing a major objection to Frankfurt-type examples that he has made in past writings (Widerker 1995a, 1995b) and which he calls here the “Dilemma Objection.” This objection, which was also made in various forms by Kane (1985, 1996), Ginet (1996), and Wyma (1997), has been the most widely discussed objection to Frankfurt-type examples of the past fifteen years.13 Widerker reviews the case for this Dilemma Objection against Frankfurt-type examples. He also explains why he thinks PAP has an initial plausibility for many persons. This plausibility is grounded, Widerker has argued, in a principle he calls the “principle of reasonable expectations” (PAE): An agent is morally blameworthy for a given act only if, in the circumstances, it would be morally reasonable to expect the agent to have done something else. As he notes, this plausible principle presupposes that there is something else the agent could have done in the circumstances and thus provides support for PAP.
In the present essay, however, Widerker goes on to explain that, while he continues to believe that PAE provides powerful support for PAP, he has since altered his view in some respects regarding PAP and Frankfurt examples. Widerker now thinks that libertarians about free will can agree with Frankfurt that there may be some situations in which PAP is false, i.e., in which agents can be held morally responsible, even though they could not have done otherwise in a significant sense. These would be situations in which actions are undetermined and the agents may have had some alternatives, but they had no morally significant alternatives. Widerker argues that in situations of such kinds agents can be held morally responsible for their actions, even in a libertarian sense. He calls such a view “Frankfurt-friendly libertarianism.” He does not endorse it outright, for he continues to believe that PAE provides powerful support for PAP. But he argues that this more “Frankfurt-friendly” view is another possible option open to libertarians in response to Frankfurt-type examples.
Ishtiyaque Haji, author of the third essay of Part V, “Obligation, Reason, and Frankfurt-Examples.” gives an unusual twist to debates about Frankfurt-type examples. (p. 19) In a number of important works, Haji (1998, 2002a) has argued that Frankfurt-type examples do indeed show that Frankfurt's PAP is false. To that extent, he sides with Frankfurt and other defenders of the examples. But Haji does not think this fact quite settles matters about the compatibility of free will and moral responsibility with determinism. For he thinks that judgments about moral obligation (i.e., morally “deontic judgments”) do presuppose that agents have alternative possibilities. Haji defends the thesis that if agents are to be fit subjects of “morally deontic judgments”—i.e., if they can be said to have moral obligations to perform certain actions and to refrain from performing others—they must have the power to act and to act otherwise. He further argues that, if moral praiseworthiness and blameworthiness for actions presuppose that the agents praised or blamed are “fit subjects of morally deontic judgments” (as he also argues they are), then moral praiseworthiness and blameworthiness would also presuppose the power to act and to act otherwise. In defending these claims, Haji makes use of a technical analysis of the notion of moral obligation in terms of accessible possible worlds advanced by Fred Feldman (1986, 1990) and Michael Zimmerman (1996, 2008). And he applies this analysis to other issues relevant to free-will debates, concerning moral reasons for action and the Kantian principle that “‘ought’ implies ‘can.’”
Libertarian or Incompatibilist Theories of Free Will: The Intelligibility Question
The essays of Part VI deal with contemporary libertarian theories of free will, those which affirm a free will that is incompatible with determinism.14 Libertarians about free will must not only answer the determinist and compatibility questions by denying determinism and denying the compatibility of free will and determinism, they must also answer a third pivotal question that has been at the heart of modern debates about free will and may be called the Intelligibility Question. Can one make sense of a freedom or free will that is incompatible with determinism? Is such an incompatibilist freedom coherent or intelligible, or is it, as many critics contend, impossible, mysterious, or terminally obscure?
The Intelligibility Question has its roots in an ancient dilemma: If free will is not compatible with determinism, it does not seem to be compatible with indeterminism either. (One might say that the Compatibility Question is about the first half of this dilemma, whereas the Intelligibility Question is about the second half.) An event that is undetermined might occur or not occur, given the entire past. Thus, whether or not it actually occurs, given its past, would seem to be a matter of chance. But chance events are not under the control of anything, hence not under the control of agents. How then could they be free and responsible actions? Since ancient times, reflections such as these have led to a host of charges that undetermined (p. 20) choices or actions would be “arbitrary,” “capricious,” “random,” “irrational,” “uncontrolled,” “inexplicable,” or merely “matters of luck or chance,” i.e., not really free and responsible actions at all.
One of the significant features of free-will debates of the last forty years is that an increasing amount of attention has been given to this Intelligibility Question concerning libertarian free will. (Indeed, I would venture to say that there has been as much, if not more, detailed writing and discussion about this question in the past forty years than in the entire prior history of free-will debate.) It is one thing for libertarians to put forth arguments for incompatibilism or to point out flaws in compatibilist accounts of free agency (as they have often done); it is quite another to give a positive account of the libertarian free agency that will show how such a free will can be reconciled with indeterminism and how it is to be related to modern views of human behavior in the natural and human sciences. Efforts to give positive accounts of incompatibilist or libertarian free agency—and criticisms of these efforts—in recent philosophy are discussed in Part VI of this volume in essays by Timothy O'Connor, Randolph Clarke, Thomas Pink, Laura Ekstrom, and Robert Kane.
