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Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
Ted Honderich

Ted Honderich is Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at University College London and past chairman of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, founded by Bertrand Russell in the 1920's.
Honderich is the principal spokesman for strict causality and "hard determinism."

He has written more widely (with excursions into quantum mechanics, neuroscience, and consciousness), more deeply, and certainly more extensively than most of his colleagues on the problem of free will.

Unlike most of his colleagues specializing in free will, Honderich has not succumbed to the easy path of Compatibilism by simply declaring that the free will we have (and should want, say some) is completely consistent with determinism, namely a "voluntarism" in which our will is completely caused by prior events.

Nor does he go down the path of Incompatibilism, looking for non-physical substances, dualist forms of agency, or simply identifying freedom with Epicurean chance, as have many scientists with ideas of brain mechanisms amplifying quantum mechanical indeterminism to help with the uncaused "origination" of actions and decisions.

Honderich does not claim to have found a solution to the problem of free will or determinism, but he does claim to have confronted the problem of the consequences of determinism. He is "dismayed" because the truth of determinism requires that we give up "origination" with its promise of an open future, restricting - though not eliminating - our "life hopes."

Unlike many of his hard determinist colleagues, who appear to welcome determinism and enjoy describing belief in free will as an illusion, Honderich is unique in his passionate sense of real loss. We might have been the author of our own actions, we could have done otherwise, and thus be held accountable and morally responsible in a way more acceptable to common sense. He describes the life hope that is lost - a future we can make for ourselves.

We have a kind of life-hope which is incompatible with a belief in determinism. An open future, a future we can make for ourselves, is one of which determinism isn't true.

Suppose you become convinced of the truth of our theory of determinism. Becoming really convinced will not be easy, for several reasons. But try now to imagine a day when you do come to believe determinism fully. What would the upshot be? It would almost certainly be dismay. Your response to determinism in connection with the hope would be dismay. If you really were persuaded of determinism, the hope would collapse.

This is so because such a hope has a necessary part or condition on which the rest of it depends. This is is the image of origination. There can be no such hope if all the future is just effects of effects. It is for this reason, I think, that many people have found determinism to be a black thing. John Stuart Mill felt it as an incubus, and, to speak for myself, it has certainly got me down in the past.
(How Free Are You?, p.94)

Though he is its foremost champion, Honderich characterizes determinism as a black thing and an incubus which gives him dismay.

Honderich faults the Compatibilists and Incompatibilists on three counts. First, he says that moral responsibility is not all that is at stake, there are personal feelings, reactive attitudes, problems of knowledge, and rationalizing punishment with ideas of limited responsibility. Second, these problems can not be resolved by logical "proofs" nor by linguistic analyses of propositions designed to show "free" and "determined" are logically compatible. And third, he faults their simplistic idea that one or the other of them must be right.

And unlike some of his colleagues, Honderich does not competely dismiss indeterminism and considers the suggestion of "near-determinism." He says, "Maybe it should have been called determinism-where-it-matters. It allows that there is or may be some indeterminism but only at what is called the micro-level of our existence, the level of the small particles of our bodies."

In his recent book On Determinism, Honderich has an extensive discussion of Quantum Theory. On pp.120-127, he says

"Does Quantum Theory as interpreted have some clause, hitherto unheard of, that its random events occur only in such places as to make us morally responsible in a certain sense? This objection of inconsistency, perhaps, is less effective with some uncommitted philosophers because they do not really take the philosophers of origination seriously. If it really were accepted as true that a random event could get in between the question and the intention, with great effect, then it would have to be accepted that one could get in between the intention and the lie, with as much effect. Any attempt to exclude the possibility is bound to be fatally ad hoc."
There is no inconsistency in quantum mechanics. Quantum noise is ever present. It just normally averages out in macroscopic situations. Microscopic situations, like the storage and retrieval of information in the neurons of the mind/brain, are much more susceptible to noise. Information structures in computers, and in modern digital media devices like CDs and DVDs, are also susceptible to random noise. Both media devices and the brain have elaborate error detection and suppression capabilities.
Honderich maintains a website on Determinism and Freedom, with a selection of important pieces by various thinkers, and a companion guide to the terminology.
Honderich has long defended what he calls the "truth" of determinism. We agree that there must be "adequate determinism" in our choices and actions for us to take moral responsibility. All that we lose with an "adequate determinism" is the truly grand, but unsupportable, idea of pre-determinism, namely that every event and all prior events form a causal chain back to the origin of the universe. Indeed, in On Determinism (p.6), Honderich calls for "the truth of a conceptually adequate determinism."
In his early thoughts, Honderich wrote in 1973, in his essay "One Determinism," that determinism may actually preclude responsibility...
States of the brain are, in the first place, effects, the effects of other physical states. Many states of the brain, secondly, are correlates. A particular state accompanied my experience the other moment of thinking about having walked a lot on Hampstead Heath, and a like state accompanies each like experience: each of my experiences of thinking of having walked a lot on Hampstead Heath. Given our present concern, it is traditional that the most important experiences are decidings and choosings. Some states of the brain, thirdly, are causes, both of other states of the brain and also of certain movements of one's body. The latter are actions. Some are relatively simple while others, such as speech acts and bits of ritual, depend on settings of convention and have complex histories. Simple or complex, however, all actions are movements, or of course stillnesses, caused by states of the brain. It follows from these three premisses, about states of the brain as effects, as correlates and as causes, that on every occasion when we act, we can only act as in fact we do. It follows too that we are not responsible for our actions, and, what is most fundamental, that we do not possess selves of a certain character.
The Consequences of Determinism
Honderich's great work is the 750-page The Theory of Determinism, Oxford, 1988, later broken into two volumes, of which one is The Consequences of Determinism. Honderich claims to have solved the "problem of the consequences of determinism."

Note that this is not the problem of free will and determinism. Honderich believes determinism is true.

Rather than discuss the problem of free will directly, or even indirectly via the familiar though muddled terms determinism, compatibilism, incompatibilism, and libertarianism, Honderich introduces new concepts and still more terminology.

In the style of Peter Strawson, Honderich's interest is in our feelings and attitudes toward the truth of determinism, as what he calls our "life-hopes" are altered by belief in determinsm.

One hope is that we can originate actions affecting our future life. The truth of determinism, which denies the freedom to originate actions, might give rise to a "sad" attitude of "dismay." In this respect, Honderich regards determinism as a "black thing." He calls dismay the sad attitude toward determinism.

But we can have another "tough" attitude, that of intransigence, in that our hope involving belief in "voluntariness" is consistent with determinism. With his term intransigence, Honderich wants us to resist compromise with ideas like origination. But he seems to imply that moral responsibility can be reconciled with determinism.

Finally, Honderich argues that we can choose the attitude of affirmation rather than intransigence or dismay.

