Citation for this page in APA citation style.           Close


Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
G.E.M.Anscombe
Anselm
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Augustine
J.L.Austin
A.J.Ayer
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
Isaiah Berlin
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
F.H.Bradley
C.D.Broad
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Carneades
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Chrysippus
Cicero
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Democritus
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Epictetus
Epicurus
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Carl Ginet
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
W.F.R.Hardie
William Hasker
R.M.Hare
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
R.E.Hobart
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Christine Korsgaard
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Leucippus
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
G.E.Moore
C. Lloyd Morgan
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Plato
Karl Popper
Huw Price
H.A.Prichard
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
C.W.Rietdijk
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Kenneth Sayre
T.M.Scanlon
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
J.J.C.Smart
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
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
Voltaire
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
W.G.Ward
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists

Michael Arbib
Bernard Baars
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
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
E. H. 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
Joseph Fourier
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A.O.Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Stuart Hameroff
Patrick Haggard
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
William Stanley Jevons
Pascual Jordan
Simon Kochen
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
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
John von Neumann
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek
 
Randolph Clarke

From Clarke's web page at Florida State University
My primary research interests are issues concerning human agency, particularly intentional action, free will, and moral responsibility. I’ve also written on practical reason, mental causation, and dispositions.

I favor a causal theory of action, on which something counts as an intentional action in virtue of being appropriately caused by mental events of certain sorts, such as the agent’s having an intention with pertinent content. This kind of action theory takes human agency to be a natural phenomenon, something of a kind with (even if differing in sophistication from) the agency of many non-human animals.

Many philosophers have thought that free and morally responsible action would be ruled out if our actions were causally determined by prior events. My book, Libertarian Accounts of Free Will, examines whether indeterminism of any sort is more hospitable. Though I defend libertarian views (accounts requiring indeterminism) from several common objections, I argue that none of these accounts is adequate. If responsibility isn’t compatible with determinism, then, I think, it isn’t possible.

Clarke introduced the terms "broad incompatibilism" and "narrow incompatibilism." A narrow incompatibilist is an incompatibilist on free will and a compatibilist on moral responsibility. A broad incompatibilist sees determinism as incompatible with both free will and moral responsibility.

Narrow incompatibilism resembles John Martin Fischer's term semicompatibilism. Semicompatibilism is the idea that moral responsibility is compatible with determinism.

The term "incompatibilism" is used to characterize both determinists and libertarians.

Thus broad incompatibilism resembles Derek Pereboom's term "hard incompatibilism." Hard incompatibilism is the idea that free will and moral responsibility do not exist. Some hard incompatibilists like Saul Smilansky and Daniel Wegner call free will an illusion.

Like many philosophers, Clarke tends to equate moral responsibility with simple responsibility or accountability, that is, being the cause of an action.

In recent years, it has come to be a matter of some dispute whether moral responsibility requires free will, where the latter is understood as requiring an ability to do otherwise.

I shall not take sides here in these disputes. I treat the thesis that responsibility is incompatible with the truth of determinism as a separate claim, and I call incompatibilism without this further claim "narrow." Narrow incompatibilism holds that free will, understood as indicated above, is incompatible with determinism, but it (at least) allows that responsibility and determinism may be compatible. I call the position that free will and determinism are not compatible but responsibility and determinism are compatible "merely narrow incompatibilism." A semicompatibilist may endorse merely narrow incompatibilism, but she need not, as she may remain uncommitted on the question whether determinism precludes the ability to do otherwise. I call the view that both free will and responsibility are incompatible with determinism "broad incompatibilism." (Libertarian Accounts of Free Will, p.11)

The technical language of philosophers specializing in free will is a total mess, quite opposite to the stated goal of analytic language philosophy to make conceptual analysis clear. This makes it very difficult for outsiders (and some insiders) to follow their contentious debates.

Conceptual analysis would be much easier if a more careful separation of concepts was made, for example "free" from "will," and "free will" from "moral responsibility."

Clarke's Objections to Dennett, Mele, Ekstrom, Kane and our Cogito Model.
Clarke defines additional new terms in his 2003 book Libertarian Accounts of Free Will. He calls two-stage model of free will "deliberative" (he cites Daniel Dennett's decision-making model), since randomness internal to the mind is limited to the deliberations in the first stage. And he calls Robert Kane's model "centered," by which he means the randomness is in the center of the decision itself. Clarke does not notice that Dennett's randomness is only pseudo-random, where Kane's is quantum indeterminism. Dennett is a determinist.