It is now customary to sort positive libertarian theories of free agency and free will into three categories: (I) Agent-causal (or AC) theories, (II) Noncausalist or Simple Indeterminist theories, and (III) Causal Indeterminist or Event-Causal theories. There are in addition different versions of each of these kinds of theory. Agent-causal theories postulate “a sui generis form of [nonevent] causation” by an agent or substance that is not reducible to causation by states or events of any kinds involving the agent, physical or mental (O'Connor 1995a, 7). (I will follow the common practice of hyphenating expressions such as “agent-cause” and “agent-causation” when talking about AC theories to indicate that a special kind of relation is intended.) Noncausalist or simple indeterminist theories insist that free choices or actions are uncaused events, which are nonetheless explicable in terms of an agent's reasons or purposes. Causal indeterminist or event causal (EC) theories maintain that agents cause their “free actions via [their] reasons for doing so, but indeterministically” (O'Connor 1975, 7) Of the essays of Part VI, O'Connor's deals with agent-causal theories, Pink's with noncausalist theories, and those of Ekstrom and Kane with two versions of EC theories. Clarke's essay is a critique of all three types of libertarian theory.
O'Connor's essay, “Agent-Causal Theories of Freedom,” provides an overview of recent AC theories, explaining what motivates them to postulate an “ontologically primitive” notion of causation by an agent or substance that is not reducible to ordinary modes of event-causation. O'Connor considers different accounts of the agent-causal view which have been defended by libertarians, such as C. A. Campbell (1967), Roderick Chisholm (1966, 1976), Richard Taylor (1966), John Thorp (1980), Michael Zimmerman (1984), Richard Swinburne (1997),15 Godfrey Vesey (see Vesey and Flew 1987), Alan Donagan (1987), William Rowe (1991), Randolph Clarke (1993, 1996a), and O'Connor himself (1995a, 2000).16 Some of these philosophers (Taylor, Swinburne, Vesey, and Rowe) argue that a special notion of nonevent substance-causation is necessary to account for all (intentional) actions of agents, whereas (p. 21) others (O'Connor included) argue that such a notion is needed only to explain free actions, allowing that actions of agents that are not free (e.g., habitual or compulsive behaviors) may be explained without appeal to a special form of agent-causation.
O'Connor also poses the question whether agent-causal theories require a substance dualism of mind and body—as some philosophers have suspected—since they posit a causal relation between an agent and action irreducible to ordinary modes of causation.17 O'Connor argues that AC theories do not necessarily require substance dualism, but may require causal powers and properties that are ontologically emergent, “while still being powers and properties of the biological organism.” Finally, he addresses and tries to answer a number of objections that have been made to agent-causal theories, many in the past decade, by Clarke (2003, 2005), Galen Strawson (1986), Mele (1995, 2006a, 2007), van Inwagen (2000), and Pereboom (2005), among others.
Clarke's essay, “Alternatives for Libertarians,” discusses objections to all three kinds of libertarian theory. In earlier writings, Clarke was known as a defender of a distinctive agent-causal libertarian theory, which he called an “integrated” agent-causal theory. This theory addressed a common criticism of traditional AC theories, namely, that they did not give an adequate account of the role of psychological events, such as the agent's having certain beliefs and desires, in the causal genesis of action. On Clarke's integrated view, free actions were agent-caused in a special nonevent way (as all AC theorists hold), but they were also probabilitically caused by psychological events, including the agents having certain beliefs and desires (Clarke 1993, 1996a). In the past decade, however, beginning with his book, Libertarian Accounts of Free Will (2003), Clarke came to have doubts about agent-causal theories in general, including his own.18 Because he continued to be critical of the other two kinds of libertarian theories, these doubts led to doubts about libertarian theories in general.
In his essay for this volume, Clarke first reprises and further develops his criticisms of noncausalist and event-causal (EC) libertarian theories. He argues that libertarian theories of both kinds face as yet unresolved problems including issues about luck and control, the requirements of intentional action, and the role of psychological causes in free agency.19 Clarke then turns to agent-causal theories which he once defended. He explains his reasons for now doubting the possibility of “causation by an enduring substance, which does not consist in causation by events involving that substance” (such as AC theorists propose), and concludes on a skeptical note about the viability of libertarian accounts of free will generally.
Noncausalist libertarian theories of free agency have been prominently defended in contemporary philosophy by Carl Ginet (1990) and Hugh McCann (1998) as well as by Thomas Pink (2004a) and Stewart Goetz (2002a, 2002b, 2008). Pink's essay, “Freedom and Action without Causation: Noncausal Theories of Freedom and Purposive Agency,” discusses and defends a noncausalist approach to libertarian free agency. He begins with a brief history of accounts of action and purposiveness in the Aristotelian tradition and late medieval philosophy, to which Pink is (p. 22) sympathetic. This tradition makes an important distinction between actions occurring “within” the will (such as decisions or choices) and actions occurring “outside” the will and motivated by the will (such as “overt” actions involving bodily movement). Efficient causation in the Aristotelian sense plays a role in the explanation of the latter, which are caused by the (decisions or intentions) of the will. But actions or decisions of the will itself, he argues, are explained not in terms of efficient causation, but by Aristotelian formal causation, i.e., in terms of the internal contents of the decisions themselves, their intentional objects or goals, or what they were decisions to do.
This traditional picture of action, Pink argues, was radically transformed in modern action theory, beginning with Hobbes. All actions came to be viewed as motivated and caused by prior pro-attitudes (e.g., wants or desires) of the will and the special nature of actions of the will itself (i.e., decisions) was lost. Because decisions, like other actions, had to be caused by prior events, Hobbes opened the door for modern determinist and compatibilist accounts of action and free will. With these historical preliminaries in mind, Pink proceeds in the remainder of his essay to develop a noncausalist account of free agency that retrieves the insights of pre-Hobbesian medieval action theory, according to which decisions of the will are explained in terms of the purposes of agents, without being (efficiently) caused by prior events. Pink contrasts his view with other noncausalist views and attempts to answer criticisms of noncausalist views by agent-causalists and others.