It might appear that Honderich's terms dismay and intransigence roughly correlate with the ideas of

  • incompatibilist libertarian free will (involving randomness), which is denied by determinism, leading to his attitude of dismay
  • compatibilism which is reconciled to determinism, leading to the attitude of intransigence, (irreconcilable with the "fiction" of origination)

But Honderich says he avoids the mistakes of Incompatibilism and Compatibilism. His point of their mistakes is subtle. It depends on his introduction of the two kinds of "life hopes," the one voluntariness alone, the other voluntariness plus origination. He says:

Let us finish here by having clear the relation of affirmation to Compatibilism and Incompatibilism. Affirmation differs wholly from both in that it recognizes the existence of two attitudes where Compatibilism and Incompatibilism assert a single conception and a single connection with moral responsibility and the like. Affirmation does involve reliance on a single attitude, having to do only with voluntariness, which of course is related to the single conception of initiation which Compatibilists assign to us. Affirmation also has to do with the other attitude, pertaining also to origination, related to the single conception which Incompatibilists assign to us. It is not much more like Compatibilism than Incompatibilism. (p.149)

The mistake of Incompatibilism appears to be that it assumes that determinism destroys moral approval and disapproval. This, Honderich says, ignores the tough attitude of intransigence.

The mistake of Compatibilism, is to assert that nothing changes as a consequence of determinism, when clearly we have lost the life-hope of origination. This ignores the sad attitude of dismay.

Honderich summarizes his lengthy argument (p.169).

The argument about the consequences of determinism has been a long one, and can usefully be brought into a succinct form.

1.2 All our life-hopes involve thoughts to the effect that we somehow initiate our future actions. Some involve not only beliefs as to voluntariness or willingness but also an idea, or what is more an image, of our originating our future actions. To think of life-hopes of this kind, and their manifest inconsistency with determinism, and to accept the likely truth of determinism, is to fall into dismay. We are deprived of the hopes.

1.3 We also have life-hopes involving only beliefs as to voluntariness — that we will act not from reluctant desires and intentions, but from embraced desires and intentions, that we will act in enabling circumstances rather than frustrating ones. These circumstances have to do with at least the way of my world, the absence of self-frustration, independence of others, and absence of bodily constraint. Thinking of hopes of this kind, and noting the clear consistency of a determinism with them, may issue in intransigence. These life-hopes are not at all significantly threatened by determinism.

1.4 We have appreciative and also resentful feelings about others, owed to their actions deriving from good or bad feelings and judgements about us. Both sorts of personal feelings involve assumptions somehow to the effect that others could do otherwise than they do. It is natural in one way of thinking and feeling to take the assumptions to amount to this: others act with knowledge, without internal constraint, in character, and in line with personality, not out of abnormality, not because of constraint by others. This second one of a set of fundamentally like conceptions of voluntary action, wholly consistent with determinism, may lead us to make the response of intransigence with respect to personal feelings. However, we also have other personal feelings, having a certain person-directed character and including an assumption as to a power or control of their actions by others. The assumption is inconsistent with determinism and may lead to dismay.

1.5 We accept that our claims to knowledge derive in part from beliefs and assumptions to our mental acts and our ordinary actions, by which we come to have evidence and the like. We may take it that originated acts and actions are necessary, and, taking them as ruled out by a determinism, suffer a want of confidence in our beliefs, a dismay having to do with the possibility of a further reality. Inevitably, however, we can have a different kind of confidence, owed only to an assumption as to voluntariness, the possibility of our satisfying our desires for information. Hence intransigence about knowledge. These are facts which the Epicurean tradition of objection to determinism has greatly misconstrued.

1.6 One fundamental question in morality is that of how the world ought to be in so far as we can affect it. However, it allows us to concentrate either on the nature of good men and women, or the nature of right actions. The other fundamental question is that of moral approval and disapproval of agents for particular actions, the responsibility they must have for their actions. An action's being right, and a person's having a good moral standing, presuppose that we do somehow have responsibility for our actions. Hence determinism's effect on all of morality can be considered by way of its effect on moral responsibility.

1.7 What feelings enter into our moral disapproval of the vicious husband and father anticipating his divorce? We may have tendencies to act against him, retributive desires for at least his discomfiture. These desires, by a kind of direct reflection can be seen to be vulnerable to a determinism. The result may be dismay. However, reflection on the purpose of morality brings into view a kind of moral disapproval, and approval, which rest not on an image of origination but only certain beliefs as to voluntariness. There is no conflict between them and determinism. Intransigence with respect to determinism and morality is as possible and natural as dismay.

2.1 There are two traditional views of the challenge of determinism, Compatibilism and Incompatibilism. Considering them throws into greater definition the fact that each of us has two families of attitudes, including two sorts of life-hopes and so on, and may respond to determinism with at least dismay and intransigence. The two traditional views also demand consideration as the principal alternatives to the correct resolution of the problem of the consequences of determinism.

2.2 Compatibilist philosophers ascribe to us a single conception of the initiation of action, and a kind of belief as to the sufficiency of this initiation in so far as moral approval and disapproval are concerned. The conception is that of a voluntary action, and hence a determinism is taken to affect moral responsibility not at all. Incompatibilists also ascribe to us a single conception of the initiation of action, which includes origination, and a belief as to its role. They take it that the truth of determinism would destroy moral responsibility. Both philosophical parties take the problem of the consequences of determinism to be of an intellectual or theoretical kind, to which can be added that Compatibilists are in a way overwhelmed by the great fact of causation generally, and Incompatibilists are greatly desirous of our having a certain stature, of elevating us.

2.3 Our two families of attitudes, and the two responses, establish the falsehood of both Compatibilism and Incompatibilism. We do not have a single conception of the initiation of action, or a single belief as to the role of such a conception. Our circumstance is not either that a determinism leaves moral approval and disapproval untouched, or that it destroys it. To suppose that it destroys it, as Incompatibilists do, is to ignore our attitudes which may issue in intransigence. To suppose that a determinism leaves moral approval and disapproval untouched, as Compatibilists do, is to ignore our attitudes which issue in dismay. Compatibilism and Incompatibilism are as mistaken in other respects, not least in offering what are very nearly absurd explanations of the persistence of the problem of the consequences of determinism.

3.1 The true problem of the consequences of determinism is to escape the unsatisfactory situation in which we find ourselves, prone to two inconsistent families of attitudes, and two inconsistent responses. It is fundamentally a problem of dealing with desires. In trying to make this escape, we are not restrained by some fundamentality of origination as against voluntariness. Our endeavour must be to accept the defeat of certain desires, by reflecting, in part, on the satisfaction of others. It is an endeavour which enters into arriving at a philosophy of life.