Clarke accepts the Kane and Ekstrom views that if the agent's decision simply results from the events in the deliberation phase that that could not be what he calls "directly free." Clarke calls this deliberative freedom "indirect."

"Indirectly free" is a reasonable description for our Cogito Model, which has indeterminism in the "free" deliberation stage and "adequate" determinism in the "will" stage.

Although Clarke says that a "centered event-causal libertarian view provides a conceptually adequate account of free will," he doubts that it can provide for moral responsibility. He says that

An event-causal libertarian view secures ultimate control, which no compatibilist account provides. But the secured ultimacy is wholly negative: it is just (on a centered view) a matter of the absence of any determining cause of a directly free action. The active control that is exercised on such a view is just the same as that exercised on an event-causal compatibilist account.
It is a bit puzzling to see how the active control of a libertarian decision based on quantum randomness is "just the same as that exercised" on a compatibilist account, unless it means, as Double argued, no control at all. So it may be worth quoting Clarke at length.
Dennett requires only that the coming to mind of certain beliefs be undetermined; Mele maintains that (in combination with the satisfaction of compatibilist requirements) this would suffice, as would the undetermined coming to mind of certain desires.

Likewise, on Ekstrom's view, we have undetermined actions — the formations of preferences — among the causes of free decisions. But she does not require that these preference-formations either be or result from free actions. Nor can she require this. Any free action, she holds, must be preceded by a preference-formation. An infinite regress would be generated if these preference-formations had to either be or result from free actions. And a similar regress would result if Dennett or Mele required that the undetermined comings-to-mind, attendings, or makings of judgments that figure in their accounts had to either be or result from free actions.

Thus, given the basic features of these views, all three must allow that an action can be free even if it is causally determined and none of its causes, direct or indirect, is a free action by that agent. Setting aside the authors currently under discussion, it appears that all libertarians disallow such a thing. What might be the basis for this virtual unanimity?

When an agent acts with direct freedom — freedom that is not derived from the freedom of any earlier action— she is able to do other than what she, in fact, does. Incompatibilists (libertarians included) maintain that, if events prior to one's birth (indirectly) causally determine all of one's actions, then one is never able to do other than perform the actions that one actually performs, for one is never able to prevent either those earlier events or the obtaining of the laws of nature.

Clarke now claims that even prior events thought up freely by the agent during deliberations will "determine" the agent's decision. This is roughly what the Cogito Model claims. After indeterminism in the "free" deliberation stage, we need "adequate" determinism in the "will" stage to insure that our actions are consistent with our character and values (including Kane's SFAs), with our habits and (Ekstrom's) preferences, and with our current feelings and desires.

Clarke oddly attempts to equate events prior to our births with events in our deliberations, claiming that they are equally determinist. He says,

If this is correct, then a time-indexed version of the same claim is correct, too. If events that have occurred by time t causally determine some subsequent action, then the agent is not able at t to do other than perform that action, for one is not able at t to prevent either events that have occurred by t or the obtaining of the laws of nature. An incompatibilist will judge, then, that, on Dennett's and Mele's views, it is allowed that once the agent has made an evaluative judgment, she is not able to do other than make the decision that she will, in fact, make, and that, on Ekstrom's view, it is allowed that once the preference is formed, again the agent is not able to avoid making the decision that she will, in fact, make. If direct freedom requires that, until an action is performed, the agent be able to do otherwise, then these views do not secure the direct freedom of such decisions.

Mele confronts this line of thinking head-on. Some libertarians, he acknowledges, do hold that a decision is directly free only if, until it is made, the agent is able to do other than make that decision, where this is taken to require that, until the action occurs, there is a chance that it will not occur. But such a position, Mele charges, is "mere dogmatism" (1995a: 218). It generates the problem of control that he (along with Dennett and Ekstrom) seeks to evade, and hence libertarians would do well to reject this position.

There is, however, a decisive reason for libertarians not to reject this position, a reason that stems from the common belief — one held by compatibilists and incompatibilists alike — that, in acting freely, agents make a difference, by exercises of active control, to how things go. The difference is made, on this common conception, in the performance of a directly free action itself, not in the occurrence of some event prior to the action, even if that prior event is an agent-involving occurrence causation of the action by which importantly connects the agent, as a person, to her action. On a libertarian understanding of this difference-making, some things that happen had a chance of not happening, and some things that do not happen had a chance of happening, and in performing directly free actions, agents make the difference. If an agent is, in the very performance of a free action, to make a difference in this libertarian way, then that action itself must not be causally determined by its immediate antecedents. In order to secure this libertarian variety of difference-making, an account must locate openness and freedom-level active control in the same event — the free action itself — rather separate these two as do deliberative libertarian views.