Positive libertarian theories of the third kind, causal indeterminist or event-causal (EC) theories (the subjects of the essays by Ekstrom and Kane) allow that free choices or decisions may be indeterministically or probabilistically caused by prior psychological states, such as beliefs, desires, and other motives, without being determined by those prior states. Such theories come in two varieties, depending on whether they place the indeterminism required for freedom at the moment of choice itself and at some point earlier in the deliberative process, such as in the undetermined coming-to-mind of considerations that bear on choice or in the formation of preferences. Clarke (2003) calls theories of the first kind, which place the indeterminism at the moment of choice itself, “centered” EC theories and those of the second kind, which place the indeterminism earlier in the deliberative process, “deliberative” EC theories.
Deliberative EC theories were first suggested in recent philosophy by Dennett (1978a) and Kane (1985), though neither unqualifiedly endorsed them. Dennett, a compatibilist, argued that placing indeterminism earlier in the deliberative process and not in choices themselves fell short of giving libertarians all they needed by way of responsibility. Kane, a libertarian, argued (1985) that placing indeterminism earlier could only be part of an adequate libertarian theory, which he believed required a “centered” element as well. A deliberative EC theory was later developed by Mele (1995), who also did not unqualifiedly endorse it. Mele showed that a deliberative EC approach would give libertarians some of what they wanted in the way of freedom and autonomy with indeterminism, but he remained agnostic on the Compatibility Question. Most recently, a deliberative EC view has been (p. 23) defended by Bob Doyle (2010; n.d.), who calls it a “two-stage” model of libertarian freedom—an indeterministic stage in which considerations come to mind influencing choice followed by a determined stage in which the agent exercises control over which choice is made in the light of these considerations. Doyle argues that such a deliberative EC libertarian view was prefigured by William James, among other thinkers.
Laura Ekstrom's view is also classified by Clarke as a deliberative EC libertarian view, since she also places the indeterminism earlier in the deliberative process rather than in choice or decision itself. But her view differs from other deliberative EC views because she places the indeterminism in the “formation of preferences,” which then influence deliberation and choice. Ekstrom's essay, “Free Will is Not a Mystery,” defends an event-causal libertarian view of this kind. To introduce the view, the first half of her essay deals with another notion that has been entwined with contemporary debates about free will and has also generated a large recent literature, the notion of autonomy or self-determination.
Following Gary Watson (1987a), Ekstrom regards autonomy as one of two necessary conditions for free agency (the other being alternative possibilities). She defends a “coherence theory of autonomy,” according to which one acts autonomously when one's act is nondeviantly caused by a “preference” that has been formed or is maintained without the coercive influence of others and coheres with one's other preferences. Preferences, for Ekstrom, are desires formed by way of a process of critical evaluation. This coherence account of autonomy, as she notes, can be interpreted in compatibilist terms. But Ekstrom believes free agency also requires alternative possibilities and she thinks these require indeterminism. She argues that indeterminism can be introduced into the picture of autonomous action by supposing that free actions result by “normal causal processes” from preferences that were “noncoercively formed” and were “caused but not determined by [the agent's] considerations, that is, by the inputs to her deliberative process.” Ekstrom concludes by responding to arguments of van Inwagen (2000, 2002b) that libertarian free will “remains a mystery.”
My own essay in Part VI, “Rethinking Free Will: New Perspectives on an Ancient Problem,” discusses and defends a “centered” EC libertarian view of free will that places the indeterminism in choices or decisions themselves. I note that no such view, and indeed no EC view of any kind, played a significant role in free-will debates prior to the 1960s when I first began developing such a view. Libertarians typically defended their view by appealing (a) to agent-causation of a nonevent kind in the manner of Thomas Reid (some adding substance dualism to the mix) or they argued (b) that explanations of actions in terms of reasons are not causal explanations, so that free actions were uncaused. In short, libertarian views were either agent-causal or noncausalist, or some combination of the two. The possibility of an alternative (centered) causal indeterminist or EC view was suggested by a number of thinkers, including David Wiggins (1973), Richard Sorabji (1980), and Robert Nozick (1981), but my 1985 book was the first to develop such a view in detail.20 The view has gone through many refinements since in response to the critical literature.
(p. 24) I discuss these refinements and this critical literature in my essay after summarizing the centered EC theory and my motivations for formulating it, with special attention to criticisms of the past decade. In doing so, I discuss issues about self-forming actions, efforts of will, the phenomenology of free decision making, the relation of the theory to neuroscience, complex dynamical systems, agency and control of decisions given indeterminism, and responses to alleged regresses attending the view, including issues about the first self-forming actions of childhood. I also respond to a number of different versions of the so-called “luck objection” against libertarian free will. Finally, I argue that a coherent libertarian account of free will requires rethinking the Compatibility Question as well as the Intelligibility Question. The case for the incompatibility of free will and determinism cannot be made, I argue, by appealing to alternative possibilities (or the AP condition) alone, but also requires appealing to another condition associated with free will, which I call the condition of ultimate responsibility (UR). UR is related to the second consideration, mentioned earlier, that has historically fueled incompatibilist intuitions about free will (besides AP), namely, that agents having free will must be in some sense the ultimate sources of their actions or their wills to perform them.21
Further Views and Debates: Hard Determinism, Hard Incompatibilism, Free-Will Skepticism, Illusionism, Revisionism, Promises, and Rollbacks
Not all of those who believe that free will is incompatible with determinism affirm the existence of free will (as libertarians do). Some incompatibilists also believe that determinism is true and so are committed to denying the existence of free will. Those who take such a stand are commonly referred to as hard determinists. The designation originated with the American philosopher and psychologist William James (1956), who distinguished “soft” from “hard” determinists. Both believe that all human behavior is determined. But soft determinists are compatibilists who insist that determinism does not undermine any free will or responsibility worth having, whereas hard determinists are incompatibilists who take a harder line: Since determinism is true, free will does not exist in a sense required for genuine responsibility, accountability, blameworthiness, or desert.
