Robert Hilary Kane
Robert Kane is the acknowledged dean of the libertarian philosophers writing actively on the free will problem. Before Kane, in the late twentieth century, Anglo-American philosophers had largely dismissed free will as a "pseudo-problem." Although, like the others, Kane does not find any libertarian position "intelligible," he developed the view that even if most of our actions are determined entirely by our character, these actions can be free if we at times in the past freely created our own character (and if we remain free to change it) with what he calls "self-forming actions" (SFAs). This was Aristotle's view and agrees with Buddhist ideas of Karma.
In addition to his work to find some pathway through the "free will labyrinth" to an intelligible account of freedom, Kane has assembled in his massive 2002 sourcebook The Oxford Handbook of Free Will perhaps the best survey of modern positions on free will, from theology and fatalism to metaphysical libertarian perspectives. The Handbook has contributions from over two dozen contemporary philosophers with strong ideas about free will. Sadly most continue to be wordy jargon-laden debates and attempts to logically refute one position or another. They reflect the fact that Peter Strawson changed the subject of the discussions from free will to moral responsibility and Harry Frankfurt changed the debate from free will to the existence of alternative possibilities. Many of the writers tend to conflate free will and moral responsibility. They describe free will as the "control condition" of moral responsibility. This is a conceptual error. Free will is indeed a prerequisite for responsibility. But whether an action is moral is a question for ethicists, not for psychologists and neuroscientists who want to know the nature of the mind and its capacity for free creations, deliberations, decision, intentions, and actions. That there is little new and that it is dismissive of freedom as unintelligible, makes the Oxford Handbook an accurate reflection of the current state of the free will problem. Kane insightfully remarks "One may legitimately wonder why worries about determinism persist at all in the twenty-first century, when the physical sciences - once the stronghold of determinist thinking - seem to have turned away from determinism." Kane's most original contribution to the free-will debates is his example of a decision that is indeterminate, but for which the agent can properly claim moral responsibility. Normally, chance as the direct cause of an action compromises agent control and therefore any responsibility. But in the case of what Kane calls a "torn decision," the agent may have excellent reasons for choosing "either way." In such a case, the agent can choose randomly (Kane defends the possibility of irreducible quantum indeterminism), yet properly take responsibility for either option. Kane calls this "dual (or plural) rational control." Kane says that this type of torn decision is involved in his self-forming actions (SFAs), which form the basis for an agent's "ultimate responsibility" (UR). By ultimate responsibility Kane means that the sources or origins of our actions lie "in us" rather than in something else (such as decrees of fate, foreordained acts of God, or antecedent causes and laws of nature) which are outside us and beyond our control. For Kane, ultimate responsibility is the core idea in the traditional definition of free will. He says:
Free will, in the traditional sense I want to retrieve (and the sense in which the term will be used throughout this book), is the power of agents to be the ultimate creators (or originators) and sustainers of their own ends or purposes. This notion should be distinguished from free action, and not simply because free will is a power. To act freely is to be unhindered in the pursuit of your purposes (which are usually expressed by intentions); to will freely, in this traditional sense, is to be the ultimate creator (prime mover, so to speak) of your own purposes. Such a notion of ultimate creator of purposes is obscure, to be sure — many would say it is unintelligible - but there is little doubt that it has fueled intuitions about free will from the beginning. Its meaning can be captured initially by an image: when we trace the causal or explanatory chains of action back to their sources in the purposes of free agents, these causal chains must come to an end or terminate in the willings (choices, decisions, or efforts) of the agents, which cause or bring about their purposes. If these willings were in turn caused by something else, so that the explanatory chains could be traced back further to heredity or environment, to God, or fate, then the ultimacy would not lie with the agents but with something else. It is owing to such an image that free will has traditionally been associated with moral responsibility in a deep sense that entails, as Galen Strawson has put it, that we are "truly deserving of praise and blame" because it is "truly up to us" what we do, in the sense that we are the "ultimate, buck-stopping originator[s] of our actions. The idea is that the