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Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
Roderick Chisholm

Roderick Chisholm studied at Harvard but was strongly opposed to behaviorist analytic philosophers like Willard van Orman Quine. His major work was titled Person and Object to draw the contrast with analytic language philosophy implicit in Quine's famous Word and Object.
Chisholm was a libertarian who distinguished "agent causation" from "event-causation" (see his Freedom and Action), which is a major distinction made by current incompatibilist philosophers. Late in life he recanted this distinction.
"In earlier writings on this topic, I had contrasted agent causation with event causation and had suggested that "causation by agents" could not be reduced to "causation by events." I now believe that that suggestion was a mistake. What I had called agent causation is a subspecies of event causation. My concern in the present study is to note the specific differences by reference to which agent causation can be distinguished from other types of event causation." ("Agents, Causes, and Events: The Problem of Free Will," in Agents, Causes, and Events: Essays on Indeterminism and Free Will. , ed. T. O'Connor, 1995)
In his 1964 Lindley Lecture he saw free will as a metaphysical problem. He asserts that a man who performs an act is completely free and uncaused, a causa sui.
The metaphysical problem of human freedom might be summarized in the following way: "Human beings are responsible agents; but this fact appears to conflict with a deterministic view of human action (the view that every event that is involved in an act is caused by some other event); and it also appears to conflict with an indeterministic view of human action (the view that the act, or some event that is essential to the act, is not caused at all)." To solve the problem, I believe, we must make somewhat far-reaching assumptions about the self of the agent — about the man who performs the act.

Perhaps it is needless to remark that, in all likelihood, it is impossible to say anything significant about this ancient problem that has not been said before.

Chisholm says the agent must be able to perform an act and also able not to perform it, to do otherwise.
Let us consider some deed, or misdeed, that may be attributed to a responsible agent: one man, say, shot another. If the man was responsible for what he did, then, I would urge, what was to happen at the time of the shooting was something that was entirely up to the man himself. There was a moment at which it was true, both that he could have fired the shot and also that he could have refrained from firing it. And if this is so, then, even though he did fire it, he could have done something else instead. (He didn't find himself firing the shot "against his will," as we say.) I think we can say, more generally, then, that if a man is responsible for a certain event or a certain state of affairs (in our example, the shooting of another man), then that event or state of affairs was brought about by some act of his, and the act was something that was in his power either to perform or not to perform.
Chisholm talks about others who might control the agent's mind, by hypnosis for example, which anticipates Harry Frankfurt's mind controllers.
But now, if the act which he did perform was an act that was also in his power not to perform, then it could not have been caused or determined by any event that was not itself within his power either to bring about or not to bring about. For example, if what we say he did was really something that was brought about by a second man, one who forced his hand upon the trigger, say, or who, by means of hypnosis, compelled him to perform the act, then, since the act was caused by the second man, it was nothing that was within the power of the first man to prevent. And precisely the same thing is true, I think, if instead of referring to a second man who compelled the first one, we speak instead of the desires and beliefs which the first man happens to have had. For if what we say he did was really something that was brought about by his own beliefs and desires, if these beliefs and desires in the particular situation in which he happened to have found himself caused him to do just what it was that we say he did do, then, since they caused it, he was unable to do anything other than just what he did do. It makes no difference whether the cause of the deed was internal or external: if the cause was some state or event for which the man himself was not responsible, then he was not responsible for what we have been mistakenly calling his act. If a flood caused the poorly structured dam to break, then, given the flood and the constitution of the dam, the break, we may say, had to occur and nothing could have happened in its place. And if the flood of desire caused the weak-willed man to give in, then he, too, had to do just what it was that he did do and he was no more responsible than was the dam for the results that followed.
Chisholm reprises the Determinism Objection and Randomness Objection in the standard argument against free will.
the ascription of responsibility conflicts with a deterministic view of action. Perhaps there is less need to argue that the ascription of responsibility also conflicts with an indeterministic view of action — with the view that the act, or some event that is essential to the act, is not caused at all.

If the act — the firing of the shot — was not caused at all, if it was fortuitous or capricious, happening so to speak "out of the blue," then, presumably, no one — and nothing — was responsible for the act. Our conception of action, therefore, should be neither deterministic nor indeterministic. Is there any other possibility?

