free will

# free will - Phil 104 s11 1 2 5 Hoversten Free Will...

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Phil 104, s11 Free Will §§ 2, 5: Hoversten 1 Conditions on free action In order to answer the question of whether we have free will, we ﬁrst need to have some sort of account of what free will is. Let’s examine this primary question by looking at a particular hypothetical event and asking what would have to be the case for that event to be a free action . Kitchen Frank is sitting on his sofa. He stands up, walks to the kitchen, opens the refrigerator, and grabs a beer. Now let’s ﬁll out the context a bit to test our intuitions regarding whether Frank’s action is free. Duress Ernest is sitting on a chair next to Frank. He pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot Frank if he doesn’t go get him a beer. Frank knows that Ernest usually makes good on his threats. I’m inclined to think that in this case, Frank’s action is not free. This is because he had no choice but to perform the action he did. 1 Considerations like this suggest that one important criterion from free action is that one’s performance of the action should not be constrained . There must be alternative actions available to the agent. Random Frank has the options of going to the kitchen, going to the bathroom, or staying on the sofa. He assigns the numbers 1-3 to these options and presses a button on a random number generator. He does the action whose number comes up. Again, it seems to me that we wouldn’t say that Frank acted freely in this case. That’s because his action wasn’t up to him . 2 This case brings out the fact that free action isn’t a matter of being indeterminate or uncaused . What is important is that the action is caused in the right way; namely, it is caused by the agent. Below, I’ve modeled two ways in which Frank’s action deﬁnitely fails to be free. The model on the left represents the case in which the cause of his action is external to him. The one on the right represents the situation in which the relationship between Frank and his action is totally uncaused. Frank Gun Kitchen Frank Kitchen External Control Random Result So, we are looking for a model of action that explains events in a way that their perfromance is unconstrained and controlled by the agent . To do this, we need an understanding of what it is for an action to be under the control of an agent. 1

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free will - Phil 104 s11 1 2 5 Hoversten Free Will...

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