3.2 In so far as origination is a fiction, life-hopes which we have are affected, and the damage cannot be assuaged by the reflections that ideas of origination are faint ones, or that a determinism saves us from chance. There is little solace in the fact that determinism gives us a particular membership in nature. There is more in the escape from failure which it allows. There is also the fact that our life-hopes in a deterministic world are no more bounded in their objects than life-hopes would be in a world of origination. If these hopes also have other recommendations, a final acceptance of our situation will depend on full belief in a determinism. We may respond to determinism, nevertheless, in so far as our life-hopes are concerned, with affirmation rather than dismay or intransigence. This includes the endeavour to accept what must be accepted, by several means, and also the recognition that our life-hopes can be life-sustaining things. They can enter into a celebratory philosophy of life.

3.3 A determinism conflicts with personal feelings of the kind that involve an image of origination, and an acceptance of this is included in the response of affirmation. The renunciation, particularly of the appreciative personal feelings of this kind, is made more tolerable by a related escape from the resentful ones. The response of affirmation also includes an assertion of the great value of the personal feelings as they can exist in a deterministic world. To make the response is to keep one's balance, which balance allows for a recognition of the great worth of an existence enriched by facts of personal relationship.

3.4 We can be said to be barred by determinism from knowledge of a possible reality. Thus there is a truth distantly related to propositions of Plato, Spinoza, and others. That is not to say that our lot must be a kind of unhappy agnosticism. Affirmation, as elsewhere, gives a place to both considerations.

3.5 Moral approval and disapproval, since they may rest partly on origination, are affected by a determinism. Our specifically retributive desires are affected. There is more consolation here than with life-hopes, however, and perhaps more than with personal feelings. The moral responsibility untouched by determinism is of a large significance. For one thing, each of us has a moral standing. There are corollaries having to do with right action, and good men and women.

3.6 The response of affirmation enters importantly into a number of possible philosophies of life. It may be asked if it is possible for us really to make the response, since it involves a significant change in our lives. It may be asked if it would be rational to make the change. In fact the change is possible, and the question about whether it would be rational can be answered in the affirmative.

These answers effectively give the main ideas of a resolution of the problem of the consequences of determinism, the problem which has most exercised philosophers. What remains is a consideration, for which we now have some guiding principles, of certain fundamental social and political facts.

On Consciousness and Radical Externalism
Honderich's study of Mind and Brain, originally the first two parts of Theory of Determinism, inform Honderich's later works On Consciousness and Radical Externalism.

How do these works reveal Honderich's perception of the problem of the originator, the kind of free will that libertarians are looking for?

A careful reading of Mind and Brain tells us that Honderich is concerned about micro-indeterministic chance being the direct cause of action. He calls this the Postulate of Neural Indeterminacy, and generally opposes the idea. "How could an unnecessitated or chance event be something for which the person in question could be censured in the given way?" (p.184) He finds "strong and clear support for the proposition that neural sequences are somehow or in some way causal sequences." (p. 266)

Neurobiologists, and cell biologists before them, have long shown that the size of cellular structures is macroscopic enough for quantum micro-indeterminism to be irrelevant in the normal operations of a cell. We grant this, and it seems as if this is the basic evidence for Honderich's claim of determinism and causality in the Psychoneural intimacy of the mind/brain.

But there is another level of operations in the mind, the one computer scientists and cognitive scientists use to defend the "mind as computer" or "machine." That is the famous analogy of the relationship of software to the hardware.

Here the macroscopic neurological brain is storing and retrieving pure information to serve the mind's consciousness of its surroundings, to inform its actions and interactions with the world.

Now we know that there is no such thing as an information system that can communicate without noise in the system, both quantum noise and the more common thermal noise. Such noise is the informational equivalent of those chance microscopic events in Honderich's Postulate of Neural Indeterminacy, but now the emphasis must be on the Psyche side of Psychoneural intimacy. It is indeterminacy of thought, not of action.

And indeterminacy of thought, while not directly causing action, can influence our choices for action, not by causing them, and not by changing their probabilities, but simply by becoming alternative possibilities for action by the adequately determined will, which also includes determination of our muscular motions to implement the action.

We may occasionally exhibit spastic behaviors, but there is absolutely no evidence, and no need, for actions that are affected randomly by microscopic quantum uncertainty, despite the fears of many philosophers of the consequences of admitting some indetermism.

Determinists have been right about the Will, but wrong about Freedom (or origination).

Libertarians have been right about Freedom, but wrong about the Will, which must be as adequately determined as the rest of our physical selves.

What does this information in the mind/brain have to do with Honderich's theory of "Consciousness as Existence" or more recently "Radical Externalism?" Consciousness is quintessentially ideas, including of course our feelings about those ideas, which as associationists from Hume's time thought, are recollections of sense experiences.

Now small errors or "noise" in our recollections are the stuff of "new ideas," such as we experience when dreaming or half-dreaming, musing about possibilities.

Radical Externalism says that:

Consciousness is perceptual, reflective or affective — in brief it has to do with seeing, thinking and wanting. We are as good as never engaged in only one of the sorts of things. There are large problems here. One is the understanding of the mixing and melding of the three parts, kinds, sides or whatever of consciousness, of how one contributes to another, even in ordinary seeing and acting. (Radical Externalism, 2006, p.6)
Honderich wants his "perceptual consciousness" to encompass not merely the representation of the world in the mind but a commitment to the existence of the perceived world. In informational terms we say that there is at least a partial isomorphism, a "mapping" of the information stored in our neural systems, and the information in the world I am seeing.
You are seeing this page. What does that fact come to? What is that state of affairs? The natural answer has a lot in it, about the page as a physical thing, whatever one of those is, and about your retinas and your visual cortex. It also has in it philosophy and science about the relation between a neural process and your consciousness.

So there is more to your seeing the page than your consciousness of it. (p.3)

Honderich seems to agree with the partial isomorphism in his description of reflective and affective consciousness, which can have thoughts that correspond not to the real world, but to a modified world of the imagination, including states of affairs that the agent has the power to originate, to bring about in an open future.
Now a few words about reflective consciousness, say thinking of home, and affective consciousness, say wanting to be there or intending to get there. (p.8)

Very briefly, what it seems to be to think of home now is for something to exist that has some of the properties of home. That is what a representation essentially is — something that shares some effects with what is represented. (p.9)

As for wanting to be at home or intending to get there, and affective consciousness generally, one essential point is that this too is to be understood in terms of the characters of anyone's perceptual and also reflective consciousness.

Part of the rest of the story here is that there are values in our perceptual worlds — including scenes in nature, pictures in art galleries, and people who are good-lookers or who care about the hurts of all others. It is very mistaken to suppose that the story of value is a story that does not contains things as real as woods, paintings and people — stuff of perceptual consciousness. More of the story of affective consciousness has to do with bodily sensation before acting or in acting and of course representations of actions. (p.9)

Can Honderich see that our affective consciousness is so much more powerful if it can imagine ways of wanting the world (for example, wanting to be home) that are not already pre-determined in the one possible future of his intransigence attitude toward the meagre "life-hope" he accepts in voluntarism with no origination?

