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Core Concepts

Adequate Determinism
Alternative Possibilities
Causa Sui
Causal Closure
Chance Not Direct Cause
Chaos Theory
The Cogito Model
Comprehensive   Compatibilism
Conceptual Analysis
Could Do Otherwise
Default Responsibility
Determination Fallacy
Double Effect
Either Way
Emergent Determinism
Epistemic Freedom
Ethical Fallacy
Experimental Philosophy
Extreme Libertarianism
Event Has Many Causes
Frankfurt Cases
Free Choice
Freedom of Action
"Free Will"
Free Will Axiom
Free Will in Antiquity
Free Will Mechanisms
Free Will Requirements
Free Will Theorem
Future Contingency
Hard Incompatibilism
Idea of Freedom
Illusion of Determinism
Laplace's Demon
Liberty of Indifference
Libet Experiments
Master Argument
Modest Libertarianism
Moral Necessity
Moral Responsibility
Moral Sentiments
Paradigm Case
Random When?/Where?
Rational Fallacy
Same Circumstances
Science Advance Fallacy
Second Thoughts
Soft Causality
Special Relativity
Standard Argument
Temporal Sequence
Tertium Quid
Torn Decision
Two-Stage Models
Ultimate Responsibility
Up To Us
What If Dennett and Kane Did Otherwise?


Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
Isaiah Berlin
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Carl Ginet
Edmund Gettier
Alvin Goldman
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
Sam Harris
William Hasker
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
C. Lloyd Morgan
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Karl Popper
Huw Price
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Kenneth Sayre
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf


Michael Arbib
Bernard Baars
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Charles Darwin
Terrence Deacon
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Stuart Hameroff
Patrick Haggard
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Simon Kochen
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Roger Sperry
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Peter Tse
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek


Mental Causation
James Symposium

Agent-Causality is the idea that agents can start new causal chains that are not pre-determined by the events of the immediate or distant past and the physical laws of nature.

The first agent-causal libertarian was Aristotle, followed by Epicurus, and then Carneades.

In more recent times, prominent agent-causalists have been Thomas Reid in the 18th century, followed by Roderick Chisholm, Richard Taylor, Keith Lehrer, Timothy O'Connor, and Randolph Clarke in the 20th century.

Aristotle was in many ways the architect of causality as well as agent-causality.

First he described a causal chain back to a prime mover or first cause, and he elaborated the four possible causes (material, efficient, formal, and final). Aristotle's word for these causes was ἀιτία, which translates as causes in the sense of the multiple factors responsible for an event. Aristotle did not subscribe to the simplistic "every event has a (single) cause" idea that was to come later.

Then, in his Physics and Metaphysics, Aristotle also said there were "accidents" caused by "chance (τύχη)." In his Physics, he clearly reckoned chance among the causes. Aristotle might have added chance as a fifth cause - an uncaused or self-caused cause - one he thought happens when two causal chains come together by accident (συμβεβεκός). He noted that the early physicists had found no place for chance among their causes.

Aristotle opposed his accidental chance to necessity:

Nor is there any definite cause for an accident, but only chance (τυχόν), namely an indefinite (ἀόριστον) cause.
(Metaphysics, Book V, 1025a25)

It is obvious that there are principles and causes which are generable and destructible apart from the actual processes of generation and destruction; for if this is not true, everything will be of necessity: that is, if there must necessarily be some cause, other than accidental, of that which is generated and destroyed. Will this be, or not? Yes, if this happens; otherwise not.
(Metaphysics, Book VI, 1027a29)

Tracing any particular sequence of events back in time will usually come to an accidental event - a "starting point" or "fresh start" (Aristotle calls it an origin or arche (ἀρχῆ) - whose major contributing cause (or causes) was itself uncaused. In modern terms, it involves quantum indeterminacy.

Whether a particular thing happens, says Aristotle, may depend on a series of causes that

goes back to some starting-point, which does not go back to something else. This, therefore, will be the starting-point of the fortuitous, and nothing else is the cause of its generation.
(Metaphysics Book VI 1027b12-14)
In general, many such causal sequences contribute to any event, including human decisions. Each sequence has a different time of origin, some going back before we were born, some originating during our deliberations.

Beyond causal sequences that are the result of chance or necessity, Aristotle felt that some breaks in the causal chain allow us to feel our actions "depend on us" (ἐφ' ἡμῖν). These are the causal chains that originate within us (ἐv ἡμῖν).

Greek philosophy had no precise term for "free will" as did Latin (liberum arbitrium or libera voluntas). The discussion was in terms of responsibility for actions that are caused by an agent, what Aristotle says "depends on us."

Aristotle's ἐφ' ἡμῖν is thus a third thing (a tertium quid), beyond necessity and chance, that causes things to happen. This is agent causation.