Few thinkers have been willing to embrace such a hard determinist position unqualifiedly, since it would require wholesale changes in the way we think about human relations and attitudes, how we treat criminal behavior, and so on. This has not prevented hard determinism from being unequivocably endorsed by some (e.g., Baron d'Holbach in the eighteenth century and Clarence Darrow and Paul Edwards  in the twentieth), but unequivocal endorsement has been rare. Nonetheless, there is a core or kernel of the traditional hard determinist position that has persisted into the twentieth-century and continues to play a significant role in contemporary free-will debates.
To understand this kernel, note that traditional hard determinism is defined by three theses: (1) Free will is incompatible with determinism and (2) free will (in an incompatibilist sense) does not exist because (3) determinism is true. Modern thinkers who hold the kernel of hard determinism accept theses 1 and 2, but are not committed to thesis 3—the universal truth of determinism. Aware of developments in twentieth-century physics, these modern thinkers remain noncommittal about the truth of determinism, preferring to leave that question to the scientists. Yet they remain convinced that (1) free will and determinism are incompatible and that (2) free will (of the incompatibilist or libertarian kind) does not exist.
This is the kernel of traditional hard determinism—theses 1 and 2. What is interesting about this kernel is that it amounts to a rejection of both compatibilism and libertarianism. For, anyone who accepts thesis 1 holds against compatibilists that free will is incompatible with determinism; and anyone who also accepts thesis 2 holds against libertarians that there is no free will of the libertarian or incompatibilist kind. In short, those who hold this kernel are skeptics about free will, rejecting both compatibilist and libertarian solutions to the free-will problem. One such thinker, Derk Pereboom (2001), has called a view of this skeptical kind, hard incompatibilism. Hard incompatibilists are “incompatibilists” by virtue of thesis 1 (true free will is not compatible with determinism) and “hard” by virtue of thesis 2 (true free will does not exist).
Pereboom discusses and defends a hard incompatibilist position of this kind in the first essay of Part VII, “Free-will Skepticism and Meaning in Life.” To do so, he first explains why he rejects both compatibilism and libertarianism as adequate solutions to the free-will problem. Pereboom's rejection of compatibilism is based upon his so-called “four-case manipulation argument.” This intriguing argument, which is not easily summarized, has generated an extensive critical literature in the past decade or so since it was introduced. Regarding libertarianism, Pereboom thinks the two most prominent theories, (centered) EC libertarianism and agent-causal (AC) libertarianism, fail for different reasons. The former, he argues, falls prey to the “luck objection,” whereas the latter is not plausible, he believes, given our best scientific theories.
The remainder of Pereboom's essay is concerned with the practical implications of the hard incompatibilist position at which he arrives. Accepting such a skeptical position, Pereboom concedes, requires giving up “our ordinary view of ourselves as blameworthy for immoral actions and praiseworthy for moral ones.” But he argues that such a view would not have the dire consequences many people fear for a host of everyday concerns that matter to us—e.g., moral reform and education; crime prevention; interpersonal relations; reactive attitudes, such as guilt, repentance, and forgiveness; attitudes toward achievement and worth; and the ways we treat others, including children.22 He argues in general that the consequences of hard incompatibilism (p. 26) would not be as destructive as many people believe and would be compensated by benefits in the form of more humane treatment of others.
Saul Smilansky, “Free Will, Fundamental Dualism, and the Centrality of Illusion,” is another philosopher who holds what I have been calling the kernel of traditional hard determinism, namely, theses 1 (free will is incompatible with determinism) and 2 (libertarian free will does not exist). But Smilansky's view is otherwise unusual among contemporary views of free will. It is defined by two radical theses. The first, Fundamental Dualism, says that we can and should be both incompatibilists and compatibilists about freedom and responsibility. There is no reason, Smilansky argues, why it should not be the case that certain forms of moral responsibility, desert, and blame require libertarian free will, whereas other forms can be sustained without it. Thus, if libertarian free will is impossible (as he believes [thesis 2]), there is no reason why we have to choose between hard determinism or compatibilism. We can hold a mixed view that embraces what is true in both hard determinism and compatibilism, while denying that either has the whole truth.
Smilansky's second thesis, Illusionism, is even more radical. In contrast to Pereboom (and also to Honderich, whose essay follows), Smilansky thinks the consequences for humanity of widespread belief that we lack libertarian free will would be dire and destructive. Illusion about free will is therefore morally necessary., he argues (this is the thesis of Illusionism). It is not that Smilansky thinks we need to induce illusory beliefs in people to the effect that they have free will—in Brave New World fashion—but rather that such beliefs are already “in place”: Most people either do not question whether they have libertarian free will if they are libertarians or, if they are compatibilists, assume they have all the freedom and responsibility they need; and these illusory beliefs play a largely positive social and moral role, he thinks. Recognizing that this thesis of Illusionism is likely to meet with considerable resistance, Smilansky offers a series of arguments in the latter part of his essay to show the necessity of illusion by attempting to deepen our understanding of the difficulties that would prevail without it.