ultimate responsibility lies where the ultimate cause is — where the buck stops. This is the traditional image of free will (which Strawson, along with many others, finds problematic). Such an image also accounts for the association of free will with human dignity, expressed in the religious traditions by saying that humans are made in the image of God — being creators ab initio of at least some things in the universe, their own purposes and the actions issuing from those purposes — and by Kant when he inferred that humans are to be treated as "ends in themselves" because they are the originators of their own ends or purposes.Kane argues that the alternative possibilities (AP) generated in two-stage models of free will are not enough to make the case for incompatibilism. It is ultimate responsibility (UR) that he says is required for free will. Ultimate responsibility requires that some of our actions are self-forming actions (SFAs). In turn, our self-forming actions require plural rational control in our decisions. And it is the plural rational control that requires alternative possibilities (AP). UR is fundamentally prior to AP. Much of Kane's work has been to establish the role of quantum indeterminacy in making at least some of our actions undetermined. He describes the need for indeterminism as a thesis on UR that he calls the "Free Agency Principle":
T16 (on UR) ("The Free Agency Principle"): In the attempt to formulate an incompatibilist or libertarian account of free agency that will satisfy the plurality conditions and UR, we shall not appeal to categories or kinds of entities (substances, properties, relations, events, states, etc.) that are not also needed by nonlibertarian (compatibilist or determinist) accounts of free agency satisfying the plurality conditions. The only difference allowed between libertarian and nonlibertarian accounts is the difference one might expect — that some of the events or processes involved in libertarian free agency will be indeterminate or undetermined events or processes. But these undetermined events or processes will not otherwise be of categories or ontological kinds that do not also play roles in nonlibertarian accounts of free agency (such as choices, decisions, efforts, practical judgments, and the like) — the difference being that in nonlibertarian theories, these events or processes need not be undetermined. Such differences as there are between libertarian and nonlibertarian theories should flow from this difference alone and the task will be to make sense of a libertarian freedom satisfying the plurality conditions, given this difference.In his 1985 book Free Will and Values, aware of earlier proposals by John Eccles, Karl Popper, and Daniel Dennett, but working independently, Kane proposed an ambitious amplifier model for a quantum randomizer in the brain - a spinning wheel of fortune with probability bubbles corresponding to alternative possibilities, in the massive switch amplifier (MSA) tradition of Arthur Holly Compton and A. O. Gomes. Kane's work is squarely in the tradition of several other brain mechanisms proposed to underlie freedom of the will.
Kane says (Free Will and Values, p.169):
What I would like to do then, is to show how an MSA [massive switch amplifier] model, using Eccles' notion of critically poised neurons as a working hypothesis, might be adapted to the theory of practical, moral and prudential decision making. Keeping these points in mind, let us now suppose that there are neurons in the brain "critically poised" in Eccles' sense, whose probability of firing within a small interval of time is .5. (We shall tamper with this simplifying assumption in a moment.) For every n such neurons, there are 2n possible ordered combinations of firings and non-firings, which may be represented by sequences, such as (101... ), (01101... ), where the "1" 's indicate firings, the "0" 's non-firings, and the dots indicate that the sequences are continued with "0" 's up to n figures. A reasonably small number of such neurons, say a dozen, would yield ordered combinations, in the thousands, enough for the purposes of the theory. As indicated in 8.4, the exact number of possible alternatives or partitionings does not matter so long as it is large; it would likely depend on the exigencies of neurological programming rather than the demands of the theory. For practical choice, these ordered combinations of firings and non-firings of critically poised neurons would correspond to places on a spinning wheel, most of which would give rise to chance selected considerations, opening doors to consciousness of possibly relevant memories, triggering associations of ideas and/or images, focussing attention in various ways, etc. Some combinations of firings and non-firings might draw a blank. But the wheel would keep spinning until it hit something worth considering, so long as the practical reasoner or creative thinker were in a receptive, yet reflective, state of mind. Then the relevance of the consideration to deliberation would have to be assessed and the consideration either accepted or rejected.Kane introduces a probability bubble.