We must not say that every event involved in the act is caused by some other event, and we must not say that the act is something that is not caused at all. The possibility that remains, therefore, is this: We should say that at least one of the events that are involved in the act is caused, not by any other events, but by something else instead. And this something else can only be the agent — the man.

The origin of
"agent causation"
If there is an event that is caused, not by other events, but by the man, then there are some events involved in the act that are not caused by other events. But if the event in question is caused by the man, then it is caused and we are not committed to saying that there is something involved in the act that is not caused at all.
Parts and Wholes
At his presidential address to the twenty-fourth annual meeting of the Metaphysical Society of America in 1973, Chisholm defined what he called "mereological essentialism," the idea that if some object has parts then those parts are essential, metaphysically necessary, to the particular object. Compare it to today's "mereological nihilism" and "mereological universalism," as defined by Peter van Inwagen, in his 1990 book Material Beings.
The puzzle pertains to what I shall call the principle of mereological essentialism. The principle may be formulated by saying that, for any whole x, if x has y as one of its parts then y is part of x in every possible world in which x exists. The principle may also be put by saying that every whole has the parts that it has necessarily, or by saying that if y is part of x then the property of having y as one of its parts is essential to x. If the principle is true, then if y is ever part of x, y will be part of x as long as x exists.

Parts may be essential to biological wholes in a slightly different way from inanimate objects. Chisholm notes he could lose a hand without ceasing to be the person that he is. A statue may similarly lose a hand without representing a human figure. But some parts of organisms are vital. Their loss means a loss of life. They are vitally essential.

On Temporal Parts
Granting the existence of spatial parts, metaphysicians inspired by the special theory of relativity extend the parts notion to different parts in time. Chisholm succinctly attacks the idea of temporal parts with the observation that a thing can be at the same place for two different times, but it cannot be in two different places at the same time (pace quantum entangled particles?).
What are we to say, then, of the doctrine of "temporal parts," of the doctrine according to which, for every period of time during which an individual thing exists, there is a temporal part of that thing which is unique to that period of time? We can point out, as I have tried to do, that it is not adequate to the experience we have of ourselves. We can also point out that the doctrine multiplies entities beyond necessity. And, finally, we can criticize the case for the doctrine of temporal parts.

What is this case? It is based, presumably, upon the assumption that whatever may be said about spatial continuity and identity may also be said, mutatis mutandis, about temporal continuity and identity. If this assumption is correct, then the doctrine of temporal parts would seem to be true. We may say, as our metaphysician did: "Just as an object that is extended through space at a given time has, for each portion of space that it occupies, a spatial part that is unique to that portion of space at that time, so, too, any object that persists through a period of time has, for each subperiod of time during which it exists, a temporal part that is unique to that subperiod of time." But is it correct to assume that whatever may be said about spatial continuity and identity may also be said, mutatis mutandis, about temporal continuity and identity? I would say that there is a fundamental disanalogy between space and time.

The disanalogy may be suggested by saying simply: "One and the same thing cannot be in two different places at one and the same time. But one and the same thing can be at two different times in one and the same place." Let us put the*point of disanalogy, however, somewhat more precisely.

Entangles particles in quantum mechanics raise this question anew.
When we say "a thing cannot be in two different places at one and the same time," we mean that it is not possible for all the parts of the thing to be in one of the places at that one time and also to be in the other of the places at that same time.
Persistence (Identity through Time)
Chisholm was surprised by how many metaphysicians were pursuing ancient paradoxes that have always been quibbles over words or trivial distinctions, for example insisting on the perfect identity of an object over time. Otherwise, even the slightest change would end the existence of an object. He called this "bad metaphysics."

One of the ways in which a metaphysician can help a nonmetaphysician is to protect him from bad metaphysics.

People are sometimes led to think that nothing persists through any period of time and hence that all things are constantly ceasing to be and new things are constantly coming into being to replace them. This was the view of Heraclitus who said "You cannot step into the same river twice." (One of Heraclitus's followers, according to Aristotle, held that things are in such constant flux that you can't even step into the same river once.) If this view is true, then it would be incorrect to say that you and I have existed for any period of time. The things that bore our names at any given moment yesterday have since then ceased to be and you and I are no more the same people as those people of yesterday than we are identical with each other. This view is a disastrous beginning, if our aim is to understand coming into being and passing away.