Such imaginations, in the abstract world of information, in our minds, can then stimulate our bodily sensations before we act on them.

Honderich wonders how close Radical Externalism is to a dualism.
In brief, [dualism] is is the theory, rightly associated with Descartes, that your consciousness is somehow non-spatial and hence not physical. It is in fact only misleadingly called dualism, mainly because its distinctive nature and its problems are not owed to its asserting that consciousness is other than physical but rather to its asserting that consciousness is out of space and in fact of a mysterious nature. As remarked, it is better named spiritualism or mentalism. (p.11)
In Information Philosophy, the abstract world of information is neither spatial nor physical, neither matter nor energy, yet it needs matter for its concrete embodiment and energy for its communication. Information is the modern spirit, the ghost in the machine, the realm of Descartes' mind.
Honderich lists several criteria for evaluating Radical Empiricism, and notes that as a near-physicalism, it gives us a clear sense to our conviction about subjectivity.
You have heard of two criteria tor a theory of consciousness, one being that it must actually be of consciousness as we know we have it, one being truth to appearance. Devout physicalism fails absolutely to satisfy these criteria. Radical Externalism does satisfy them.

A third criterion is that consciousness is somehow subjective. The term has been variously used and abused, but that consciousness has some character that the term points to is indubitable. Devout physicalism allows for no persuasive sense in which consciousness is subjective. Spiritualism in its carry-on about a self or subject or the mind faces overwhelming objections. If it is a near-physicalism, it does give clear sense to our conviction about subjectivity.

For Radical Externalism, perceptual consciousness consists in a state of affairs that not only is partly dependent on one individual, but in also different from related states of affairs dependent on other individual, It is also different from the state of affairs that is the perceived physical world as well as other states of affairs that are in defined senses objective.

A fourth criterion of adequacy is that a theory of consciousness must make consciousness a reality, which is to say physical or approximate to physical or in some strong sense reducible to the physical. A fifth criterion is that a theory must not make impossible what is actual, which is causal interaction between consciousness and the physical. Spiritualism fails both tests absolutely. Radical Externalism passes them. Those who follow Descartes take consciousness out of space, and therefore postulate causes and effects that are nowhere. That is certainly not so with Radical Externalism.

Nor is it the case in Information Philosophy, which takes consciousness to exist in part as abstract information.
There are other criteria that can be no more than mentioned. One has to do with the efficacy of consciousness, which is to say the impossibility of epiphenomenalism. Another, of lesser importance, derives from a common uncertainty about whether our consciousness, all of it, is something in our heads.

I leave unconsidered, too, the recommendation of Radical Externalism with respect to the science of consciousness in particular. It saves it from a certain self-doubt, by making all of consciousness persuasively understood a subject for science. It also clarifies a long-running uncertainty about the dependency of mind on brain. In proposing a considerable conceptual shift, hopefully a revolution, it can be no stranger to science, certainly not to physics.

Chapter 23 of Free Will: The Scandal in Philosophy, on Ted Honderich's Determinism (PDF)

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Causation? Origination?
Chapter 4 of How Free Are You, Oxford, 2002, p.37
The theory of determinism we are putting together, and more particularly the fundamental part that can be called Initiation Determinism, takes a choice to be a real effect, like the neural event associated with it. The choice is not an uncertain effect of some funny kind. That is important, but it isn't everything. In order to be a real determinism the theory also needs to take the choice to be an effect of some causes rather than others, or, as you might say, enough causes. This is easy to see.

Suppose you took the view that someone's choice, say Toby's choice to try to leave his secure job, was a real effect — but of something or other that definitely was not an effect itself. Maybe this thing was the forming of an intention, a forming of an intention to choose as he then did. It was a kind of pre-choice. Whether the pre-choice took place an instant before the fateful choice itself, or a long time before, this view wouldn't be determinism but more or less the opposite.

Shall we say that what Initiation Determinism comes to with respect to a particular choice is that it was an effect and everything that led up to it or was in the story behind it was an effect? Well, that would be something of the right sort, but when you think about it, it is more than a little unclear what led up to a particular choice — what it is for something to lead up to a choice.

We can do better. Let us avoid the difficulty by saying, in a way, that all choices and other conscious events are effects of heredity and environment. To make our theory more explicit we need the idea of a causal sequence or chain. The shortest complete one of these consists in an effect preceded by a causal circumstance and that causal circumstance preceded by a still earlier one for it — for all of it. Most sequences we think about are longer, chains with more links.

Everything within any causal sequence, which is to say everything but the parts of the initial causal circumstance and the final effect, whatever may be true of them, is both an effect and a cause. There aren't any gaps. Thus it is true of the sequence that the final effect was made necessary not only by middle or intermediate circumstances but also by what we are calling the initial circumstance. When you get the initial circumstance the end of any sequence is settled.

Although we are not likely to think of the possibility at first, the parts of a causal circumstance, even an initial causal circumstance, can occur at different times, even very different times. To go back to the lighting of the match, suppose we first describe a causal circumstance for it in terms of the match's being dry, in oxygen, struck, and the surface it is struck on being of the right kind. We take these four things as being at the same time, the time of the striking. But we get another perfectly good causal circumstance if we take the first three items together with something earlier that guaranteed that the surface was of the right kind at the time of striking.

The causal sequence for any choice or any other conscious event, we say, is such that the parts of the initial causal circumstance occur at different times. They are also of different sorts. Some of the earliest parts are neural facts and other bodily facts just prior to the very first mental event in the history of the person in question. The other parts of the initial causal circumstance are events in the person's environment then and thereafter, probably right up to the time of the choice or whatever.

To have a definite idea of these environmental events, we can restrict them to items that affect a person directly, not through intermediaries. So each of these items is the last item in some environmental story, presumably causal, and this item's immediate effect is a bodily or neural event of the person in question. Suppose Toby's saying something shirty to his boss makes his boss feel that he may have to take a difficult decision about him. Our initial causal circumstance for his feeling this at the moment doesn't include all of Toby's history leading up to his words, but only the very last bit.

What we arrive at, then, is the idea that each choice and other conscious event is the effect of a causal sequence whose initial circumstance has in it neural and other bodily events just before the first moment of consciousness of the person in question, and what can be called last environmental events then and thereafter.

Certainly, the sequence for almost any choice will be complicated beyond tracing. For a start, there will be a multitude of conscious events within the sequence. A lot of them will have to do with learning. There will also be a multitude of things so far unnoticed, mental dispositions. These are dispositions to think or feel this or that, and are best regarded as persisting neural structures. In my view they are what can properly be meant, by the way, by evocative talk of the subconscious or the unconscious mind.