On the views of Dennett, Ekstrom, and Mele, agents might be said to make a difference between what happens but might not have and what does not happen but might have, but such a difference is made in the occurrence of something nonactive or unfree prior to the action that is said to be free, not in the performance of the allegedly free action itself. Failure to secure for directly free actions this libertarian variety of difference-making constitutes a fundamental inadequacy of deliberative libertarian accounts of free action.
(Libertarian Accounts of Free Will, p.63-4)

We need only extend the process of decision to include everything from the start of free deliberations to the moment of willed choice to see that the Cogito Model allows the agent to make a real difference. The agent is justified saying "I could have done otherwise," "This action was up to me," and "I am the originator of my actions and the author of my life."

Clarke goes on to consider his "centered" event-causal view, and initially claims that it provides an adequate account of free will, but his "adequate" is damning with faint praise.

Clarke finds a "conceptually adequate account of free will" for narrow, but not for broad, incompatibilism. His "centered" account, like that of Kane, van Inwagen, Ekstrom, and Balaguer, includes indeterminism in the decision itself. It is not limited to deliberations as in most two-stage models.

If merely narrow incompatibilism is correct, then an unadorned, centered event-causal libertarian view provides a conceptually adequate account of free will. Such a view provides adequately for fully rational free action and for the rational explanation — simple, as well as contrastive — of free action. The indeterminism required by such a view does not diminish the active control that is exercised when one acts. Given incompatibilism of this variety, a libertarian account of this type secures both the openness of alternatives and the exercise of active control that are required for free will.

Clarke compromises the adequate determinism of the will if he admits indeterminism as a direct cause of action
It is thus unnecessary to restrict indeterminism, as deliberative accounts do, to locations earlier in the processes leading to free actions. Indeed, so restricting indeterminism undermines the adequacy of an event-causal view. Any adequate libertarian account must locate the openness of alternatives and freedom-level active control in the same event — in a directly free action itself. For this reason, an adequate event-causal view must require that a directly free action be nondeterministically caused by its immediate causal antecedents.

how can the incompatibilism of determinism and moral responsibility affect free will?
If, on the other hand, broad incompatibilism is correct, then no event-causal account is adequate. An event-causal libertarian view secures ultimate control, which no compatibilist account provides. But the secured ultimacy is wholly negative: it is just (on a centered view) a matter of the absence of any determining cause of a directly free action. The active control that is exercised on such a view is just the same as that exercised on an event-causal compatibilist account.

how then can this view be libertarian?
This sort of libertarian view fails to secure the agent's exercise of any further positive powers to causally influence which of the alternative courses of events that are open will become actual. For this reason, if moral responsibility is precluded by determinism, the freedom required for responsibility is not secured by any event-causal libertarian account. (pp.219-20)
For Teachers
For Scholars
Excerpts from
Libertarian Accounts of Free Will.
Introduction (p. xiii)

Accounts of free will purport to tell us what is required if we are to be free agents, individuals who, at least sometimes when we act, act freely. Libertarian accounts, of course, include a requirement of indeterminism of one sort or another somewhere in the processes leading to free actions. But while proponents of such views take determinism to preclude free will, indeterminism is widely held to be no more hospitable. An undetermined action, It is said would be random or arbitrary. It could not be rational or rationally explicable. The agent would lack control over her behavior. At best, indeterminism in the processes leading to our actions would be superfluous, adding nothing of value even if it did not detract from what we want.

This book examines libertarian accounts to see whether any can meet such challenges. It offers what may be called a conceptual assessment of libertarian views: an assessment of their adequacy apart from the questions whether there, in fact, exists, and whether we have evidence that there exists, the phenomenon that they purport to characterize. (Thus, the accounts considered here may be taken not to include any claim that we have free will. They may be understood as claims about what free will is or would be, if it does or did exist.) This type of assessment is one to which philosophers are particularly suited. It can be carried out by thinking and requires no specialized knowledge of natural science.

A conceptually adequate libertarian view must, first, provide a clear, intelligible account of the relevant phenomena. It cannot omit to say anything at all about something that is required for free will, and, of course, what it does say must be comprehensible. Second, an adequate account must require only things that are, in fact, possible, in a broadly logical sense. Third, it must present us with a characterization of something such that, if we have it, we have free will; the satisfaction of all the requirements of the account must suffice for the existence of free will. And finally, its requirement of indeterminism must not be superfluous; the required indeterminism must be of a sort and located such that, were it to exist, it would make a difference, a difference in whether free will does or could exist.

