Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics.In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a deterministic universe and that agents have free will, and that, therefore, determinism is false. One of the first clear formulations of libertarianism is found in John Duns Scotus; in theological context metaphysical libertarianism was notably defended by Jesuit authors like Luis de Molina and Francisco Suárez against rather compatibilist Thomist Báñezianism. Other important metaphysical libertarians in the early modern period were René Descartes, George Berkeley, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Reid. Roderick Chisholm was a prominent defender of libertarianism in the 20th century, and contemporary libertarians include Robert Kane, Peter van Inwagen and Robert Nozick.
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?
Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded.
Determinism is the philosophical idea that all events, including moral choices, are determined completely by previously existing causes. Determinism is at times understood to preclude free will because it entails that humans cannot act otherwise than they do. It can also be called hard determinism from this point of view. Hard determinism is a position on the relationship of determinism to free will. The theory holds that the universe is utterly rational because complete knowledge of any given situation assures that unerring knowledge of its future is also possible. Some philosophers suggest variants around this basic definition. Deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprung from diverse and sometimes overlapping motives and considerations. The opposite of determinism is some kind of indeterminism. Determinism is often contrasted with free will.
The first recorded use of the term "libertarianism" was in 1789 by William Belsham in a discussion of free will and in opposition to "necessitarian" (or determinist) views.
William Belsham (1752–1827) was an English political writer and historian, noted as a supporter of the Whig Party and its principles. He justified the American Revolution in excusing Americans in their resistance to the demands of England, and he was an advocate of progressive political liberty.
Necessitarianism is a metaphysical principle that denies all mere possibility; there is exactly one way for the world to be.
Metaphysical libertarianism is one philosophical view point under that of incompatibilism. Libertarianism holds onto a concept of free will that requires the agent to be able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances.
Agency is the capacity of an actor to act in a given environment. The capacity to act does not at first imply a specific moral dimension to the ability to make the choice to act, and moral agency is therefore a distinct concept. In sociology, an agent is an individual engaging with the social structure. Notably, though, the primacy of social structure vs. individual capacity with regard to persons' actions is debated within sociology. This debate concerns, at least partly, the level of reflexivity an agent may possess.
Accounts of libertarianism subdivide into non-physical theories and physical or naturalistic theories. Non-physical theories hold that the events in the brain that lead to the performance of actions do not have an entirely physical explanation, and consequently the world is not closed under physics. Such interactionist dualists believe that some non-physical mind, will, or soul overrides physical causality.
Interactionism or interactionist dualism is the theory in the philosophy of mind which holds that matter and mind are two distinct and independent substances that exert causal effects on one another. It is one type of dualism, traditionally a type of substance dualism though more recently also sometimes a form of property dualism.
The mind is a set of cognitive faculties including consciousness, imagination, perception, thinking, judgement, language and memory. It is usually defined as the faculty of an entity's thoughts and consciousness. It holds the power of imagination, recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in attitudes and actions.
The soul, in many religious, philosophical, and mythological traditions, is the incorporeal essence of a living being. Soul or psyche are the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking, etc. Depending on the philosophical system, a soul can either be mortal or immortal. In Judeo-Christianity, only human beings have immortal souls. For example, the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas attributed "soul" (anima) to all organisms but argued that only human souls are immortal.
Explanations of libertarianism that do not involve dispensing with physicalism require physical indeterminism, such as probabilistic subatomic particle behavior – a theory unknown to many of the early writers on free will. Physical determinism, under the assumption of physicalism, implies there is only one possible future and is therefore not compatible with libertarian free will. Some libertarian explanations involve invoking panpsychism, the theory that a quality of mind is associated with all particles, and pervades the entire universe, in both animate and inanimate entities. Other approaches do not require free will to be a fundamental constituent of the universe; ordinary randomness is appealed to as supplying the "elbow room" believed to be necessary by libertarians.
In philosophy, physicalism is the metaphysical thesis that "everything is physical", that there is "nothing over and above" the physical, or that everything supervenes on the physical. Physicalism is a form of ontological monism—a "one substance" view of the nature of reality as opposed to a "two-substance" (dualism) or "many-substance" (pluralism) view. Both the definition of "physical" and the meaning of physicalism have been debated.
In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that consciousness, mind, or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things. Panpsychists see themselves as minds in a world of mind.
Free volition is regarded as a particular kind of complex, high-level process with an element of indeterminism. An example of this kind of approach has been developed by Robert Kane,where he hypothesizes that,
Volition or will is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. It is defined as purposive striving and is one of the primary human psychological functions. Others include affect, motivation, and cognition (thinking). Volitional processes can be applied consciously or they can be automatized as habits over time.