However impossible it is to set out all the links of a single causal sequence, we have a clear idea of what this explanation of the mental event comes to. We don't have to know the details, any more than we have to know the details to understand the claim that what crushed the daisy in the valley was the avalanche that started up on the mountain.

As with Mind–Brain Determinism, it will help to have in mind a particular idea of consciousness and the brain, the Union Theory. What it comes to is that conscious events, events of subjectivity, are nomic correlates of simultaneous neural events. Here is a model or diagram of Initiation Determinism in terms of this theory. Or rather, a model or diagram of a very small part of such an Initiation Determinism.


M1 is Juliet's mental event, her feeling at a particular moment about having met a man called Toby. It goes with her neural event N1. As for E1, it is some last environmental event which comes a little later. The event El together with the pair made up of M1 and N1 are the two parts of a causal circumstance for what comes later, the pair made up of another mental event M2 and another neural event N2. Maybe M2 is a happy feeling of anticipation on Juliet's part. The model leaves out everything before the time when M1 happened, and so doesn't come near to showing the very early neural and bodily events in the long causal sequence.

This is a good moment to glance at something distracting that goes against all of this. It is a picture of the mind which admittedly comes from true things we say. We say some mental events are effects and some are causes. Seeing something is an effect and deciding something is a cause. We also say that some mental events are both effects and causes. These beliefs can in fact be explained in terms of the picture of the mind we have been developing, but some philosophers have done otherwise. They have come up with something called Interactionism (Eccles and Popper). Here is a little model of a version of it.1

The first item shown in the model is neural event N1 in Juliet, maybe having to do with the neural side of her seeing or hearing something. N1 causes Juliet's feeling about having met Toby, M1, to happen a moment later. Another moment later, M1 has the effect N2, which is a neural event that maybe will lead to the physical action of Juliet's sending him a note.

This Interactionism is not easy to take seriously, for several reasons. It is supposed to be the full story of this bit of Juliet's history. If it isn't, and we add to it, we are likely to get the sort of thing we ourselves have been developing. If it is the full story, M1 was a free-floating or ghostly event. What I mean is that it was something mental that was unconnected to any neural event at the same moment. That is about as hard to believe in as ghosts themselves, which if they existed would also be free-floating mentality.

Another problem is the explanation of N2. That was a neural event which came out of nothing neural. At the moment before N2 — at the moment of M1 — there was nothing happening neurally. That is not a promising move in theory-construction, and is hard to swallow. We don't think there are gaps in a brain's history, gaps in the history of a part of a physical body. If our present business is setting out and clarifying a theory, whether Initiation Determinism or Interactionism, we can't help but do so with an eye on probable truth.

Interactionism as sketched is a bad determinism, which must not delay us. What really needs attention is the kind of explanation of mental events that is radically different from all of what we have been considering so far. This different kind is in terms of Free Will and is indeterministic, not a matter of causation as we know it. It has often been assumed and talked about, and it has also been set out in full complexity by industrious philosophers. In fact, they say more than anyone is likely to have the fortitude to be able to consider.

A Free Will theory may have a source in religion, now American religion in particular (Ekstrom; Boyle et al.). It may have a source in politics, perhaps a conservative politics that is keen to credit people with a certain right to the considerable amount of private property they have, and to leave others without such a right to any more than the lesser amount they have. A Free Will theory may also have a source in something more widely shared, a desire to give us humans a certain dignity—a standing above the rest of what exists, including what the Free Will philosophers in question would not be inclined to describe as the other animals (Kane 1996).

But the main guiding aim of a Free Will theory is likely to be a related one. In fact, it enters into the three already mentioned. It is the aim of getting to a conclusion from which it will then follow that we can be taken as absolutely responsible for our choices and our ensuing actions. It is to get to something such that it will follow that we can be taken as responsible in a certain way. That is all-important. As noticed in passing at the start, there is more than one thing that can be called being held responsible for things or being credited with responsibility for things.

to make free will dependent on responsibility is the ethical fallacy
The aim of a Free Will theory is likely to be to make us such that we can be held responsible or credited with responsibility where our doing these latter things involves certain feelings. 2 But above all, our being responsible in this way involves our being able now to choose differently from how we do, given the present and ourselves exactly as they are and the past exactly as it wad. Our choices, on this story, cannot be effects but come about somehow very differently. Almost all historical and also most recent theories have to do with not only neural events and mental events but also something else, a self or originator. What they come to is that in each of us there exists an ongoing entity that is said to originate choices and decisions and hence actions, which things are not necessitated by neural events or anything else. Let us start with a very incomplete little model, later on in the adventure of Juliet and Toby.


M3 is Juliet's mental event of seeing Toby on waking up one morning. M4 is her deciding a moment later to say to him that they should have a child together. This conscious event M4 will turn out to be what the model is really focused on, a free decision. The later item A is her still later action of actually saying to him that they should have a child. N3 is a neural event at the first time, and N4 a neural event at the second time, leading towards the action A. That leaves S, which is Juliet's self. It might be better to call it a Self. Certainly it is very different from the other items in the model. For a start, it is not an event, not something that occurs at a time. Rather, it is an enduring thing, moving through time from the first to the last moment shown.

The model leaves a lot out. It gives no indication of the kind of connection between the associated neural and mental bits. It gives no indication of the kind of connection between the neural bits themselves. It doesn't say anything either about the connection between the enduring thing S and, in particular, Juliet's piece of deciding, M4. The idea is that the first of these two things, her self, somehow gives rise to the second, the deciding. We will have to try to fill the model in.

Free Will sounds like something out of the past, as it is, but it can be brought up to date. Its supporters do this. So, as I have already implied, they do pay attention to neuroscience and neural events. They then face the question of the relation between mental and neural events, and in particular between M3 and N3 and also M4 and N4. They have two possibilities.

To speak in a loose way, they can deny necessity or nomic connection here and thereby allow for Free Will, or they can deny necessity or nomic connection at another point. Their better or least bad option, I think, is not to deny it here. This has been their common habit since they have paid attention to the brain and neuroscience, and it continues (Searle 2000; cf. Eccles and Popper).

Let us then suppose they say that each mental event is in nomic connection with the neural event at the same time. That is the one feature that this picture of the mind shares with our determinist one. But if M4 is tied in this way to N4, and the aim is to make Juliet responsible in a certain way for M4, we need to regard N4 as something other than an unavoidable effect. It can't be a real effect of N3 or anything else, or we will make its partner M4 unsatisfactorily inevitable

. This is the stage when we bring in an interpretation of physics, or rather an interpretation of the part of it that is Quantum Theory. It is in fact an interpretation of some mathematics, a way of saying what the mathematics could come to in terms of the actual world. We will be returning to the subject. What is important now is that the interpretation supposes that there are things that happen that are not effects but which are made probable by what happens before them. So we say that the neural partner N4 of the decision M4 is not an effect. It didn't have to happen. It was just something made probable by what went before, in particular the neural event N3, which went with Juliet's seeing Toby.