[Clarke defines "narrow" and "broad incompatibilism." (p.11)]
In recent years, it has come to be a matter of some dispute whether moral responsibility requires free will, where the latter is understood as requiring an ability to do otherwise.

I shall not take sides here in these disputes." I treat the thesis that responsibility is incompatible with the truth of determinism as a separate claim, and I call incompatibilism without this further claim "narrow." Narrow incompatibilism holds that free will, understood as indicated above, is incompatible with determinism, but it (at least) allows that responsibility and determinism may be compatible. I call the position that free will and determinism are not compatible but responsibility and determinism are compatible "merely narrow incompatibilism." A semicompatibilist may endorse merely narrow incompatibilism, but she need not, as she may remain uncommitted on the question whether determinism precludes the ability to do otherwise. I call the view that both free will and responsibility are incompatible with determinism "broad incompatibilism."

Conclusion (p.219)
I have assessed libertarian accounts of three main types for their conceptual adequacy. The questions addressed regarding each account have been: Are the crucial phenomena involved in free action (on the assumption of incompatibilism) clearly explicated? Is all that is required on a given account genuinely possible? If the account in question is true, does that suffice for free action (on the assumption that no compatibilist account can secure all that is needed)? The results have been mixed.

No noncausal libertarian account is adequate. Acting freely requires that one exercise active control over what one does, and (if free action is at all possible) it must be possible for a free action to be one that is performed for reasons. The exercise of active control, I argued, is a causal phenomenon, and noncausal accounts thus fail to provide an adequate account of it. They likewise fail to provide for acting for reasons.

If merely narrow incompatibilism is correct, then an unadorned, centered event-causal libertarian view provides a conceptually adequate account of free will. Such a view provides adequately for fully rational free action and for the rational explanation — simple, as well as contrastive — of free action. The indeterminism required by such a view does not diminish the active control that is exercised when one acts. Given incompatibilism of this variety, a libertarian account of this type secures both the openness of alternatives and the exercise of active control that are required for free will.

Clarke compromises the adequate determinism of the will if he admits indeterminism as a direct cause of action
It is thus unnecessary to restrict indeterminism, as deliberative accounts do, to locations earlier in the processes leading to free actions. Indeed, so restricting indeterminism undermines the adequacy of an event-causal view. Any adequate libertarian account must locate the openness of alternatives and freedom-level active control in the same event — in a directly free action itself. For this reason, an adequate event-causal view must require that a directly free action be nondeterministically caused by its immediate causal antecedents.

It is not necessary that an event-causal account require such additional features as self-subsuming decisions, a state of wanting more to act on certain reasons than one wants to act on any others, indeterminate, directed efforts of will, or parallel processing. Although some such features might figure in free actions, they are not crucial to the freedom of those actions. An unadorned centered event-causal account can be adequately defended against the charge of diminished control. It needs no further help, and gets none, from these further features.

If, on the other hand, broad incompatibilism is correct, then no event-causal account is adequate. An event-causal libertarian view secures ultimate control, which no compatibilist account provides. But the secured ultimacy is wholly negative: it is just (on a centered view) a matter of the absence of any determining cause of a directly free action. The active control that is exercised on such a view is just the same as that exercised on an event-causal compatibilist account. This sort of libertarian view fails to secure the agent's exercise of any further positive powers to causally influence which of the alternative courses of events that are open will become actual. For this reason, if moral responsibility is precluded by determinism, the freedom required for responsibility is not secured by any event-causal libertarian account.

This type of view nevertheless provides for some things of value that are secured by no view that is compatible with determinism. It provides for the varieties of difference-making and attributability that are precluded by determinism and that appear to be of some value, even if, all things considered, one might reasonably prefer not to have them in certain cases. Similarly, a centered event-causal account can secure the openness of alternatives that Is needed if a certain illusion is to be consistently avoided in deliberation. This, too, is something of value, as to be subject to illusion detracts from one's dignity.

Whatever freedom can be provided by an event-causal account can be secured for actions that are not decisions, as well as for decisions. Such a view can apply to both overt and mental actions. The freedom of a decision and of (later) doing what one has previously decided may come to the same thing. Libertarians who have restricted direct freedom to mental actions, or to certain types of mental actions, such as decisions, have been mistaken in doing so.