One generation after Aristotle, Epicurus argued that as atoms moved through the void, there were occasions when they would "swerve" 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. For Epicurus, the occasional interventions of arbitrary gods would be preferable to strict determinism.

Epicurus did not say the swerve was directly involved in decisions. His critics, ancient and modern, have claimed mistakenly that Epicurus did assume "one swerve - one decision" and that "free " actions are uncaused.

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. This is a form of agent-causality. It answers the flawed standard argument against free will..

Three causes -
Autonomous Agents
...some things happen of necessity, others by chance, others through our own agency. ...necessity destroys responsibility and chance is uncertain; whereas our own actions are autonomous, and it is to them that praise and blame naturally attach.
(Letter to Menoeceus, §133)

The Stoics and later the Christian church censored much of Epicurean thought and destroyed Epicurus' reputation as a "hedonist" and an atheistic believer in "chance." They led to the modern impression that Epicurus thought his chance "swerve" was his basis for free will. Philosophers today are astonishingly ignorant of Epicurus' actual position on agent autonomy. Can we correct this?

Alexander of Aphrodisias (c.150-210), the most famous commentator on Aristotle, writing 500 years after Aristotle's death, defended a view of moral responsibility we would call libertarianism today, with a strong sense of agent-causality.

Alexander believed that Aristotle was not a strict determinist like the Stoics, and Alexander himself argued that some events do not have pre-determined causes. In particular, man is responsible for self-caused decisions, and can choose to do or not to do something.

For Alexander, as for Aristotle, a random event "for no reason" provides a fresh start or new beginning (ἀρχή) of a causal chain (ἄλυσις) that can not be traced back indefinitely. This effectively puts an end to the Stoic ideas of foreknowledge and pre-determination.

In particular, he held that man is responsible for self-caused decisions, and can choose to do or not to do something. This appears to be not very different from the Stoic Chrysippus' idea that one can assent or dissent to an action. Chrysippus said actions are pre-determined (fated) but not necessitated.

Alexander denied three things - necessity (ἀνάγκη), the foreknowledge of fated events that was part of the Stoic identification of God and Nature, and determinism in the sense of a sequence of causes that was laid down beforehand (προκαταβεβλημένος) or predetermined by antecedents (προηγουμένος).

Alexander, following Aristotle and Epicurus, saw three main things causing events. They are necessity, chance, and agent-causality - what is "up to us"

Most of the ancient thinkers recognized the obvious difficulty with chance (or an uncaused cause) as a source of human freedom. Even Aristotle described chance as a "cause obscure to human reason" (ἀιτιάν ἄδελον ἀνθρωπίνᾠ λογισμῶ).
Actions caused by chance are simply random and we cannot feel responsible for them. But we do feel responsible for our actions.

Despite more than twenty-three centuries of philosophizing, most modern thinkers have not moved significantly beyond this core problem of randomness and free will for libertarians - the confused idea that free actions are caused directly by a random event.

Caught between the horns of a dilemma, with determinism on one side and randomness on the other, the standard argument against free will continues to render agent-causality and human freedom unintelligible (ἄδελον).

The two-stage model of free will clarifies the argument between libertarians who call themselves "event causalists" (e.g., Robert Kane) and those who are "agent causalists" (e.g., E. Jonathan Lowe and Timothy O'Connor).

Lowe says the ultimate cause of an action must not be some "event" that merely happened. We can agree that physical events do not normally have a purpose. The chance events in the first stage that lead to the alternative possibilities for action are not themselves the "cause" of the agent's decision in the second stage. It is the immaterial mind of the agent that is the responsible cause.

Kane famously said that libertarian free will appeared to require "uncaused causes, immaterial minds, noumenal selves, non-event agent causes, prime movers unmoved, or other examples of what P. F. Strawson called the 'panicky metaphysics' of libertarianism in his influential 1962 essay 'Freedom and Resentment'".

Now that information philosophy has established that some events are indeed "uncaused," that the mind is in fact immaterial, and that Kant's noumenal world is the world of pure information, we can also welcome non-event agent causes. Human beings are prime movers in the sense of authors of their lives and co-creators of the new information in the universe!

We can situate agent-causality in a taxonomy of free-will positions and especially in the context of libertarian positions, all of which admit some indeterminism. The author of "non-causality" is Carl Ginet, who was O'Connors' thesis adviser. Ginet maintains that no cause is needed for human decisions. As Bob Kane says, the agent's decision is the cause of the action. Non-causality is a form of agent-causality. It denies any pre-determining causes.

Taxonomy of Indeterminist Positions

For Teachers
For Scholars

Chapter 3.7 - The Ergod Chapter 4.2 - The History of Free Will
Part Three - Value Part Five - Problems
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