One might think of this as a picture of an air bubble in a glass tube filled with a liquid, with the lines A and B marked on the outside of the glass as on an ordinary carpenter's level. But this description is merely an aid to the imagination. We are going to give the bubble some extraordinary properties. The bubble may represent either the desire to choose to act from duty (out of equal respect) or the effort made to realize this desire in choice. The respective desire and effort are conceptually related because the desire is defined as the disposition to make the effort; and the intensity of the desire is measured by the intensity of the effort. The lines A and B in the figure represent choice thresholds. If the bubble passes above the line A, the choice is made to act from duty; if it passes below B, the choice is made to act on self interested motives. When the bubble is between the lines, as in the figure, no choice has yet been made. A downward pull of gravity in the figure may be thought to represent the natural pull of one's self interested motives, which must be counteracted by an effort to resist temptation. There is an ambiguity, essential to our problem, about what it means to say that the bubble "passes above" the line A, or "below" the line B. If the bubble passes above A, or below B, then the choice is made to act from duty, or from self interest, respectively. But does this mean that the bubble must be wholly, or only partly, above A, or below B? It is here that we give the bubble some extraordinary properties. We imagine that the bubble represents a probability space, so that, when it is partly above A, there is a corresponding probability, but not certain that the choice is mate to act from duty, and when it is partly below B there is a corresponding probability, but not certainty, that the choice is made to act from self interest. When the bubble is wholly above A (or below B), it is certain that the choice is made to act from duty (or self interest). We then imagine a point particle in the probability space (the bubble) that moves around randomly, while always remaining within the space. That is, it has an equal probability of appearing in any one of a number of equal sized regions in the space. (There will be further comment on this partitioning and its significance in a moment.) If part of the bubble is above the line A for a certain time and the point particle is in regions all of which are wholly above the line for the same length of time, then the choice is made to act from duty (and similarly for line B). To complicate matters further, we want to assume that the bubble or probability space does not have an exact position vis a vis the thresholds at any given time and that this inexactness of position is also due to the undetermined movement of the point particle in the regions. There are a number of ways to represent this in the diagram, but the simplest way is the following. Imagine, as in the following figure, that the choice thresholds A and B have indeterminate position so that they can be anywhere between (or on) the extremes A'-A" and B'-B" respectively: The distances between any two possible threshold positions for A (or any two for B) are equal and each possible threshold position corresponds to a region in the bubble such that, if the point particle is in that region, the threshold is at the corresponding position. But adjacent regions in the bubble need not correspond to adjacent positions of the thresholds and higher or lower regions of the bubble need not correspond to higher and lower threshold positions respectively.Kane's model combines free will and values. Kane claimed his free choice is moral and made in accord with Kant's concept of duty versus one's self-interest or desires. This is the What all this means is that the intensity of the effort to overcome temptation at any given time, which is measure of the intensity of the desire to act from duty (represented by the position of the bubble vis a vis the thresholds and the position of the point particle within the bubble) is indeterminate. And, as a consequence, the outcome of the choice situation at a given time is undetermined and unpredictable as long as the bubble is not wholly above A' or wholly below B".ethical fallacy. Freedom is merely a prerequisite for responsibility. And responsibility is a prerequisite for moral responsibility. Kane even relates equiprobability to a basis for human equality.
"the succession of random selections among equiprobable alternatives is meant to be a continuing reminder (a mental or neurological representation) of the fact that the reason sets of other persons are to be treated equally."Kane's model is also "restrictive," a term coined by John Martin Fischer to describe Peter van Inwagen's claim that only a tiny fraction of our decisions and actions could be free actions. For van Inwagen, it is those which have closely balanced alternatives (the ancient problem of the liberty of indifference. For Kane, it is those rare and difficult decisions that are deeply moral. They are those moments in which are character is formed. Later decisions made consistent with our character and values can then be traced back to these "self-forming actions." This provides us with what Kane calls ultimate responsibility or UR.