Robert Hilary Kane is an American philosopher. He is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently on phased retirement.
In each case, the indeterminism is functioning as a hindrance or obstacle to her realizing one of her purposes—a hindrance or obstacle in the form of resistance within her will which has to be overcome by effort.
Although at the time quantum mechanics (and physical indeterminism) was only in the initial stages of acceptance, in his book Miracles: A preliminary study C. S. Lewis stated the logical possibility that if the physical world were proved indeterministic this would provide an entry point to describe an action of a non-physical entity on physical reality.Indeterministic physical models (particularly those involving quantum indeterminacy) introduce random occurrences at an atomic or subatomic level. These events might affect brain activity, and could seemingly allow incompatibilist free will if the apparent indeterminacy of some mental processes (for instance, subjective perceptions of control in conscious volition) map to the underlying indeterminacy of the physical construct. This relationship, however, requires a causative role over probabilities that is questionable, and it is far from established that brain activity responsible for human action can be affected by such events. Secondarily, these incompatibilist models are dependent upon the relationship between action and conscious volition, as studied in the neuroscience of free will. It is evident that observation may disturb the outcome of the observation itself, rendering limited our ability to identify causality. Niels Bohr, one of the main architects of quantum theory, suggested, however, that no connection could be made between indeterminism of nature and freedom of will.
In non-physical theories of free will, agents are assumed to have power to intervene in the physical world, a view known as agent causation.Proponents of agent causation include George Berkeley, Thomas Reid, and Roderick Chisholm.
Most events can be explained as the effects of prior events. When a tree falls, it does so because of the force of the wind, its own structural weakness, and so on. However, when a person performs a free act, agent causation theorists say that the action was not caused by any other events or states of affairs, but rather was caused by the agent. Agent causation is ontologically separate from event causation. The action was not uncaused, because the agent caused it. But the agent's causing it was not determined by the agent's character, desires, or past, since that would just be event causation.As Chisholm explains it, humans have "a prerogative which some would attribute only to God: each of us, when we act, is a prime mover unmoved. In doing what we do, we cause certain events to happen, and nothing – or no one – causes us to cause those events to happen."
This theory involves a difficulty which has long been associated with the idea of an unmoved mover. If a free action was not caused by any event, such as a change in the agent or an act of the will, then what is the difference between saying that an agent caused the event and simply saying that the event happened on its own? As William James put it, "If a 'free' act be a sheer novelty, that comes not from me, the previous me, but ex nihilo, and simply tacks itself on to me, how can I, the previous I, be responsible? How can I have any permanent character that will stand still long enough for praise or blame to be awarded?"
Agent causation advocates respond that agent causation is actually more intuitive than event causation. They point to David Hume's argument that when we see two events happen in succession, our belief that one event caused the other cannot be justified rationally (known as the problem of induction). If that is so, where does our belief in causality come from? According to Thomas Reid, "the conception of an efficient cause may very probably be derived from the experience we have had...of our own power to produce certain effects."Our everyday experiences of agent causation provide the basis for the idea of event causation.
Event-causal accounts of incompatibilist free will typically rely upon physicalist models of mind (like those of the compatibilist), yet they presuppose physical indeterminism, in which certain indeterministic events are said to be caused by the agent. A number of event-causal accounts of free will have been created, referenced here as deliberative indeterminism, centred accounts, and efforts of will theory.The first two accounts do not require free will to be a fundamental constituent of the universe. Ordinary randomness is appealed to as supplying the "elbow room" that libertarians believe necessary. A first common objection to event-causal accounts is that the indeterminism could be destructive and could therefore diminish control by the agent rather than provide it (related to the problem of origination). A second common objection to these models is that it is questionable whether such indeterminism could add any value to deliberation over that which is already present in a deterministic world.
Deliberative indeterminism asserts that the indeterminism is confined to an earlier stage in the decision process.This is intended to provide an indeterminate set of possibilities to choose from, while not risking the introduction of luck (random decision making). The selection process is deterministic, although it may be based on earlier preferences established by the same process. Deliberative indeterminism has been referenced by Daniel Dennett and John Martin Fischer. An obvious objection to such a view is that an agent cannot be assigned ownership over their decisions (or preferences used to make those decisions) to any greater degree than that of a compatibilist model.
Centred accounts propose that for any given decision between two possibilities, the strength of reason will be considered for each option, yet there is still a probability the weaker candidate will be chosen.An obvious objection to such a view is that decisions are explicitly left up to chance, and origination or responsibility cannot be assigned for any given decision.