Why would anyone think that such a thing is true? Respectable philosophers I regret to say, have accepted this view. When philosophers don't simply pick their theories out of the air, they arrive at them in attempting to deal with philosophical puzzles. The kind of puzzle that has led philosophers to think that everything is in flux, in the sense in question, may be illustrated as follows.

You say to me: "I see you have a new fence in your back yard." I say: "No, it's the same fence I've always had." You say: "But your fence is red; the fence you used to have was white." I say: "No, it's the same fence; I painted it, that's all." And you say: "But it couldn't be the same fence. If something A is identical with something B, then whatever is true of A is true of B. But if today's fence is identical with yesterday's, how can it be that the old one is red and the other is white?"

Very great philosophers, I'm afraid, have stumbled over that one. (Some have been led to conclude not that everything is in flux, but that things can be identical with each other even though they don't have all their properties in common.) What went wrong in the dialogue we have just imagined?

Consider the sentence: "Today's fence is red and yesterday's fence was white." One trouble with it is that the dates are in the wrong place. For what we know is not merely that there was something that was yesterday's fence and that was white. It is rather that there is something that is a fence and that was white yesterday. And it's not merely that there is a thing that is today's fence and is red. It's rather that there is a fence that is red today. The fence I have now and the fence I had yesterday have all their properties in common. I have had just one fence — one that is red today and that was white yesterday.

If you don't see the error involved in using the expressions "today's fence" and "yesterday's fence," perhaps this analogy will help. Consider someone who reasons as follows: "Mr. Jones the husband is very meek and submissive. Yet Mr. Jones the father is extremely authoritative and overbearing. But one and the same thing can't be meek and submissive and also authoritative and overbearing. Therefore there are two Mr. Joneses —Mr. Jones the husband and Mr. Jones the father."

Saying what went wrong in this case is like explaining a joke. But perhaps we should risk it. It's not that Mr. Jones the husband has properties that are different from those that Mr. Jones the father has. It's rather that Mr. Jones is such that he is meek and submissive toward his wife and overbearing and authoritative toward his children.

All this is to spell out, once again, what ought to be obvious. But let us keep the moral in mind: The fact that a thing has altered in a certain way does not imply that the thing has ceased to be and that some new thing has come into being.

One Case for Minds

So let us ask, then, "Why assume that there is such a thing as my mind?" This is different from asking "Why assume that there is such a thing as me?" And it is also different from asking "Why assume that I have various mental properties and potentialities, such as the the ability to think or to think in such ways?" For the assumption that / have the^e mental properties and potentialities doesn't imply that I have a mind which has them.

Why should one suppose that there is a nonmaterial thing which is the mind?

Aristotle had argued that "that in the soul which is called mind (by mind I mean that whereby the soul thinks and judges) . . . cannot reasonably be regarded as blended with body." The mind, he said, must be "capable of receiving the form of an object" but without thereby becoming that object. And this would be impossible if the mind were itself a material thing.

Aristotle's reasoning was essentially this: (1) If you apprehend a thing — say, a dog — then you do it by means of something which bears a certain intimate relation to the form or nature of a dog. But (2) a material thing couldn't bear the requisite relation to the form or nature of a dog unless the material thing were thereby to become itself a dog. On the other hand (3) a nonmaterial thing could bear the requisite relation without thereby becoming a dog. Hence if you and I can apprehend dogs, and of course we can, then it is by means of a certain nonmaterial thing which is our mind.

What are we to say of this argument? The argument requires a more specific characterization of the relation in question—the relation that must be born to the form or nature of a dog if one is to be able to apprehend a dog. Until we have such an account, I think we must say that both premise (1) and premise (2) are problematic.

Perhaps the most important consideration which may make us wonder whether there is a nonmaterial substance which is a mind is the nature of our immediate experience —our experience of what are sometimes called "sense-data" or "appearances."

Let us consider one twentieth-century conception of appearances, for this was thought by many to demonstrate an irreducible dualism between mind and body. I am referring to the view set forth by A. O. Lovejoy in his book The Revolt Against Dualism (1930).