Ted Honderich, “Effects, Determinism, Neither Compatibilism nor Incompatibilism, Consciousness,” comes as close as any contemporary thinker to the classical hard determinist position in influential works, such as Honderich 1988, 1993, and in his essay for this volume. Honderich clearly expresses what I have been calling the kernel of hard determinism with regard to a certain traditional idea of free will: He argues that the traditional notion of free will requires a power of ultimate “origination” of choices or actions that is incompatible with determinism (thesis 1). And he argues that no such power of ultimate origination could exist in the real world, so that libertarian free will in this traditional sense is impossible (thesis 2). In his essay, Honderich reviews his arguments for these claims. In addition, he expresses his continuing belief that determinism in physics is still an open question, despite quantum theory, and that, in any case, human behavior, neural events, and human choices would not be significantly affected by indeterminism in the microworld. Honderich also argues that compatibilists and incompatibilists are both mistaken to the extent that they claim that the only kind of freedom we have a conception of is the one they (p. 27) champion. In fact, freedom has a number of different meanings, he argues, some compatible with determinism, some not.23 (It is worth noting that not all compatibilists or incompatibilists would deny this latter claim.) Honderich concludes with a brief discussion of consciousness and how it provides standing in the world that can give life meaning, even if determinism should be true.
Manuel Vargas's essay, “Revisionist Accounts of Free Will: Origins, Varieties, and Challenges,” deals with yet another kind of free-will theory, revisionism, that is comparatively new and has come into prominence only in the past decade. Vargas himself has played an important role in making revisionist views a significant part of current free-will debate. To distinguish revisionism from other views, he asks us first to consider that hard determinists and hard incompatibilists (of the kinds we have just been considering) are eliminativists about free will. They believe free will is incompatible with determinism. But because they also believe an incompatibilist free will is impossible or not scientifically plausible, they deny that free will exists. Revisionism provides an alternative to such views. Rather that denying we have free will, revisionists with incompatibilist intuitions, who come to believe that an incompatibilist free will is impossible, would instead conclude that free will was not exactly what they previously thought it to be (i.e., it was not incompatibilist). They would, in effect, revise their view of free will in a compatibilist direction, rather than denying free will altogether.
Such a revisionist compatibilism would obviously differ from both hard determinism and libertarianism. But, less obviously, it would also differ from ordinary compatibilist views. For compatibilists have traditionally argued that incompatibilist intuitions about free will (whether of hard incompatibilists or libertarians) are confused and misguided and that careful analysis of our ordinary notions of freedom and responsibility will show this. Our ordinary understanding of freedom and responsibility, they have argued, is compatibilist, and revision is unnecessary. By contrast, revisionist compatibilists need not deny that many of our everyday intuitions about freedom and responsibility are compatibilist. But they may be less willing to dismiss incompatibilist intuitions as totally groundless or simply mistaken. They may hold, as Vargas suggests, that our intuitions about free will and responsibility are a mixed bag, involving some incompatibilist elements and some compatibilist ones, while arguing that the incompatibilist elements should be expunged, because they require what cannot be realized. Vargas's essay provides an informative account of the origin of revisionist views of this kind in recent philosophy and a useful taxonomy of kinds of revisionist views. He concludes with a discussion of future challenges for revisionist approaches to free will and moral responsibility.
It should not go unnoticed that a common theme of most of the views discussed thus far in Part VII—hard determinism, hard incompatibilism, illusionism, revisionist compatibilism—is that an incompatibilist or libertarian free will is impossible or not scientifically plausible. For those persons with incompatibilist intuitions who believe this, the question becomes how one should react to this fact (“there is no free will, but we can live with its absence”; “don't ask, don't tell”; “revise one's view of what free will is,” and so on). It is thus fitting that the final two essays (p. 28) of Part VII return to this pivotal question of whether an incompatibilist freedom is possible and provide additional perspectives on it.
In “A Promising Argument,” Peter van Inwagen reconsiders an argument he initially put forward in an essay that appeared in the first edition of The Oxford Handbook of Free Will—“Free Will Remains a Mystery”—purporting to show that libertarian free will is impossible. Some explanation is necessary here, because van Inwagen is known as a libertarian about free will and is perhaps the most well-known proponent of the Consequence Argument. Nonetheless, though he continues to defend the Consequence Argument and continues to believe libertarian free will is the correct view of it, van Inwagen also believes there are strong, as yet unanswered, arguments suggesting that libertarian free will may be impossible. Hence, in his view, libertarian free will “remains a mystery.” (Ekstrom calls such a view free-will “mysterianism” and she also discusses it in her essay, as noted.)
One of the arguments for the impossibility of libertarian free will put forward in van Inwagen's contribution to the first edition of this Handbook—an argument about “promising”—is revisited by him in his essay of this edition. This argument rests on the insight that if one believes one's future free choice is a libertarian free choice and so must be undetermined, one is not in a position to make a promise to someone that one will choose as he or she wishes. The argument that van Inwagen develops on the basis of this insight is related to a general problem about incompatibilist free will mentioned earlier—namely, that indeterminism does not enhance the power or control agents have over their choices or actions, but would in fact diminish their power and control, and hence would diminish their freedom. Van Inwagen now believes that an objection made to his original “promising argument” by Michael Bratman shows it to be flawed, and he offers here a revised version of the argument that attempts to escape Bratman's objection. The upshot of the revision, however, is that the promising argument is not as comprehensive as previously assumed. Van Inwagen now distinguishes between strong and weak versions of libertarianism; and he argues that the revised version of the promising argument works against the stronger versions, but not all versions. Nonetheless, the argument is important in his view because it shows that many forms of libertarianism (including ones that many libertarians hold) are indeed impossible.