Efforts of will theory is related to the role of will power in decision making. It suggests that the indeterminacy of agent volition processes could map to the indeterminacy of certain physical events – and the outcomes of these events could therefore be considered caused by the agent. Models of volition have been constructed in which it is seen as a particular kind of complex, high-level process with an element of physical indeterminism. An example of this approach is that of Robert Kane, where he hypothesizes that "in each case, the indeterminism is functioning as a hindrance or obstacle to her realizing one of her purposes – a hindrance or obstacle in the form of resistance within her will which must be overcome by effort."According to Robert Kane such "ultimate responsibility" is a required condition for free will. An important factor in such a theory is that the agent cannot be reduced to physical neuronal events, but rather mental processes are said to provide an equally valid account of the determination of outcome as their physical processes (see non-reductive physicalism).
Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher, argued that as atoms moved through the void, there were occasions when they would "swerve" ( clinamen ) from their otherwise determined paths, thus initiating new causal chains. Epicurus argued that these swerves would allow us to be more responsible for our actions, something impossible if every action was deterministically caused.
Epicurus did not say the swerve was directly involved in decisions. But following Aristotle, Epicurus thought human agents have the autonomous ability to transcend necessity and chance (both of which destroy responsibility), so that praise and blame are appropriate. Epicurus finds a tertium quid , beyond necessity (Democritus' physics) and beyond chance. His tertium quid is agent autonomy, what is "up to us."
...some things happen of necessity (ἀνάγκη), others by chance (τύχη), others through our own agency (παρ’ ἡμᾶς).
...necessity destroys responsibility and chance is inconstant; whereas our own actions are autonomous, and it is to them that praise and blame naturally attach.
Lucretius (1st century BC), a strong supporter of Epicurus, saw the randomness as enabling free will, even if he could not explain exactly how, beyond the fact that random swerves would break the causal chain of determinism.
Again, if all motion is always one long chain, and new motion arises out of the old in order invariable, and if the first-beginnings do not make by swerving a beginning of motion such as to break the decrees of fate, that cause may not follow cause from infinity, whence comes this freedom (libera) in living creatures all over the earth, whence I say is this will (voluntas) wrested from the fates by which we proceed whither pleasure leads each, swerving also our motions not at fixed times and fixed places, but just where our mind has taken us? For undoubtedly it is his own will in each that begins these things, and from the will movements go rippling through the limbs.
However, the interpretation of Greek philosophers is controversial. Tim O'Keefe has argued that Epicurus and Lucretius were not libertarians at all, but compatibilists.
Robert Nozick put forward an indeterministic theory of free will in Philosophical Explanations (1981).
When human beings become agents through reflexive self-awareness, they express their agency by having reasons for acting, to which they assign weights. Choosing the dimensions of one's identity is a special case, in which the assigning of weight to a dimension is partly self-constitutive. But all acting for reasons is constitutive of the self in a broader sense, namely, by its shaping one's character and personality in a manner analogous to the shaping that law undergoes through the precedent set by earlier court decisions. Just as a judge does not merely apply the law but to some degree makes it through judicial discretion, so too a person does not merely discover weights but assigns them; one not only weighs reasons but also weights them. Set in train is a process of building a framework for future decisions that we are tentatively committed to.
The lifelong process of self-definition in this broader sense is construed indeterministically by Nozick. The weighting is "up to us" in the sense that it is undetermined by antecedent causal factors, even though subsequent action is fully caused by the reasons one has accepted. He compares assigning weights in this deterministic sense to "the currently orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics", following von Neumann in understanding a quantum mechanical system as in a superposition or probability mixture of states, which changes continuously in accordance with quantum mechanical equations of motion and discontinuously via measurement or observation that "collapses the wave packet" from a superposition to a particular state. Analogously, a person before decision has reasons without fixed weights: he is in a superposition of weights. The process of decision reduces the superposition to a particular state that causes action.
One particularly influential contemporary theory of libertarian free will is that of Robert Kane.Kane argues that "(1) the existence of alternative possibilities (or the agent's power to do otherwise) is a necessary condition for acting freely, and that (2) determinism is not compatible with alternative possibilities (it precludes the power to do otherwise)". It is important to note that the crux of Kane's position is grounded not in a defense of alternative possibilities (AP) but in the notion of what Kane refers to as ultimate responsibility (UR). Thus, AP is a necessary but insufficient criterion for free will. It is necessary that there be (metaphysically) real alternatives for our actions, but that is not enough; our actions could be random without being in our control. The control is found in "ultimate responsibility".