We now come on a first large problem. That the theory takes neural events to be made probable by antecedents is not just a case of its supporters granting something of what seems true. It is not just a necessary bow on their part in the direction of neuroscience. That is, it is not just a concession in the direction of real causal connection.

There is the reason that there has to be a pretty sure connection between N4 and subsequent neural events on the way to the action, A, or else the action A will be made uncertain. There will be too much chance that Juliet's words aren't at all to the effect that they should have a child, but are something else. If there is not a very high probability that items like N4 will be followed by the right other neural events, then actions we fully and absolutely intend will on too many occasions mysteriously not happen.

So the links after N4 have to be pretty tight. But then in factual consistency so do the neural links before N4. That is unfortunate, since the theory needs these earlier links to be pretty loose in order for Juliet to be held really responsible for what is tied to N4, her decision to speak up.

Can this large problem of seeming inconsistency really be dealt with? Maybe it can. Maybe we can tolerate the ad hoc idea that the earlier neural events are not so probable, in order to leave room for Free Will, but the later neural events are more probable, so that our behaviour doesn't involve many mysterious failures and surprises. Even so, we have not got very far in filling out the theory.

Soon after Quantum Mechanics was interpreted as the idea that there are truly unnecessitated events in the world, events not nomically connected with what precedes them, it was supposed that Free Will was thereby automatically saved. It was saved just by these random or chance events. That is, it was supposed that these events by themselves give us Free Will. But of course they don't. To put the matter briefly, I can't be any more responsible in the desired way for a mere chance event and what goes with it than for a necessitated event and what goes with it. A chance event comes out of nothing. I might be less responsible. In fact, until more was supposed by the hopeful philosophers, this was a case of out of the frying pan into the fire.

The theory of Free Will we are trying to put together tries to deal with this. The neural facts, as we have seen, leave it somehow uncertain that the decision M4 will happen. What is supposed to explain that it really does happen is Juliet's self and its activity (O'Connor 1995a; Searle 2000; Eccles and Popper; Kenny; Boyle et al.). So, in terms of the model, we need to know what S comes to and what its relation is to M4.

A couple of things are clear about S. If you want to explain a decision somehow, but not make it into a necessary event, it will be a good idea not to explain it by citing something that happens before it, a prior event that somehow gives rise to it. That will immediately raise the question of the prior event's being caused, and worse, being caused to cause the decision. An ongoing entity, a self or originator, seems better than an event.

Also, if the aim is to hold us responsible now in a way for a past choice or decision conceived as causally unconnected with our brains and characters and everything else, it is at least useful to have something definite on hand now to aim at, something that seems to be of the right sort. We need the right kind of object for our feelings. The same point applies to our having a certain moral credit.

But awful questions arise, first the question of what S comes to. What is the nature of a self? Necessarily, there is supposed to be a lot more to one of these selves than we ourselves had in mind at the beginning of chapter 3 in connection with the character of subjectivity of mental events. We speculated about an interdependent duality within mental events, involving an aspect for which another aspect exists. A self is far from being a mere aspect of mental events. It is some kind of real entity outside of them, with some kind of power with respect to them. What we can all hesitantly discern about a side of a mental event becomes something much larger. It might indeed be better to elevate it from a self to a Self.

To repeat, what is such a self supposed to be? We already have mental events and neural events on hand. What sort of thing is this originator? Is it a third sort? Does our existence involve the brain, and mental events or the flow of consciousness, and also something different from both? So it seems. Of what material is this self? We have an idea of the material of mental events or consciousness, so to speak, and an analysis of the material of neural events, but what about the self? Is it of no material at all?

If the question about its material is just out of place or wrong for some reason, what are we supposed to think about it? If it is somehow mental, in what sense is that? We need some information to be going on with, long before we get to such questions as whether it, unlike mental events, is not tied to but is entirely free of the brain—which, incidentally, would certainly go against what was called psychoneural intimacy.

There is a temptation into which some philosophers have fallen at this point in trying to provide it. It is the temptation to regard a self as a person within a person, a homunculus. There is a temptation to think of S as an inner person deciding M4. But this is terrible.

John Locke described this infinite regress of wills

One familiar and smaller reason is that it seems we will then have to try to give an account of this inner Juliet along exactly the lines of the account we are now trying to give for Juliet, and so on.

Getting rhetorical or trying out deep thoughts is no help either. Nor is a deceptive kind of plain speaking. The latter happens when it is said, as if no more needed to be said, that this talk about a self is just about 'the mind' or 'a person'—in this case the real person Juliet. But plainly it's not all of the mind or all of Juliet, or even much of it, or even close to much of it, that is in question. We need something more definite. We can't just forget that the self is supposed to be able to overcome desires and the like which are surely elements of a person. If it chooses between inclinations, it doesn't include them.

In short, we have a second problem, still larger than the one about inconsistency in probabilities. It is a problem of clarity. All we can get hold of with respect to a self or originator is that it is in a kind of relation to decisions — we are told that it originates them. It is safe to say that no one has ever begun to answer the question of the nature of a self or originator. In fact no advocate has really faced up to the problem. All have slid by it. It seems to me likely that all future announcements of a self will be like the traditional and the recent ones (Reid; O'Connor 1995a; Clarke; Rowe).

Originating the decision is simply selecting, deterministically, among alternative possibilities.

So there are two large problems, one about inconsistency in matters of probability, and one about clarity in talk of the nature of the self. There is a third problem, related to the second, and such as to make the second worse. It is another problem of clarity. It is all very well, when asked about the relation between an originator and a decision, to say that it originates the decision. What does that mean? We do need to know what the connection is between S and the decision M4 in the model.

It is downright embarrassing to hear that the originator looks over the brain and selects neurons for activating in order to get what it wants, or rather the mental events it wants. This turns up in a large book on Free Will by a philosopher and a neurophysiologist (Eccles and Popper). It does of course involve the homunculus trouble, but that is not all. There is another much larger difficulty.

It is no good using ordinary mental verbs such as 'look over', select', and 'want' in order to try to describe what the relation is between an originator and a mental event. At any rate it is no good leaving the matter there. We want to know what these verbs come to in these uses, what is involved in the activities they describe. We need a general understanding of these activities. A general understanding of such activities is in fact exactly the concern of determinist and indeterminist philosophies of mind. Determinist philosophies understand such activities as a matter of standard effects. What is the opposed understanding — something in addition to the denial that the activities are such effects?