In their essay, “Rollbacks, Endorsements and Indeterminism,” Michael Almeida and Mark Bernstein consider yet another well-known argument in recent philosophy purporting to show that a libertarian free will is incoherent and impossible. This argument (which is also made by van Inwagen among others) has come to be known as the “Rollback Argument.” It rests on a thought experiment in which the universe is repeatedly rolled back (by God on some versions) to the precise point where a person is faced with a libertarian choice, say to lie or not lie. If the choice is undetermined, then in some percentage of these possible universes (e.g., 42%), the agent lies, and in the others (58%), she tells the truth. The argument attempts to show that if this is the case, then on each replay the outcome that occurs will be a matter of chance, and if the occurrence of one choice rather than the other is a matter of chance on each replay, then this would be the case as well for the choice that (p. 29) occurred in the actual world. Almeida and Bernstein subject this much-discussed Rollback Argument to critical examination. They consider how it is related to time, to changes in abilities and in measures of chance over time, and to agents’ “endorsements” of their choices; and they raise questions about the validity of the argument in the light of these considerations.
Neuroscience, Psychology, Experimental Philosophy, and Free Will
As noted earlier, while determinism has been in retreat in the physical sciences during the twentieth century, developments in sciences other than physics—biology, neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, social, and behavior sciences—have convinced many persons that more of their behavior is determined by causes unknown to them and beyond their control than previously believed. The most important of these new scientific developments for free-will debates, especially in the past two decades, has been the explosion of free-will–related research in the neurosciences and in related fields of cognitive science and psychology.24 The first two essays of Part VIII, by Alfred Mele and Henrik Walter, survey this recent neuroscientific and psychological research and examine its relevance for contemporary free-will debates. The other two essays of Part VIII, by Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols, and Eddy Nahmias, respectively, raise general questions about the relevance of the cognitive and neurosciences for free-will debates and they also prominently deal with the relevance of what has come to be called “experimental philosophy” for free-will debates.
Alfred Mele has written influential works on all aspects of the free-will problem. But in recent years he has focused his attention on evaluating the relevance of neuroscientific and psychological research to free-will debates (e.g., Mele 2004, 2006a, 2008a, 2009). His essay for this volume, “Free Will and Science,” critically examines the work of two figures in these fields whose work has had a significant impact on recent free-will debates, neuroscientist Benjamin Libet and psychologist Daniel Wegner. Libet's groundbreaking experimental studies on human subjects relating brain activities to the appearance or production of conscious experience, volition, and willed action have been much discussed by philosophers and scientists over the past several decades and have influenced subsequent scientific research on these subjects. Libet and his colleagues found that voluntary acts are preceded by a specific electrical charge in the brain (the “readiness potential”) that begins several hundred milliseconds before the human subjects become consciously aware of their intention to act. This suggests that the volitional process is initiated unconsciously. Mele discusses the Libet experiments in some detail along with other more recent neuroscientific experiments on willed action, arguing that such experiments do not necessarily have the negative implications regarding voluntary action and intentional (p. 30) control of action that Libet and other scientists and philosophers have assumed.
The second half of Mele's essay deals with the arguments of psychologist Daniel Wegner, whose book, The Illusion of Conscious Will (2002), has had a significant impact on free-will debates since its publication. Wegner argues that our experience of conscious control over our willed actions is an illusion. Voluntary actions are initiated unconsciously and our conscious awareness of them is caused by (rather than causing) the physical processes in the brain that cause the actions. In support of these claims, Wegner appeals in part to the Libet experiments and other neuroscientific experiments on voluntary action. But he also appeals to a variety of other psychological studies providing evidence, e.g., that people are not conscious of some of their actions, that they sometimes believe they intentionally did things they in fact did not do, and that they sometimes do things automatically and for no good reason. Mele critically examines Wegner's arguments and some of the neuroscientific and psychological studies on which they rely. He argues that although such studies show that there are limitations to our free agency, they fall short of demonstrating Wegner's thesis that conscious willing is always illusory.
Henrik Walter's essay, “Contributions of Neuroscience to the Free-will Debate,” discusses a range of recent research in cognitive neuroscience and social psychology with implications for free-will debates, including (1) experiments of social psychologists showing that unconscious cognitive and emotional factors sometimes influence our actions and decisions although we are unaware of these influences and think we had our own conscious reasons to act; (2) evidence from clinical neuroscience and studies of split-brain patients that our conscious reasons are sometimes confabulations; and (3) neuroscientific studies of moral reasoning and cognitive control, among other topics. Walter, who is a neurologist and neuropsychiatrist as well as a philosopher, discusses the challenge of neuroscience to our everyday ways of thinking about morality and about moral and legal responsibility and argues that neuroscience may require that we revise our views to some degree about these matters in the future.
Another important new development in free-will debates of the past ten years is the influence on these debates of what has come to be called “experimental philosophy.” The final two essays of Part VIII deal with this new development as well as with the influence of research in the cognitive and neurosciences on free will debates. Experimental philosophy is motivated by the thought that philosophers often appeal to ordinary intuitions to elucidate and support their positions on free will, morality, and other subjects. Experimental philosophers believe that we should use more systematic and controlled approaches to elucidating these ordinary “folk” intuitions and beliefs than philosophers usually employ. Thus they employ empirical studies, such as surveys of nonphilosophers which present subjects with various scenarios and questions, in order to elucidate the ways ordinary folk think about philosophical questions. Experimental philosophers do not claim that such studies of folk intuitions resolve philosophical debates. But they do think experimental studies can be a valuable corrective to philosophers who may assume too readily that their own intuitions (p. 31) are universally held. Such studies can also help to determine to what extent philosophical theories are systematizing common intuitions or “revising” them. Finally, by recording differences in people's reactions to different cases, one may gain deeper insight into the sources of people's intuitions and the ideas or principles underlying them, thus deepening one's understanding of the philosophical problems themselves.