"No man doubts," Lovejoy wrote, "that when he brings to mind the look of a dog he owned when a boy, there is something of a canine sort immediately present to and therefore compresent with his consciousness, but that it is quite certainly not that dog in the flesh" (p. 305). The thing that is there—the something of a canine sort that is immediately before the mind—is not itself a physical object, Lovejoy said; it is a private, psychological object, conditioned by a series of physiological and psychological events, reaching back to the earlier dog which it now reveals.

If the man now looks at his desk, then, according to Lovejoy, there is another series of physiological and psychological events, this time involving the activity of sense organs, but resulting as before in a private, psychological object—a sensation, this time something of a desk sort, a "visible desk" which in certain respects serves to duplicate the real, external, physical desk which it makes known to us.

Both of these examples—the earlier dog and the external desk being presented by an inner visual desk—provide us with the essentials of two philosophical theories, which Lovejoy had referred to as "epistemological dualism" and "psychophysical dualism." According to "epistemological dualism," which is a thesis about our knowledge, we have direct or immediate knowledge only of certain private or subjective states; some external objects, past or present, are "duplicated" in these private or subjective states and it is in virtue of this duplication that we know what we do about the rest of the world. Our knowledge of external things and of past events involves a "cleavage" between the object of our knowing and the subjective vehicle which makes that object known. And according to "psychophysical dualism," which is a thesis about reality, the world is constituted out of at least two fundamentally different kinds of stuff—the physical or material things that are studied by physics, and the psychical or mental things that are objects of our private or subjective states. When asserted in conjunction, as they were by Lovejoy, and in the seventeenth century by Descartes and Locke, these two forms of dualism imply that our knowledge of physical or material things is derived from our knowledge of the mental or psychical duplicates of these things.

Our present interest is in the second of these types of dualism—psychophysical dualism, the view that there is a set of mental or psychical entities, which are appearances or sense-data, and that these psychical entities are housed in a psychical place, known as "the mind."

Chisholm, R. M. (1967). Identity through possible worlds: some questions. Noûs, 1-8.
Chisholm, R. M. (1973).
Parts as essential to their wholes. The Review of Metaphysics, 581-603.
Chisholm, R. (1976). Person and Object, Open Court Publishing.
Chisholm, R. (1976). Knowledge and Belief:‘De dicto’and ‘de re’. Philosophical Studies, 29(1), 1-20.
Chisholm, R. (1978). Is there a mind-body problem? Philosophic Exchange, 9(1), 2.
Chisholm, R. M. (1978). Brentano's conception of substance and accident. Grazer Philosophische Studien, 5, 197-210.
Chisholm, R. M. (1983). Boundaries as dependent particulars. Grazer Philosophische Studien, 20, 87-95.
Chisholm, R. M. (1984). The primacy of the intentional. The Intentionality of Mind, Part I, Synthese, 61(1), 89-109.
Chisholm, R. M. (1987). Scattered objects. On Being and Saying: Essays for Richard Cartwright, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 167-173.
Chisholm, R. M. (1989). On Metaphysics . U of Minnesota Press.
Chisholm, R. M. (1991). On the Simplicity of the Soul. Philosophical Perspectives, 5, 167-181.
Chisholm, R. M. (1996). A realistic theory of categories: An essay on ontology (Vol. 146). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chisholm, R. M. (1997). Identity through time. in Rea, M.C., Material constitution: a reader, Routledge, 209.
For Teachers
For Scholars
Responsibility and Avoidability
From Determinism and Freedom in the Age of Modern Science, Hook, 1958.
Edwards and Hospers hold that there is an important sense in which we may be said not to be morally responsible for any of our acts or choices. I propose the following as an explicit formulation of their reasoning:
1. If a choice is one we could not have avoided making, then it is one for which we are not morally responsible.

2. If we make a choice under conditions such that, given those conditions, it is (causally but not logically) impossible for the choice not to be made, then the choice is one we could not have avoided making.

3. Every event occurs under conditions such that, given those conditions, it is (causally but not logically) impossible for that event not to occur.

4. The making of a choice is the occurrence of an event.

5. We are not morally responsible for any of our choices.

If we wish to reject the conclusion (5) — and for most of us (5) is difficult to accept — we must reject at least one of the premises.

Premise (1), I think, may be interpreted as a logical truth. If a man is responsible for what he did, then we may say, "He could have done otherwise." And if we may say, "He couldn't help it," then he is not responsible for what he did.