In the earlier discussion of causation in chapter 2, it was allowed that some of us ordinarily talk of our choices and decisions as being effects but would say they are not necessitated — not standard effects. And earlier we noticed various non-standard ideas of effects sometimes proposed by philosophers. There were ideas of events as just made probable by previous ones, or events vaguely owed to a vague power, or events having previous ones as required conditions, or events having a 'usual cause'. My own feeling is that most of us will really say, if we can be got to think about it without distractions, that our choices and decisions are best thought of in terms of standard effects. But forget about that.

In order to have a general understanding of the relation between an originator and a decision, let us try to think in terms of one or another of the non standard ideas of causation. It doesn't matter which one. We try out the idea, as various philosophers have, that the originator by itself in some non-standard sense causes mental events to happen. We noticed this possibility at the beginning of the chapter about causation. To say the least, problems arise.

The alternative possibilities are events, albeit uncaused - i.e., probabilistic.
We need to remember, as remarked earlier, that an originator is not an event, not something that happens. In the model, S is of a different kind from everything else. There are good reasons for this from the point of view of Free Willers, as we know. If we keep events right out of it when we are thinking of an originator, as we have to, we are left with an ongoing and unchanging thing, what used to be called a substance. Putting aside our instructions, this is also what naturally comes to mind in trying to picture an originator or self.

But if the originator in the Juliet story was the same from start to finish, why did it somehow cause her decision M4 when it did, rather than at the earlier time of M3 or the later time of the action A? Why wasn't it always causing it throughout its entire career? Indeed, is there any point in saying that it 'caused' it in any sense when it occurred? Surely this causal language is so different from the standard one that it is baffling and as good as incomprehensible until more is said.

Moreover, if the originator is unchanging, how can it be said to cause endless numbers of different things, endless different decisions, as of course it is supposed to? What is the point of saying it caused Juliet to decide as she did when it might as well have resulted in her deciding the very opposite? That fact is fundamental to all non-standard causation. Remember that nothing made Juliet's decision happen, nothing necessitated it. The self didn't guarantee or ensure that decision. This last and overwhelming objection, by the way, is also one of several objections to something you may be tempted to think about, an originator that does change or develop over time.

One more remark here. Some of the philosophers who try to save Free Will by way of a self make use of a certain old idea taken from religion and theology. They even make use of the idea to try to define or explain the nature of a self. It is the idea of God as self-causing or cause-of-himself. What the philosophers of Free Will say about the self is that it, and certainly not an event in or of it, causes itself to make a decision — or something like that. It is hard for me to believe that time needs to be spent on trying to make sense of such stuff, wherever it turns up. Surely it does not make as much sense, even, as talk of causes as things that make other events probable, talk of causes as only required conditions, and so on.

My reason for this impatience is that causation as we know it, whatever it is, and all ideas of causation other than this one of self-causation, involve a relation between two things, a dyadic relation between two non-identical things. That is what you can call an axiom about causation. So if someone talks of exactly C causing exactly C, they are not talking at all of the sort of thing we know something about. They need to start explaining from the beginning, rather than assume they can start with a certain understanding on our part.

Can this bundle of problems be dealt with by making a certain move? Can we help out advocates of Free Will by offering them the use of our clearer ideas of causation? Of standard or ordinary causation?

In fact, have at least some of us not implicitly been thinking of the originator as something like a causal circumstance? Certainly this is natural. It avoids some difficulties, since it is satisfactorily impossible to think that a whole causal circumstance persists through time but has its effect only at one moment rather than another. It is also satisfactorily impossible to think that a causal circumstance can give rise to a multitude of different things, and at one moment to opposite things. But despite advantages, we simply cannot take the originator as a causal circumstance. It doesn't guarantee anything. Is there another possibility? What if we think of an originator as just a cause, just a part of a causal circumstance?

We now have an idea of Free Will, very different indeed from the model we have been considering. The originator becomes one constant or ongoing element of various causal circumstances for decisions. The other items in each particular circumstance might be different mental events, including desires, inclinations, and so on. We certainly face a difficulty. If such a causal circumstance really is a causal circumstance, then one particular decision and no other has to be the upshot. If it is to serve the ends of a Free Will theory, we are going to have to make the new story very different, and very mysterious.

It will have to be that when everything else is in place for a decision, it is up to the originator whether or not to pull its weight. Certainly an originator has traditionally been thought to be able to defeat desires, go against the person's whole nature, rise over the past, choose the path of duty, and so on. But then we seem to be back with the originator as decisive by itself, again something like a causal circumstance — which in fact it can't be. We get pretty much the same bafflements as before. How could what is unchanging give rise to something or its opposite? What is this obscure activity?

We do not get out of these various difficulties about the relation between an originator and decisions by turning to seemingly different conceptions of an originator, perhaps as a faculty of the mind called the Will, or an active power, or the Self-Conscious Mind. If is not clear what these entities are, but it does seem that the different ways of talking simply inherit the various difficulties. The Will, for example, is sometimes said to be a rational disposition (Kenny 1975). Such a thing has the power to produce something all by itself, but it may not. But then what are we to understand about its working when it does work? Why does it work at one time rather than another? How can it give rise to a different and opposite decision from the one it does give rise to? All this seems to be the same mystery again.

One summary of the mystery is that we are given no explanation of why or how decisions and the like are supposed to come about, and thus given no content to talk of their being in our control, or their being such that we are responsible for them. The sad fact is that these theories seem to fall back into being what we noticed earlier, and what they must of course try to add to, the idea owed to Quantum Theory that decisions and choices are a matter of mere chance events. This falling-back does indeed wreck responsibility and dignity and special rights and so on.

In my opinion the least embarrassing response to the request for an explanation of the relation between an originator and decisions is that an explanation cannot be given. We have to regard this relation as primitive or unanalysable. The situation is to be taken as like one with a language or a logical system. Not every term can be broken down into others — there has to be at least one term that is taken as clear without being explained in terms of others. We start with that and explain other things in terms of it.

What this response comes to is that there exists a relation between an originator and a decision such that the person in question can in a way be he responsible for the decision. More can be said about what it is to hold a person responsible, but nothing can be said about the relation itself. We just somehow understand it. This may seem suspicious, or a cop-out, and of course it does not help with the two earlier problems, about inconsistency in connection with probability and the very nature of an originator. But it is a possible position. Something like it it is held by a very acute philosopher who has been to the fore among Incompatibilists. Freedom is incompatible with determinism, he said, but this freedom remains a mystery (van Inwagen 2002).