In their essay “Free Will and the Bounds of Self,” Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols appeal to experimental studies in order to elucidate the reactions of ordinary persons to the picture of the human mind that is prevalent in contemporary cognitive science. According to this prevalent cognitive-scientific picture, the mind, somewhat like a computer, is made up of states and processes that interact according to certain rules to generate specific behaviors. If one asks how these states and processes arose, the only answer is that they arose through the interaction of earlier states and processes, which arose from others … until the chain ultimately goes back to factors in our genes and environment. With support from experimental studies, Knobe and Nichols argue that this picture is deeply disturbing to many ordinary persons, who reason that if the mind does work that way we would not be morally responsible for what we did because our behaviors would inevitably result from facts about the configuration of states and processes within us. In response, as Knobe and Nichols note, many philosophers and cognitive scientists think this sort of worry on the part of ordinary folk is confused and wrongheaded. These philosophers and cognitive scientists point out that the interaction of these physical states and processes does not prevent agents from controlling their lives. Rather the states and processes—the whole complex system described by cognitive science—simply is the agent. Thus, to say that these states and processes control behavior is simply to say that the agent is controlling behavior.
But, as convincing as this response may seem to philosophers and cognitive scientists, Knobe and Nichols argue that it does not usually remove the discomfort ordinary persons feel at the thought that their behavior may be entirely explicable in cognitive and neuroscientific terms. The goal of their essay is to get at the sources of this discomfort on the part of ordinary folk and thus gain some insight into whether or not it is warranted. They trace the discomfort to differing conceptions of the self and the bounds of self that persons may hold. On some of these conceptions of the self, it is obvious that if your actions are caused by states and processes within you, including psychological states, then they are controlled by you, while on other conceptions, it is obvious that if actions are caused by states and processes within you, they are not caused by you. Knobe and Nichols predict that people's ideas about agency, control, and responsibility will vary depending on the perspective they thus take about the bounds of the self—what is “within” it and what is not; and they test this prediction with a variety of empirical studies. They conclude that people have access to different conceptions of the self, on some of which cognitive science is a genuine threat to free will, on others not. The puzzlement people feel about free will is therefore not merely a superficial muddle that can be dissolved by conceptual clarification. It is a deeper puzzlement that reflects a genuine tension in people's understanding of the self.
(p. 32) Eddy Nahmias’ essay, “Intuitions about Free Will, Determinism and Bypassing,” draws on experimental studies of folk intuitions about free will and moral responsibility that he has conducted in the past decade with colleagues. In the light of these studies, Nahmias questions the claims of many philosophers that most ordinary persons have incompatibilist intuitions about free will and moral responsibility. In the studies he discusses, various deterministic scenarios are presented to undergraduate students who have not studied philosophy. For example, one scenario involves a Laplacean supercomputer that could use information about the state of the universe and laws of nature to exactly predict the future; another that genes and environment cause one's beliefs and values; another that the universe is rolled back over and over and the person performs the same action each time, and so on. In these scenarios Nahmias and his colleagues found that, although some students expressed incompatibilist intuitions, a majority expressed compatibilist intuitions, agreeing that agents could be free and morally responsible in these presumably deterministic scenarios.
Nahmias further argues that determinism seems to be a threat to free will and moral responsibility because it is often connected with something else that ordinary persons do take to be a threat to free will and moral responsibility. He calls this threat bypassing. Ordinary persons find the possibility that all of our behavior could be explained by neuroscientists in purely chemical and neurophysiological terms threatening to free will and moral responsibility. And they think this, Nahmias argues, because they tend to believe that scientific explanations of behavior in purely physical terms would bypass ordinary explanations of free and responsible actions in terms of psychological states and processes, such as beliefs, desires, and conscious deliberation. Nahmias cites experimental studies suggesting that this worry about bypassing is what really concerns ordinary persons and that determinism is thought to be threatening to free will only insofar as it is taken to imply bypassing. This provides reasons, he believes, though not decisive reasons, for thinking compatibilism is true. Moreover, he thinks bypassing challenges to free will can ultimately be met. The folk are confused, Nahmias believes, in thinking that explanations of behavior in neuroscientific terms necessarily undermine free will and moral responsibility, though he does agree that recent neuroscientific and psychological research show we may possess less free will than we normally think.
Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom: Theological Dimensions of Free-Will Debates
Although determinist threats to free will from the natural and human sciences have taken center stage in modern free-will debates, the scientific challenges have not been the only ones of importance to current debates. Another prominent feature of (p. 33) the history of philosophy over the past forty years has been the renewed interest of analytic philosophers in traditional issues in philosophical theology and the philosophy of religion. This renewed interest has naturally included a renewed interest in issues about the relation of divine foreknowledge, power, and providence to human free will. Contemporary debates about these theological issues in the past forty years have surpassed even medieval discussions in labyrinthine complexity. William Hasker's essay, “Divine Knowledge and Human Freedom,” provides an overview of, and guide to, these theological debates.25
The theological implications of the free-will problem have been a central preoccupation of many religious traditions, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, among others, as well as a central preoccupation of Western intellectual history in general, especially since St. Augustine's On the Free Choice of the Will. In his poem, Paradise Lost, John Milton describes the angels debating about predestination and free will—wondering how they could have freely chosen to serve or reject God, given that God had made them what they were and had complete foreknowledge of what they would do. Milton tells us that the angels debating this issue were in “Endless Mazes lost”—not a comforting thought for us mortals.