Many philosophers would deny (2), substituting a weaker account of avoidability. A choice is avoidable, they might say, provided only it is such that, if the agent had reflected further, or had reflected on certain things on which in fact he did not reflect, he would not have made the choice. To say of a choice that it "could not have been avoided," in accordance with this account, would be to say that, even if the agent had reflected further, on anything you like, he would all the same have made the choice. But such conditional accounts of avoidability ("An act or choice is avoidable provided only it is such that, if the agent were to do so-and-so, the act or choice would not occur") usually have this serious defect: the antecedent clause ("if the agent were to do so-and-so") refers to some act or choice, or to the failure to perform some act or to make some choice; hence we may ask, concerning the occurrence or nonoccurrence of this act or choice, whether or not it is avoidable. Thus one who accepted (5) could say that, if the agent's failure to reflect further was itself unavoidable, his choice was also unavoidable. And no such conditional account of avoidability seems adequate to the use of "avoidable" and "unavoidable" in questions and statements such as these.

If we accept a conditional account of avoidability, we may be tempted to say, of course, that it would be a misuse of "avoidable" to ask whether the nonoccurrence of the antecedent event ("the agent does so-and-so") is avoidable. But the philosopher who accepts (5) may well insist that, since the antecedent clause refers to an act or a choice, the use of "avoidable" in question is not a misuse.

What, then, if we were to deny (3)? Suppose that some of our choices do not satisfy (3) — that when they are made they are not made under any conditions such that it is (causally) impossible (though logically possible) for them not to be made. If there are choices of this sort, then they are merely fortuitous or capricious. And if they are merely fortuitous or capricious, if they "just happen," then, I think, we may say with Blanchard that we are not morally responsible for them. Hence denying (3) is not the way to avoid (5).

We seem confronted, then, with a dilemma: either our choices have sufficient causal conditions or they do not; if they do have sufficient causal conditions they are not avoidable; if they do not, they are fortuitous or capricious; and therefore, since our choices are either unavoidable or fortuitous, we are not morally responsible for them.

There are philosophers who believe that by denying the rather strange-sounding premise (4) we can escape the dilemma. Insisting on something like "the primacy of practical reason," they would say that since we are certain that (5) is false we must construct a metaphysical theory about the self, a theory denying (4) and enabling us to reconcile (3) and the denial of (5). I say "metaphysical" because it seems to be necessary for the theory to replace (4) by sentences using such terms as "active power," "the autonomy of the will," "prime mover," or "higher levels of causality"—terms designating something to which we apparently need not refer when expressing the conclusions of physics and the natural sciences. But I believe we cannot know whether such theories enable us to escape our dilemma. For it seems impossible to conceive what the relation is that, according to these theories, holds between the "will," "self," "mover," or "active power," on the one hand, and the bodily events this power is supposed to control, on the other—the relation between the "activities" of the self and the events described by physics.

I am dissatisfied, then, with what philosophers have proposed as alternatives to premises (1) through (4) above, but since I feel certain that (5) is false I also feel certain that at least one of the premises is false.

Agents, Causes, and Events: The Problem of Free Will
From Agents, Causes, and Events: Essays on Indeterminism and Free Will, O'Connor, Oxford, 1995.
In earlier writings on this topic, I had contrasted agent causation with event causation and had suggested that "causation by agents" could not be reduced to "causation by events." I now believe that that suggestion was a mistake. What I had called agent causation is a subspecies of event causation. My concern in the present study is to note the specific differences by reference to which agent causation can be distinguished from other types of event causation.

We cannot hope to succeed in this task unless we try to cope with the very difficult concept of causation — event causation. And this means, in turn, that we should have a clear conception of the ontological status of events and, in particular, of their relation to attributes or properties and of their relation to individual things.

We begin with the ontological question.

The Nature of States

Events are here construed as being a subspecies of states. The concept of a state is taken as undefined, but it can be clarified in several different ways.

Suppose that you are reading. Then the following entities are involved: (1) that contingent substance which is yourself; (2) that noncontingent thing, which is the property of reading; and (3) that contingent state which is you reading. It will be useful to say that you are the substrate of that state and that the property of reading is the content.