Ultimate responsibility entails that agents must be the ultimate creators (or originators) and sustainers of their own ends and purposes. There must be more than one way for a person's life to turn out (AP). More importantly, whichever way it turns out must be based in the person's willing actions. As Kane defines it,
'UR:'An agent is ultimately responsible for some (event or state) E's occurring only if (R) the agent is personally responsible for E's occurring in a sense which entails that something the agent voluntarily (or willingly) did or omitted either was, or causally contributed to, E's occurrence and made a difference to whether or not E occurred; and (U) for every X and Y (where X and Y represent occurrences of events and/or states) if the agent is personally responsible for X and if Y is an arche (sufficient condition, cause or motive) for X, then the agent must also be personally responsible for Y.
In short, "an agent must be responsible for anything that is a sufficient reason (condition, cause or motive) for the action's occurring."
What allows for ultimacy of creation in Kane's picture are what he refers to as "self-forming actions" or SFAs—those moments of indecision during which people experience conflicting wills. These SFAs are the undetermined, regress-stopping voluntary actions or refraining in the life histories of agents that are required for UR. UR does not require that every act done of our own free will be undetermined and thus that, for every act or choice, we could have done otherwise; it requires only that certain of our choices and actions be undetermined (and thus that we could have done otherwise), namely SFAs. These form our character or nature; they inform our future choices, reasons and motivations in action. If a person has had the opportunity to make a character-forming decision (SFA), they are responsible for the actions that are a result of their character.
Randolph Clarke objects that Kane's depiction of free will is not truly libertarian but rather a form of compatibilism. The objection asserts that although the outcome of an SFA is not determined, one's history up to the event is; so the fact that an SFA will occur is also determined. The outcome of the SFA is based on chance, and from that point on one's life is determined. This kind of freedom, says Clarke, is no different than the kind of freedom argued for by compatibilists, who assert that even though our actions are determined, they are free because they are in accordance with our own wills, much like the outcome of an SFA.
Kane responds that the difference between causal indeterminism and compatibilism is "ultimate control—the originative control exercised by agents when it is 'up to them' which of a set of possible choices or actions will now occur, and up to no one and nothing else over which the agents themselves do not also have control".UR assures that the sufficient conditions for one's actions do not lie before one's own birth.
Galen Strawson holds that there is a fundamental sense in which free will is impossible, whether determinism is true or not. He argues for this position with what he calls his "basic argument", which aims to show that no-one is ever ultimately morally responsible for their actions, and hence that no one has free will in the sense that usually concerns us.
In his book defending compatibilism, Freedom Evolves , Daniel Dennett spends a chapter criticising Kane's theory.Kane believes freedom is based on certain rare and exceptional events, which he calls self-forming actions or SFA's. Dennett notes that there is no guarantee such an event will occur in an individual's life. If it does not, the individual does not in fact have free will at all, according to Kane. Yet they will seem the same as anyone else. Dennett finds an essentially indetectable notion of free will to be incredible.
Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting is a 1984 book by the American philosopher Daniel Dennett, in which Dennett discusses the philosophical issues of free will and determinism.
Freedom Evolves is a 2003 popular science and philosophy book by Daniel C. Dennett. Dennett describes the book as an installment of a lifelong philosophical project, earlier parts of which were The Intentional Stance, Consciousness Explained and Elbow Room. It attempts to give an account of free will and moral responsibility which is complementary to Dennett's other views on consciousness and personhood.
Incompatibilism is the view that a deterministic universe is completely at odds with the notion that persons have a free will; that there is a dichotomy between determinism and free will where philosophers must choose one or the other. This view is pursued in at least three ways: libertarians deny that the universe is deterministic, the hard determinists deny that any free will exists, and pessimistic incompatibilists deny both that the universe is determined and that free will exists.
Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are mutually compatible and that it is possible to believe in both without being logically inconsistent. Compatibilists believe freedom can be present or absent in situations for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysics. They define free will as freedom to act according to one's motives without arbitrary hindrance from other individuals or institutions.
Indeterminism is the idea that events are not caused, or not caused deterministically.
Hard determinism is a view on free will which holds that determinism is true, and that it is incompatible with free will, and, therefore, that free will does not exist. Although hard determinism generally refers to nomological determinism, it can also be a position taken with respect to other forms of determinism that necessitate the future in its entirety. Hard determinism is contrasted with soft determinism, which is a compatibilist form of determinism, holding that free will may exist despite determinism. It is also contrasted with metaphysical libertarianism, the other major form of incompatibilism which holds that free will exists and determinism is false.