After all this, it may come as no surprise, despite the temptations of the idea of an originator, that there are philosophers of Free Will who have given up entirely on the idea. They argue for origination without an originator or self. They have no truck with a non event or unchanging substance somehow giving rise to choices and decisions. They have nothing to say about self-causation. They take S right out of our model and try to make satisfactory sense of the decision in other ways. The general idea is that you can explain Free Will and save the desired kind of responsibility just by seeing that items like M3, N3, M4, N4, and A stand in certain relations. By such means you can explain why or how decisions come about and are in our control and why we are in a way responsible for them.

Of the various relations mentioned, perhaps the simplest is that a choice or decision, although it is not a standard effect, is owed to a reason. This reason may be identified somehow with a belief, a desire, a combination of those two, an intention, or something of the sort. To go back to the little model, but with S taken out of it, what explains M4, Juliet's deciding to say to Tony that they should have a child, is her reason, M3 — something like the look of him that happy morning. Indeterminism was true of the whole episode. It may be added, bravely, that M4 was not an effect in any sense at all, however special. M4 is explained just by the reason for it (cf. Ginet; Nozick; Searle 2000).

This certainly seems to fail. Speaking very generally, we have two ideas of reasons, the first being of what it is natural to call good reasons. Such a reason is a proposition that makes another proposition true. Take a first proposition that itself has two parts: if I am an uncle then someone is my nephew or niece, and I am an uncle. That is a conclusive reason for a second proposition: I do have a nephew or niece. Of course the first proposition does not cause the second — because, for a start, neither proposition is an event, something that happens. Also, the relation between the reason and the conclusion, as we say, is just a logical one.

Our second idea of a reason is of a belief or desire or whatever, a conscious event, that causes another such event, say another belief or a choice or decision. Such a reason may have as its content a reason in the first sense — a good reason. But the later event does not occur because of that logical relation, but rather because it is the effect of the earlier event. One proof is that the logical relation could exist, and the person in fact think of the good reason, without the second event's happening at all. We aren't always logical.

What follows from this is that if you try to explain an event by citing a reason, you are already in the business of giving a causal explanation of some sort. If you deny that you are in this business, you need to begin to try to tell a whole new story. You can't depend on reasons where they are no more than terms of logical relations. You need an explanation of events.

There are other attempts to make a relation of origination clear. Some use the ideas noticed in connection with an originator. A decision is said to be self-causing. Or it is said to be an effect only in the sense that it was preceded by something that made it probable, or was a required condition for it, or had an uncertain power to produce it, or was something like a 'usual cause'. If we no longer face the awful problems having to do with an unchanging originator sailing through time, we do have other problems with these ideas.

The main one is that these various items simply seem to fail to give us an explanation of the choice or decision. We get no reason to think that the choice or decision is in the control of the person. The simple fact is that we are to understand that the earlier event could have occurred entirely without the so-called effect. That must be true because all that is said is consistent with the assumed indeterminism — there being no causal circumstance for the so-called effect, no necessitation of it.

This is not necessarily the slightly controversial claim that all explanations of events are standard causal explanations. Rather, it can be the proposition that if you give up standard causation, you really do need to supply some other general idea of explanation. You can't leave a hole where there was something before. And you can't fill the hole by giving it the name of being some sort of funny cause. Funny causes, by definition, don't say why things actually happen.

As it seems to me, this is the situation of the philosopher (Kane 2002b) who has laboured most manfully to explain origination without recourse to an originator. To talk of choices and decisions as events in the sense of being probable, he adds a good deal. Choices and decisions are the results of efforts, the outcomes of struggles, the upshots of willings, the resolving of conflicts between duty and desire. They are, perhaps most importantly, self-forming actions.

All this is conveyed to us as if these descriptions themselves are supposed to give us an explanation of the coming-about of the decisions. But if the various verbs and locutions are deprived of a standard causal content, which they must be, and given only some content having to do with probabilities, the choices and decisions remain unexplained. For all that has been said, any one of them might never have happened.

That is not all that can be said at this point, particularly about the matter of probability and effects. Probability is a difficult and disputed subject, as was remarked earlier, even if it is clear that an event's having been made probable by something is not the same as the thing's having been a causal circumstance for it. But this is consistent with another clear and good idea — the possibility that our talk of the probability of an event's happening actually presupposes and depends on there really being a standard causal explanation of the event. This bad news for Free Will philosophy is roughly as follows.

What is it for an earlier event A to have made it 95 per cent probable that a later event B would occur? A good idea about this has to do with the fact, of which you have already heard, that typically we don't know exactly and fully what is in a causal circumstance for B. And that typically we have a pretty good idea. We know in what situation a causal circumstance tends to occur.

Suppose it has been our experience that in 95 per cent of the situations in which event A occurred, it was followed by B. We say B is 95 per cent probable with respect to A, and what this means is just that in 95 per cent of the situations in which A occurs, there is precisely a causal circumstance for B. That leaves B as just probable with respect to A, and not the effect of A as a causal circumstance. But the fact of probability simply presupposes that B is the standard effect of something. As I say, bad news if you want to put probability together with indeterminism.

Let us notice just one other attempt to make sense of origination. Some advocates of Free Will, including the philosopher lateiy mentioned, have said that decisions are explained teleologically, that is, in terms of their goal. They are explained by what they lead to. This ancient line of thought is owed to the fact that we can indeed say things like this: Birds have hollow bones because that enables them to fly better and We perspire because that reduces our bodily temperature. But this talk, as almost everyone agrees, ca of really give us the conclusion that effects by themselves explain their causes. That seems to be an astonishing idea.

Attempts have been made to make teleology less astonishing (G. A. Cohen). They have not succeeded, and nothing is going to get us to agree that the occurrence of a decision is explained just by what it results in. In connection with the birds and our perspiration, what will come to mind is an evolutionary story, which really is standardly causal. To say birds have hollow bones because that enables them to fly better is to say there is an evolutionary explanation of the hollow bones — some types of creature have survived because of the advantage to their predecessors of their hollow bones. If we turn the Free Will theory's teleological explanation into some standard causal one, however, we will defeat its main purpose (Honderich 1982).

Last but not least, it is likely that a Free Will theory really cannot get rid of the embarrassment of an originator. It has to have something that is going to be responsible. A past decision itself, whether it was probable or self-causing or teleological or anything else, isn't what we hold responsible for actions or give a kind of moral credit to for actions. If a philosopher says it is not a person in an ordinary sense who is responsible, something of certain traits, desires and so an, he will indeed need to offer us something more than a choice or decision in certain relations. We don't put past decisions in jail either.

Have I been too hard on the philosophy of Free Will, too judgementaI? Well, have a look for yourself at efforts to set out clear, consistent and complete accounts (Kane 2002a; O'Connor 1995b). As for our project of setting out a determinist philosophy, we need to finish it by looking at the relation of conscious events to subsequent actions. We will then come to a final judgement about the clarity, consistency, and completeness of the two philosophies, and then really look at the question which has already been pushing in, their truth.


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