We introduce the following twofold definitional abbreviation:

D1 x is the substrate of the state y, and z is the content of the state y
= Df. y is that state which is x-exemplifying-the-property z.
We may now formulate a general principle, telling us that every state is necessarily such that it has the substrate that it has.
A1 For every x, if there exists the state, x-being-F, then x-being-F is necessarily such that it is a state of x.
From the fact that that state, which is you reading something, is necessarily such that it is a state of you, it does not follow, of course, that you are necessarily such that you are reading something.

Higher Order States and the Concept of an Event

We have assumed that, for every x there is the state x-being-F, if and only if x is F. Our assumptions imply, therefore, that there are infinitely many states. They also imply that there is an infinite hierarchy of states. The hierarchy may be illustrated this way:

(1) x-being-F

(2) (x-being-F)-being-G

(3) [ (x-being-F)-being-G]-being-H

An instance of (1) would be Jones walking. An instance of (2) would be (Jones walking) being strenuous. And an instance of (3) would be (Jones walking being strenuous) contributing causally to (Jones being tired).

We could say that a first-order state is a state that has a non-state as its substrate. Second-order states will have first-order states as their substrates. Second-order states are illustrated by those states that consist of one first-order state contributing causally to another first-order state.

In order to say what an event is, we refer to the concepts of a first-order state and of a second-order state:

D2 x is a first-order state = Df. x is a state of a substance.
D3 x is a second-order state = Df. x is a state of a first-order state.
We are now in a position to characterize the concept of an event.
D4 x is an event = Df. x is either a first-order state or a second-order state.
In some of his earlier writings on the concept of an event, Jaegwon Kim suggests a theory according to which all events would be first-order states. Such a restriction provides no place for those paradigmatic events that consist of one event contributing causally to the occurrence of another event. Examples are the striking of a match contributing causally to the burning of a piece of paper; the treatment of a patient contributing causally to the patient being cured; and the rush of the sea contributing causally to the destruction of the pier. Here we have second-order events that relate first-order events.

Events and the Concept of Causation

Causation cannot be analyzed by reference to the "constant conjunction" of events. Most investigators agree that the concept of causation is nomological. It presupposes the concept of physical necessity, a concept that is usually expressed by reference to "laws of nature."

How are we to interpret "It is a law of nature that if A occurs then B occurs"? Speaking somewhat loosely, we may say that the reference to "a law of nature" is intended to call attention to two types of necessity: that imposed "by logic" and that imposed "by nature." How, then, might one distinguish "laws of logic" from "laws of nature"?

If it is "a law of logic that if A then B," then conceivably a rational being could know a priori, just by reflection, that it must be the case that if A occurs, then B occurs. Some philosophers would say: "Every possible world is such that, if A occurs in that world, then B also occurs in that world." But rational reflection does not suffice to tell us what the laws of nature are.

It is possible that there occurs a conjunction of events A that taken together will constitute a sufficient causal condition of B without logically implying B. The states that would make up such a conjunction are "partial causes," or "contributing causes," of B. One of the most common errors to which discussions of freedom and causation are subject is that of confusing partial or contributing causes with sufficient causal conditions. The contributing causes that make up a sufficient causal condition of an event B need not themselves be sufficient causal conditions of B.

Let us consider an example.

We will define the concept of a sufficient causal condition, not by reference to a set of states or events, but by reference to those properties we have called the contents of the states or events. Thus we may have:

D5 S is a sufficient causal condition of E = Df. S is a set of properties such that the conjunction of its members does not logically imply E; and it is law of nature that, if all the members of S are exemplified by the same thing at the same time, then E will be exemplified either at that time or later.
In referring in the definition to the properties of the thing that undergoes the effect, we do not thereby exclude the properties of other things that happen to be in the environment of the thing that undergoes the effect. The piece of wood bums in part because of the presence of oxygen in the environment. But in that case one of the properties of the piece of wood is that it happens to be in an environment in which oxygen is present.

The realistic view of properties, here presupposed, implies that, for any two properties, P and Q, there is also the property, P-and-Q. It also implies that, for any two properties, there is also the property of having those two properties.

Why say that the effect of the sufficient causal conditions must be exemplified either at the same time as or later than the members of that condition? To say this is simply to say that the effect not precede its cause. The effect, in other words, will not be exemplified before the members of any sufficient causal condition of that effect are exemplified.