Charlie Dunbar Broad, usually cited as C. D. Broad, was an English epistemologist, historian of philosophy, philosopher of science, moral philosopher, and writer on the philosophical aspects of psychical research. He was known for his thorough and dispassionate examinations of arguments in such works as Scientific Thought, published in 1923, The Mind and Its Place in Nature, published in 1925, and An Examination of McTaggart's Philosophy, published in 1933.
Ted Honderich is a Canadian-born British philosopher, Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic, University College London. His work has been mainly about five things: consciousness and mind, including the consciousness–brain relation; right and wrong in the contemporary world particularly with democracy, terrorism and war; advocacy of the Principle of Humanity; determinism and freedom; particular problems in logical analysis and metaphysics; the supposed justification of punishment by the state; the political tradition of conservatism. He has given lectures and talks in British, continental European, Irish, American, Canadian, Asian, Russian, and African universities.
Predeterminism is the idea that all events are determined in advance. Predeterminism is the philosophy that all events of history, past, present and future, have been already decided or are already known, including human actions.
Peter van Inwagen is an American analytic philosopher and the John Cardinal O'Hara Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He is also a Research Professor of Philosophy at Duke University each Spring. He previously taught at Syracuse University and earned his PhD from the University of Rochester in 1969 under the direction of Richard Taylor. Van Inwagen is one of the leading figures in contemporary metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of action. He was the president of the Society of Christian Philosophers from 2010 to 2013.
The free will theorem of John H. Conway and Simon B. Kochen states that if we have a free will in the sense that our choices are not a function of the past, then, subject to certain assumptions, so must some elementary particles. Conway and Kochen's paper was published in Foundations of Physics in 2006. In 2009 they published a stronger version of the theorem in the Notices of the AMS. Later Kochen elaborated some details.
In philosophy, moral responsibility is the status of morally deserving praise, blame, reward, or punishment for an act or omission performed or neglected in accordance with one's moral obligations. Deciding what counts as "morally obligatory" is a principal concern of ethics.
Physical causal closure is a metaphysical theory about the nature of causation in the physical realm with significant ramifications in the study of metaphysics and the mind. In a strongly stated version, physical causal closure says that "all physical states have pure physical causes" — Jaegwon Kim, or that "physical effects have only physical causes" — Agustin Vincente, p. 150.
Frankfurt cases were presented by philosopher Harry Frankfurt in 1969 as counterexamples to the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP), which holds that an agent is morally responsible for an action only if that person could have done otherwise.
Free will in antiquity was not discussed in the same terms as used in the modern free will debates, but historians of the problem have speculated who exactly was first to take positions as determinist, libertarian, and compatibilist in antiquity. There is wide agreement that these views were essentially fully formed over 2000 years ago. Candidates for the first thinkers to form these views, as well as the idea of a non-physical "agent-causal" libertarianism, include Democritus (460–370), Aristotle (384–322), Epicurus (341–270), Chrysippus (280–207), and Carneades (214–129).
Peter Ulric Tse is an American cognitive neuroscientist in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College. He directs the NSF EPSCoR Attention Consortium. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014.
Das Problem der Willensfreiheit in der neuesten deutschen Philosophie is a book written by Dr. Leopold Müffelmann and published in Leipzig in 1902. It is the dissertation of Dr. Leopold Müffelmann who was a jurist and chief executive of the lodge of the Freemason, and summarizes historical viewpoints on the topic of free will with a focus on the common opinion within German philosophy in the early 20th century. The book considers the general ideas towards the problem, namely indeterminism, fatalism and determinism. Müffelmann treats the subject of free will rather objectively, however, it becomes apparent that his view towards the problem of free will is deterministic. In the dissertation Müffelmann argues, that the problem of free will is actually not as important as often claimed by philosophers and that ethical life and thought should not be made dependent upon it.
It would seem that undetermined events in the brain or body would occur spontaneously and would be more likely to undermine our freedom rather than enhance it.
... any observation necessitates an interference with the course of the phenomena, which is of such a nature that it deprives us of the foundation underlying the causal mode of description.
For instance, it is impossible, from our standpoint, to attach an unambiguous meaning to the view sometimes expressed that the probability of the occurrence of certain atomic processes in the body might be under the direct influence of the will. In fact, according to the generalized interpretation of the psycho-physical parallelism, the freedom of the will must be considered a feature of conscious life that corresponds to functions of the organism that not only evade a causal mechanical description, but resist even a physical analysis carried to the extent required for an unambiguous application of the statistical laws of atomic mechanics. Without entering into metaphysical speculations, I may perhaps add that an analysis of the very concept of explanation would, naturally, begin and end with a renunciation as to explaining our own conscious activity.Full text on line at us.archive.org.