Two Concepts of Free Action
Joshua May (Monash University)

August 30, 2012, 5:15pm - 7:15pm
Department of Philosophy, University of Melbourne

Moot Court Room
Old Quad Building, University of Melbourne

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Co-author: John Maier (Sydney/Cambridge) Abstract: A compelling argument seems to show the incompatibility of free will and determinism; yet another seems to show the same for indeterminism. Those of us who have non-skeptical views about free action suspect that something has gone wrong. We offer a diagnosis, on which this is the manifestation of a tension already present in the very idea of free action. For really there is not one concept of free action, but two. We argue that one of these is captured by a certain kind of control (what we call "ensurance"), while the other involves having options (which we dub "liberty"). We provide various lines of support for this hypothesis, including some experimental data gathered by probing the judgments of non-specialists. An interesting question then arises about how we should think about cases where one concept, but not the other, is satisfied. Reflection on such cases yields insight into the topic of moral responsibility.

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