We next single out the concept of a minimal sufficient causal condition:

D6 C is a minimal sufficient causal condition of E = Df. C is a sufficient causal condition of E; and no subset of C is a sufficient causal condition of E.
We may speak of a "subset" of a sufficient causal condition, since such a condition, according to our previous definition, is a set of properties.

If your action is a part or member of a minimal sufficient causal condition of an event, then, clearly, the action contributes causally to that event. It is a partial cause of the event (which is not to say, of course, that it is the cause of that event).

D7 That state which is x-being-C contributes causally to that state which is y-being-E = Df. C is a member of a set S of properties that are all exemplified by x at the same time, and S is a minimal sufficient causal condition of E.
What of those situations where the effect is overdetermined? Two marksmen shoot at the victim; they are each successful and the two shots do their work at precisely the same time. Given the one shot, the other shot was not needed to bring about the effect. Both shots, therefore, would not be a part of a minimal sufficient causal condition; yet each contributed. We need not, therefore, revise the definition of a minimal sufficient causal condition.

Freedom and Indeterminism

The concept of being able to undertake is somewhat more broad than that of being free to undertake. It is only when you "could have done otherwise" that your undertaking may be said to be free.

I have not used the expression "free will," for the question of free dom, as John Locke said, is not the question "whether the will be free"; it is the question "whether a man be free."' The question is whether the agent is free to undertake any of those things he does not undertake and whether he is free not to undertake any of those things he does undertake.

Consider the question: Is the person free to bring about what it is that he or she undertakes to bring about? This is not the question with which we have been concerned. But many would have us think that it is. Many philosophers and theologians whose views may seem unduly to curtail our freedom have tried to soften this consequence by redefining the problem of freedom. Thus Jonathan Edwards, using the the verb "to will" where I have used "to undertake," would have us think that the question is this: Is the person free to do what it is that he wills to do? This question is not difficult to deal with. We may answer it affirmatively by pointing out that on occasion people do do the things that they will to do; that is to say, they do bring about what it is that they undertake to bring about. Those who put this question are asking about what Thomas Aquinas called the actus voluntatis imperatus. They are simply asking: Do we ever bring about the things we intend to bring about? But our question might be put by asking: Are we free to will the things that we do will? Thus they have tried to bypass the more fundamental question of the freedom of the .

Objection: "An undertaking that has no sufficient causal condition is completely arbitrary; it is simply a random event for which the agent has no responsibility at all. Hence your proposal implies that we are really not responsible for anything that we do."

From the fact that an undertaking has no sufficient causal condition, it does not at all follow that it is "completely arbitrary" or "random." Nor does it follow that the person has no responsibility for that undertaking. For even if the undertaking has no sufficient causal condition, there are several ways in which other events may contribute causally to that undertaking.

Suppose you are in the middle of a room that has many exits and you hear someone screaming "Fire!" Your hearing the scream may complete a sufficient causal condition for your undertaking to leave the room. But, so far as each particular exit is concerned, there may be no sufficient causal condition for your undertaking to leave by that exit rather than by any of the others. Suppose, then, that you undertake to leave by the exit that is north of you and that you succeed. In this case, your undertaking to leave may have a sufficient causal condition but your undertaking to leave by the northern exit may not. The latter event, although it has no sufficient causal condition, was such that the shout of "Fire!" contributed causally to it.

And there are other ways of contributing causally to an event that has no sufficient causal condition.

An automobile driver with a long trip ahead of him interrupts the trip to get something to eat. of the two available restaurants, he chooses the one that serves alcoholic beverages, not with the intention of getting a drink, but because he thinks the food is better there. He knows full well, however, that he could easily succumb to the temptation to have a drink. Suppose now that he does succumb to that temptation and endeavors to have a drink. Even if this endeavor has no sufficient causal condition, the driver's beliefs, motives, and desires contributed causally to its occurrence. And if the results of that endeavor should be still more drinks and a subsequent serious accident, then one would be completely justified in holding him responsible for that free endeavor and for everything to which it led.

If an agent's undertaking contributes causally to a certain event, then he, the agent, may also be said to contribute causally to that event. Agent causation need not be construed as an alternative to event causation; we may think of it as a subspecies of event causation. For "Agent S contributed causally to so-and-so" may be construed as: "There was a certain thing that agent S undertook and his undertaking that thing contributed causally to the occurrence of so-and-so."

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