Given broad incompatibilism, if all that is required by an integrated agent-causal libertarian account is genuinely possible, then such a view is conceptually adequate. Unlike a traditional agent-causal view, which denies that the agent's having certain reasons causes her free action, an integrated account adequately provides for acting for reasons and for reason-explanation. Further, the requirement of agent causation is not otiose. It provides for the agent's exercising when she acts, in addition to the active control secured by by an event-causal view, a further power to causally influence which of the open alternatives will be made actual. In exercising this further power, the agent is literally an originator of her action, and neither the action nor her initiating the action is causally determined by events. No infinite regress of free actions is required, and an agent-causal view need not require that microlevel laws be superseded when one acts freely.

The sticking point for an agent-causal account is the notion of agent causation - of causation by a substance. Either of two causal realist views may be drawn on to clarify what is being claimed when it is said that a substance causes an event. It does not help in this regard to maintain that agent causation is exercised purposively and at will, though such claims may helpfully distinguish causation by an intelligent, rational substance from other substance causation. Finally, however, there are, on balance, reasons to think that substance causation is impossible. If that is so, then, given broad incompatibilism, it appears that free will is impossible.

It is an important question how we might live with the fact that we lack free will, if in fact we do lack it. Several recent works have addressed this question in an illuminating way. (I think particularly of Honderich 1988: part 3; Pereboom 2001; and Smilansky 2000.) I have made no direct contribution to this project here. However, if the argument of this book is correct, then the importance of this practical question is underscored.

Excerpt from Libertarian Views: Critical Survey of Noncausal and Event-Causal Accounts of Free Agency, from Oxford Handbook of Free Will, Kane (2002), chapter 16. p.377.
The Evidence
I turn now to the question whether we have good evidence that either a noncausal or an event-causal libertarian view is true. The answer seems to be negative.

Both types of account require, first, that determinism be false. But more than this, each requires that there be indeterminism of a certain sort (with some events uncaused, or nondeterministically caused) and that this indeterminism be located in specific places (in the occurrence of decisions or other actions, or at certain earlier stages in the deliberative process). What is our evidence with regard to the satisfaction of these requirements?

It is sometimes claimed that our experience when we make decisions and act constitutes evidence that there is indeterminism of the required sort in the required place. We can distinguish two parts of this claim: one, that in deciding and acting, things appear to us to be the way that one or another libertarian account says they are, and two, that this appearance is evidence that things are in fact that way. Some (for example, Mele 1995: 135-37) deny the first part. But even if this first part is correct, the second part seems dubious. If things are to be the way they are said to be by some libertarian account, then the laws of nature — laws of physics, chemistry, and biology — must be a certain way. And it is incredible that how things seem to us in making decisions and acting gives us insight into the laws of nature. Our evidence for the required indeterminism, then, will have to come from the study of nature, from natural science.

The scientific evidence for quantum mechanics is sometimes said to show that determinism is false. Quantum theory is well confirmed. However, there is nothing approaching a consensus on how to interpret it, on what it shows us with respect to how things are in the world. Moreover, there are deterministic as well as indeterministic interpretations of the theory, and in the view of many, the evidence we have does not decisively rule out the former. Perhaps the best that can be said for libertarianism here is that, given the demise of classical mechanics and electromagnetic theory, there is no good evidence that determinism is true. (For further discussion of these issues, see Loewer 1996 and the essays by Bishop and Hodgson in this volume, chs. 4 and 5, respectively.)

The evidence is even less decisive regarding the presence of the kind of indeterminism in exactly the places required by one or another of the libertarian accounts we have considered. Unless there is a complete independence of mental events from physical events, then even for free decisions there has to be indeterminism of a specific sort at specific junctures in certain brain processes. There are some interesting speculations in the works of some libertarians about how this might be so (see Kane 1996a: 128-30 and 137-42, and the sources cited there); but our current understanding of the brain gives us no solid evidence one way or the other on this question. At best, it seems we must remain, for the time-being, agnostic.

If our beliefs on the issue are to be (as I think they should be) guided by the evidence, then we will leave the question open whether we have what is characterized by any libertarian view. We will accept, then, that perhaps we never have more than one course of action open to us at any given time and we never exercise any greater degree of active control than what can be characterized by a compatibilist account. If this is in fact so, then we have never actually possessed something that many of us thought we had, and something that we may reasonably value. Though not the end of the world, neither is that a matter of indifference.


Chapter 1.4 - The Philosophy Chapter 1.6 - The Scientists
Home Part Two - Knowledge
Normal | Teacher | Scholar