Hasker's essay focuses on the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom, which has been the most discussed problem in this area in recent philosophy. It has implications for other central problems of philosophical theology as well, as Hasker notes, including problems about divine providence, divine perfection, prophecy, petitionary prayer, time, and eternity. He begins with a formal statement of the standard historical argument for the incompatibility of divine foreknowledge and human free will, an argument based on the idea that if God has foreknowledge of all future events and God's foreknowledge is infallible (given divine perfection), then agents cannot act other than they actually do.
Hasker critically examines the most prominent proposed solutions to this problem, including the Eternalist solution, which goes back to Boethius, and appeals to the notion that God's knowledge is timeless; the Ockhamist solution, which goes back to William of Ockham and according to which God's past beliefs are not accidentally necessary:26 a modern version of the Ockhamist solution due to Alvin Plantinga (1986), according to which we have counterfactual power over God's past beliefs; and the Molinist solution, which originated with Luis de Molina (1535–1600) and relies on God's “middle knowledge,” i.e., knowledge of what every creature would freely choose to do in any situation of libertarian free choice. The Molinist solution is defended by a number of contemporary philosophers whose views are considered, including Thomas Flint (1998).27 Hasker reviews current debates about each of these views and some others less prominent. He himself leans toward an open theist view, according to which God does not have knowledge of future contingent events because such future events, including human free choices, do not yet exist to be known, and he attempts to answer some well-known objections to this view. He also considers the implications of each view, particularly Molinism, for issues about divine providence.
(1.) Introductions to the problem of free will to have appeared in the past thirty years include Clifford Williams (1980), Trusted (1984), Flew and Vesey (1987), Thornton (1990), Honderich (1993), Felt (1994), Dilman (1999) and since 2000, Ekstrom (2000), Kane (2005a), Campbell (2011), Mawson (2011).
(2.) The sense of determinism I have in mind here that is relevant to free will is what Sobel (1998) calls determinism by “ancient causes.” Other influential works on determinism of the past forty years in addition to Sobel (1998) include Berofsky (1971), Montague (1974), Earman (1986), and Honderich (1988).
(3.) An interesting variation of this compatibilist strategy is pursued by Swanton (1992), who lists scores of ordinary statements in which we talk about agents’ being free and tries to devise a “coherence theory” of freedom satisfying all of them.
(6.) A wide-ranging, original, and historically informed study of the will in recent philosophy is that by John Davenport (2007). Davenport discusses my three senses of will, although arguing for other historical notions as well, and defends in particular an existential notion of will as “projective motivation.”
(7.) Other contemporary philosophers who had earlier tried to improve on a classical compatibilist line with varying criticisms and modifications include Lehrer (1976), Audi (1974, 1993), Falk (1981), Magill (1997), and Peacocke (1999).
(11.) A novel twist to such a general reactive attitude strategy is suggested by T. M. Scanlon (1988, 1998, 2002) in terms of his contractualist moral theory: Because we have reason to live in accord with rules for the general regulation of behavior that no one similarly motivated can reasonably reject, we have reason to blame or hold morally responsible anyone who violates such rules.
(13.) This objection has also been referred to in the literature (e.g., Pereboom 2001) as the Kane/Widerker objection to Frankfurt examples. Important attempts to avoid the objection include Haji and McKenna (2004), Mele and Robb (1998), and Pereboom (2001). Palmer (2005) is a response to Haji and McKenna and they reply to Palmer in Haji and McKenna (2006). Ginet and Palmer (2010) is a response to Mele and Robb. Responses to Pereboom include Palmer (forthcoming) and Widerker (see his essay in this volume).
(14.) Libertarianism in this sense—libertarianism about free will—is not to be confused with the political doctrine of the same name. In free-will contexts, libertarians are those who believe in the existence of a traditional anti-determinist or incompatibilist free will, which does not necessarily commit them to political beliefs about freedom associated with political libertarianism.
(15.) O'Connor says that although Swinburne appears to be an AC theorist, he says some things that seem to suggest otherwise. O'Connor also notes that Lowe (2008) defends an AC view, but that his view also has noncausalist features.
(17.) Dualist views on free will are defended by Swinburne (1986), Foster (1991), Eccles (1994), and Moreland and Rae (2000). Unger (2002) offers an astute discussion of what dualist views might require without an endorsement of them.
(18.) Though Clarke has abandoned his own integrated AC view, another version of an integrated AC view is defended in a new book by T. J. Mawson (2011).
(20.) Other centered EC views have since been defended by others, including Balaguer (2004, 2010), McCall (1999), and Hodgson (1999, 2007a) (see note 2 of my essay later in this volume, chapter 19, for further references), and they are now very much a part of current debates. John Searle (2001, 2004) argues in several recent works that an account of free will fitting our ordinary experiences of free choice and scientific (including neurobiological) requirements would have features of a centered EC view (though he does not use this terminology). Searle does not develop such a view, however, and raises questions about whether it can be coherently developed.
(21.) Other philosophers who have emphasized the importance of this “ultimacy” condition for free will include Paul Gomberg (1975), Galen Strawson (1986, 2002), W. S. Anglin (1990), Martha Klein (1990), Derk Pereboom (2001), and Eleonore Stump (2003). Kevin Timpe (2008) offers the most comprehensive recent study of views that emphasize this condition, often now called source incompatibilist views.
(23.) Another influential writer on free will of the past twenty years, Richard Double, also emphasizes the point that notions of freedom and free will do not have one single and clear meaning in ordinary language. Double further argues that what people designate as free will and moral responsibility do not represent objective properties of agents or actions, but rather express our subjective moral and evaluative attitudes toward persons and their behavior. Double (1991, 1996) calls this view, free will subjectivism and he has defended it in a number of influential works as well as in an essay in the first edition of The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (Double 2002). Regrettably, Double was not able to contribute to this second edition due to a debilitating illness.