The first step in this rethinking is to note that indeterminism does not have to be involved in all acts done "of our own free wills" for which we are ultimately responsible. Not all acts done of our own free wills have to be undetermined, only those acts by which we made ourselves into the kinds of persons we are—namely, the "will-setting" or "self-forming actions" (SFAs) that are required for ultimate responsibility. Now I believe that these undetermined self-forming actions, or SFAs, occur at those difficult times of life when we are torn between competing visions of what we should do or become. Perhaps we are torn between doing the moral thing or acting from ambition, or between powerful present desires and long-term goals; or we may be faced with difficult tasks for which we have aversions. In all such cases of difficult self-forming choices in our lives, we are faced with competing motivations and have to make an effort to overcome the temptation to do something else we also strongly want. There is tension and uncertainty in our minds about what to do at such times, let us suppose, that is reflected in appropriate regions of our brains by movement away from thermodynamic equilibrium—in short, a kind of "stirring up of chaos" in the brain that makes it sensitive to micro-indeterminacies at the neuronal level. The uncertainty and inner tension we feel at such soul-searching moments of self-formation would thus be reflected in the indeterminacy of our neural processes themselves. What we experience internally as uncertainty about what to do on such occasions would correspond physically to the opening of a window of opportunity that temporarily screens off complete determination by influences of the past.Kane is not satisfied with his solution. He explains that the main reason for failure is
"locating the master switch and the mechanism of amplification...We do not know if something similar goes on in the brains of cortically developed creatures like ourselves, but I suspect it must if libertarian theories are to succeed."Kane admits that the basic difficulty is the location of indeterminism in the decision process itself. This makes chance the direct cause of action. But Kane claims that the major criticism of all indeterminist libertarian models is explaining the power to choose or do otherwise in "exactly the same conditions," something he calls "dual rational self-control." Given that A was the rational choice, how can one defend doing B under exactly the same circumstances?" (p.59) Kane is concerned that such a "dual power" is arbitrary, capricious, and irrational. Apart from the fact that information-rich systems with a history are never in the exact same conditions, and ignoring the fact that random alternative possibilities are unlikely to repeat, an adequately determined will would very likely make the same choice, for the same reasons, from the same set of alternative possibilities. But it might on the other hand exercise its irrational prerogative! We humans are unpredictable, which makes us occasionally capricious and arbitrary. So why the problem? In his 1985 book, Free Will and Values, Kane also considered the two-stage models of Karl Popper (as described by Popper in his Arthur Holly Compton memorial lecture, "Of Clouds and Clocks"), and Daniel Dennett (as presented in his Brainstorms chapter, "On Giving Libertarians What They Say They Want"). Kane described these two-stage models as a "significant piece in the overall puzzle of a libertarian freedom." (p.104) But he thought them limited to practical decision making, and not suitable for moral decision making, which require his dual rational control and chance in the decision itself to provide "ultimate responsibility" (UR). Given the randomly generated alternative possibilities in the first stage of the model, Kane thought that an agent would be determined in the second stage to choose the best available option. But note that the agent would not be pre-determined, even from moments just before deliberations began. As John Locke noted, the will itself can be determined, it need not itself be free in the sense of random. It is the man that is free, not the will, said Locke. In his 1995 book The Significance of Free Will Kane again invokes quantum events in the brain at the moment of decision:
We now turn to the second part of an answer to the question of how prior reasons or motives can explain the effort to resist temptation without also explaining the choice that terminates the effort. We must now look at this "effort of will" (to resist moral of prudential temptation) that intervenes between prior reasons or motives, on the one hand, and the resulting choice, on the other.Kane's mistake here is the same as Arthur Stanley Eddington's error in 1928 - making an analogy between human freedom and "free" electrons. He then adds chaos to amplify the microscopic quantum indeterminacy up to the macroscopic neurons. This is making chance the direct cause of the decision.T24 (on FW): Let its suppose that the effort of will (to resist temptation) in moral and prudential choice situations of T22 and T23 is (an) indeterminate (event or process), thereby making the choice that terminates it undetermined.Consider a quantum analogue. Imagine an isolated particle, such as an electron, moving toward a thin atomic barrier. Whether or not the particle will penetrate the barrier is undetermined. There is a probability that it will penetrate, but not a certainty, because its position and momentum are not both determinate as it moves toward the barrier. Imagine that the choice (to overcome temptation) is like the penetration event. The choice one way or the other is undetermined because the process preceding it and potentially terminating in it (i.e., the effort of will to overcome temptation) is indeterminate.
