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Abstract: The belief that only free will supports assignments of moral responsibility -- deserved praise and blame, punishment and reward, and the expression of reactive attitudes and moral censure -- has fueled most of the historical concern over the existence of free will. Free will's connection to moral responsibility also drives contemporary thinkers as diverse in their substantive positions as Peter Strawson, Thomas Nagel, Peter van Inwagen, Galen Strawson, and Robert Kane. A simple, but powerful, reason for thinking that philosophers are correct in making moral responsibility the prize of the free will problem is this: If we disassociate free will from deserved praise, blame, punishment and reward, reactive attitudes and moral censure, then why care about free will? If free will is not pinned down as that degree of freedom in our choices that we need for moral responsibility, it is difficult to see why anyone would or should care about free will. In this article I argue that some of the most prominent recent writing on free will becomes sidetracked from this key issue. For this reason, a good deal of the literature is so much spilled ink as philosophers misdirect their energies. In section 1 I elaborate just what I believe the key issue in the free will problem is. In section 2 I illustrate what an answer to the key issue requires. In section 3 I suggest motivations for misdirection. In sections 4, 5, and 6 I provide detailed examples of misdirection from compatibilists and libertarians. In sections 7 and 8 I describe some non-misdirected answers to the key question.
Abstract: It is my purpose to explore some of the problems concerning the relation between divine creation and creaturely freedom by criticizing various versions of the Free Will Defense (FWD hereafter).1 The FWD attempts to show how it is possible for God and moral evil to co-exist by describing a possible world in which God is morally justified or exonerated for creating persons who freely go wrong. Each version of the FWD has its own story to tell of how it is possible that God be frustrated in his endeavor to create a universe containing moral good sans moral evil. The value of free will is supposed to be so great that God is morally exonerated under such circumstances for creating the Mr. Rogers type persons you know, the very same people who are good sometimes are bad sometimes. If it is objected that God could not be unlucky in this manner, that it necessarily is within his power to create goody-goody persons, either by supernaturally willing in his own inimitable manner that it be so, which is the theological compatibilist objection, or by a judicious selection of the initial state of the universe and operant causal laws which together entail that every free action be morally right, which is the causal compatibilist objection, the response is that it is logically incompatible that a creaturely free action be determined by God or by anything external to the agent, such as causes outside of the agent
Abstract: It is argued that there are at least three things bundled up in the idea of free will: the capacity manifested by agents whenever they act freely; the property possessed by those actions for which an agent in morally responsible; and the ability to do otherwise. This paper attempts some disentangling
Abstract: Revisionism in the theory of moral responsibility is, roughly, the idea that some aspect of our responsibility practices, attitudes, or concept is in need of revision. In this paper, I argue that (1) in spite of being an increasingly prevalent thread in discussions of moral responsibility, revisionism is poorly understood, (2) the limited critical discussion there has been of it does not reflect the complexities and nuances of revisionist theories, and (3) at least one species of revisionismmoderate revisionism- has some advantages over conventional compatibilist and incompatibilist theories. If I am right, one result is that the outcome of prominent debates about the compatibility (or not) of determinism and our commonsense thinking about moral responsibility may be less crucial than they seem
Abstract: This article is not an attempt to explain consciousness in terms basically of quantum physics or neuro-biology. Instead I should like to place the term "Consciousness" on a broader footing. I shall therefore proceed from everyday reality, precisely where we experience ourselves as conscious beings. I shall use the term in such a general way as to resolve the question whether only a human being enjoys consciousness, or even a thermostat. Whilst the difference is considerable, it is not fundamental. Every effect exists in the perception of a consciousness. I elaborate on its freedom of choice, in my view the most important source of creativity, in a similarly general way. The problems associated with a really conscious decision do not disappear by mixing determination with a touch of coincidence. Both must enter into a higher unity. In so doing it will emerge that a certain degree of freedom of choice is just as omnipresent as consciousness - an inherent part of reality itself.
Abstract: Reflections on free choice and determinism constitute a recurring, if rarified, sphere of legal reasoning. Controversy, of course, swirls around the perennially vexing question of the propriety of punishing human persons for conduct that they are unable to avoid. Drawing upon conditions similar, if not identical, to those traditionally associated with attribution of moral fault, persons subject to such necessitating causal constraints generally are not considered responsible in the requisite sense for their conduct; and, thus, they are not held culpable for its consequences. The standard argument against free choice asserts that free choice cannot exist because determinism, as a property of laws governing the cosmos, excludes such a possibility. This contingent factual claim, however, has always proven problematic. Contemporary discussions - no doubt aware of this disputed factual premise - draw upon a more novel, and arguably more devastating critique: free will must be rejected because its very conception is incoherent. Rather than assuming the existence of determinism and attempting to show its incompatibility with free will, this argument begins with consideration of the idea of free choice and concludes that, if it is to have any sense at all, it must be compatible with determinism. Obviously, no single treatment of the free will problem could address all its nuances. This Article more modestly offers one possible approach to the question. Part I elaborates in more detail the view that the traditional conception of free choice is incoherent and, thus, inevitably undermines the very responsibility it is asserted to constitute; Part II considers the resulting effort to develop a model of human freedom compatible with determinism; and Part III, drawing upon the prior discussions, describes - in terms of classical action theory - a conception of free choice justifying personal moral and legal responsibility that avoids both the incoherence of "uncaused freedom" as well as the shortcomings of determinism
Abstract: Egalitarianism is a major contemporary position on issues of distributive justice and related public policy. Its major strand can be called “choice-egalitarianism”, broadly, the claim that inequality can be morally justified only when it follows from people’s choices.1 I claim that the choice-egalitarians have failed to recognize a deep sense of injustice, which I call Ultimate Injustice. This form of injustice follows from the implications of the free will problem. Part I of this paper explains what Ultimate Injustice is, explicates egalitarian aims and assumptions, and notes why free will can be particularly relevant for egalitarians. Part II briefly presents the choice-egalitarian position, in a way that emphasizes it’s free will-related aspects. Part III makes a quick survey of the free will problem and of the major alternatives on it, emphasizing the relation to distributive justice. Part IV presents my arguments for the claim that the choice-egalitarian social order is deeply unjust in terms of Ultimate Injustice. Part V briefly reflects upon some theoretical and practical implications that may follow if I am right
Abstract: What is the free will problem about? It is surely about human freedom. But human freedom is a broad and varied topic, and we do not seek to cover all of it when we speak about the free will problem. The concerns of political philosophy with freedom from tyranny, for instance, are largely independent of the philosophical concern with free will (although, as we shall see, there is a connection). Let me then characterize more narrowly the concern that the free will problem addresses: it focuses on peopleâ€™s control over their own actions rather than on their political or economic freedom. But why do we care about control? The traditional answer is that we care about moral responsibility, and control of our actions is a condi- tion for being morally responsible. A person whose actions are not within her control is not morally responsible. We expect a person to control her actions, and because she can do so, we hold her liable for her actions
Abstract: For an expansion of the discussion of Sections 2-5 (Logical Determinism, Epistemic Determinism, and Modal Concepts) see Foreknowledge and Free Will ", in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Abstract: There are seemingly unanswerable arguments that (if they are indeed unanswerable) demonstrate that free will is incompatible with determinism. And there are seemingly unanswerable arguments that (if indeed . . . ) demonstrate that free will is incompatible with indeterminism. But if free will is incompatible both with..
Abstract: Revisionism in the theory of moral responsibility is the idea that some aspect of responsibility practices, attitudes, or concept is in need of revision. While the increased frequency of revisionist language in the literature on free will and moral responsibility is striking, what discussion there has been of revisionism about responsibility and free will tends to be critical. In this paper, I argue that at least one species of revisionism, moderate revisionism, is considerably more sophisticated and defensible than critics have realized. I go on to argue for the advantages of moderate revisionist theories over standard compatibilist and incompatibilist theories
Abstract: One of the most vexing problems in the philosophy of religion is the existence of moral evil in light of an omnipotent and wholly good deity. A popular mode of diffusing the argument from evil lies in the appeal to free will. Traditionally it is argued that there is a strong connection, even a necessary one, between the ability to exercise free will and the occurrence of wrong-doing. Transworld depravity, as characterized by Alvin Plantinga, is a concept which has gone far to explain this relationship. Essentially, the notion of transworld depravity involves the claim that in any world where a person is significantly free that person would, on some occasion, act morally wrongly, or as Plantinga phrases it: ‘If S' were actual, P would go wrong with respect to A’ (where S' is a possible world, P is a person and A is an action). Not only, Plantinga claims, is it possible that there are persons who suffer from transworld depravity, but ‘it is possible that everybody suffers from it’. If transworld depravity obtains, Plantinga notes, God ‘might have been able to create worlds in which moral evil is very considerably outweighed by moral good; but it was not within His power to create worlds containing moral good but no moral evil – and this despite the fact that He is omnipotent’. On this view, God could not instantiate perfect-person essences who would not ever sin. Although Plantinga argues that these instantiated beings are significantly free in that they could have done otherwise (i.e. not sinned), it does seem that his claim about transworld depravity amounts to a claim about transworld depravity amounts to a claim about the existence of a necessary connection obtaining between freedom and evil. For even though it makes sense to claim that an individual may have unactualized dispositions, to claim that everyone, past, present and future, has unactualized dispositions seems to be a significantly different claim. It is therefore difficult to see how this latter claim differs in substance from the claim of a necessary connection obtaining between the capacity for free will and the commission of evil acts.