But this quantum analogy is merely that — an analogy. Our efforts of will most likely correspond to complex processes in our brains that are macro processes involving many neuron firings and connections. Since we know that the effects of quantum level fluctuations are usually negligible at the macro level, how can these efforts be indeterminate? One way to begin thinking about this issue is to imagine that the neural processes occurring when the efforts are being made are chaotic processes, in the sense of what is nowadays called "chaos theory." In chaotic systems, very minute changes in initial conditions grow exponentially into large differences in final outcome, a phenomenon called "sensitivity to initial conditions." The ubiquity of chaotic systems in nature is now widely recognized, and there is growing interest in the chaotic behavior of the brain at many levels, from the transmission of impulses along individual nerve fibers, to the functioning of neural networks, to general patterns of brain waves. But chaotic behavior, though unpredictable, is not necessarily indeterministic. In fact, chaos theory has shown that one can have determinism without predictability. Yet chaos theory may nonetheless be significant for discussions of human freedom, if quantum indeterminacy is also brought into the picture.Kane describes the tension during "torn" decisions as stirring up deterministic chaos. He makes the deterministic chaos sensitive to quantum indeterminacy at the neuronal level (in a way similar to John Eccles's ideas).
T25 (on FW): Imagine that the indeterminate efforts of will of T24 are complex chaotic processes in the brain, involving neural networks that are globally sensitive to quantum indeterminacies at the neuronal level. Persons experience these complex processes phenomenologically as "efforts of will" they are making to resist temptation in moral and prudential situations. The efforts are provoked by the competing motives and conflicts within the wills of the persons described in T22 and T23. These conflicts create tensions that are reflected in appropriate regions of the brain by movement further from thermodynamic equilibrium, which increases the sensitivity to micro indeterminacies at the neuronal level and magnifies the indeterminacies throughout the complex macro process which, taken as a whole, is the agent's effort of will. T26 (on FW): In effect, conflicts of will of the kinds described in T22 and 23 stir up chaos in the brain and make the agents' thought processes more sensitive to undetermined influences. The result is that, in soul-searching moments moral and prudential struggle, when agents are torn between conflicting visions of what they should become (that is, on the occasions of self-forming willings, or SFWs), the outcomes are influenced by, but not determined by, past motives and character. The uncertainty and inner tension that agents feel at such moments are reflected in the indeterminacy Of their neural processes.
Two Cosmological MysteriesKane describes consciousness and the indeterminacy needed for free will as "cosmological problems" that are equally "mysterious." He says that while free agency "does not require mind/body dualism to account for free will, neither does it allow one to describe deliberations, efforts, choices, and other mental goings on merely as physico-chemical processes, whether they are undetermined or determined." He asks
Kane is absolutely right about this. As long as there doubt among physicists about quantum uncertainty, philosophers have every right to doubt its ability to help solve the problem of free will and determinism. Kane is one of many philosophers to suggest that the two mysteries - consciousness and indeterminate free will - must be connected. Although some say that is trying to solve one mystery with another, Kane notes that William Hasker suggested that we try"But now the suspicion arises that you are exchanging one mystery for another. In place of the usual libertarian stuff, such as agent-causes, noumenal selves, or mind/body dualism, you are giving us the mysteries of indeterministic efforts of will - described physically as indeterminate processes that are happening in the brain, but phenomenologically as something the agents are doing...Perhaps dual-aspect theories of this kind are an improvement over substance dualisms, but they are scarcely without their own mysteries. How can a physical process of the brain be at the same time a consciously experienced effort of will?" Well, this is a puzzle, all right, but it is part of the larger riddle of consciousness, ' which is troubling no matter what position is taken on free will: how can thoughts, sensations, perceptions, or any other conscious events — including efforts of will and choices — be at the same time physical processes of the brain? This is a problem whether you are a compatibilist or incompatibilist, or whether you think brain processes are determined or not. As I said earlier, the goal of these chapters is not to eliminate all mystery from free will. Rather, it is to eliminate mysteries that are created by taking a distinctively libertarian view of free will — as opposed to mysteries that confront everyone, no matter what their position on free will. Indeterministic efforts are mysterious because they partake of several deep cosmological problems that are problems for everyone, not just libertarians. One of these problems is "the mind/body problem," including at its core the "problem of consciousness": how can thoughts, perceptions, and other conscious experiences — including efforts of will — be brain processes? But this is a problem whether you are a compatibilist or incompatibilist, libertarian or nonlibertarian. It is no less mysterious how neural firings in the brain could be conscious mental events if they are determined than if they are undetermined, or if they involve undetermined chaotic processes than if they do not. I said that the view presented here does not attempt to eliminate all mystery from free will, but only such mysteries as are created by taking a distinctively libertarian view of it. And I added that the indeterministic efforts required by free will are mysterious because they partake of several deep cosmological problems that are problems for everyone, not just libertarians. I can now say that I think there are at least two such cosmological problems with which free will is deeply implicated, both of which have been central to philosophical discussions throughout much of this century. The first is the problem of consciousness already mentioned. I now add... "The Second Cosmological Problem" of which free will partakes is the problem of genuine indeterminacy-in-nature, which is pretty mysterious as well. How can wave/particles such as electrons have indeterminate trajectories in which their position and momentum cannot both be exact at the same time? How can physical systems in general have indeterminate properties? We know that great scientists, some of whom were in on the founding of quantum physics, such as Planck, Einstein, and De Broglie, could not accept the inexact trajectories, the indeterminacy, and other related mysteries of the quantum world, They hoped by way of hidden variables or some new theory to get back to the exactness and determinacy of the classical picture. I suggest that we should expect the same resistance and puzzlement over indeterminate efforts of within free will debates as indeterminate trajectories received from skeptical physicists when they were first introduced. Indeterminate efforts force us to view human actions and life histories in unaccustomed ways, just as indeterminate trajectories and properties force us to view the physical world in strange and novel ways.
to understand the nature of conscious experience and its unity (our first cosmological problem), as well as to understand how consciousness and mind are related, if at all, to the indeterminacy of natural processes (our second cosmological problem). In other words, it is possible that the ultimate understanding [lies] in the connection between the two cosmological problems — between consciousness and quantum reality. So I concede that indeterminate efforts are mysterious. But I want to suggest that their mysteriousness partakes of the difficulties of understanding (i) consciousness and (ii) quantum indeterminacy — two of the central cosmological problems of the age. And these two problems, we should note, are problems for everyone; they are not problems specifically created by libertarian theories of freedom. Nor should it surprise us that free will (which Kant regarded as the central "cosmological" problem) should be intimately related to these two other cosmological enigmas.
In 2005, Kane wrote a perceptive analysis of a two-stage solution for free will like our Cogito mind model and the suggestions of William James, Henri Poincaré, Arthur Holly Compton, A.O. Gomes, Karl Popper, Henry Margenau, Daniel Dennett, and Alfred Mele.
The final libertarian theory I want to consider in this chapter takes a very different approach to explaining libertarian free choices. This view rejects both simple indeterminism and agent-causation. Instead it focuses on the process of deliberation. When we deliberate, for example, about where to vacation or which law firm to join, many different thoughts, images, feelings, memories, imagined scenarios, and other considerations pass through our minds. Deliberation can be quite a complex process. When Mike thinks about Hawaii, he pictures himself surfing, walking on sunny beaches, eating in his favorite Hawaiian restaurants; and these various thoughts incline him to choose Hawaii. But he also thinks about skiing, sitting by a fireplace after a long day on the slopes, and visiting with friends he knows in Colorado; and he leans toward Colorado. Back and forth he goes, until after a period of time considerations on one side outweigh the others and he finally chooses one option. (Unless, of course he is one of those indecisive types who finds it hard to make up his mind.) In the course of such deliberations — which may sometimes take hours or days and may be interrupted by daily activities — new thoughts, memories or images can often come to mind that influence our deliberations. Mike may suddenly remember a lively nightclub he visited in Honolulu when he was last there — great music, great girls — and the idea of going back to this place gives him an added reason to favor Hawaii, a reason that hadn't previously entered his deliberation. Other images that flit through his mind may turn him against Hawaii. Imagining himself out on the beach all day, suddenly he remembers his doctor's warning about not getting too much sun if he wants to avoid skin cancer. Now one could imagine that some of these various thoughts, memories, and imagined scenarios that come to mind during our deliberations are undetermined and arise by chance and that some of these "chance selected considerations" might make a difference in how we decide. If this were to happen in Mike's case, the course of his deliberation, hence his choice, would be undetermined and unpredictable. A Laplacian demon could not know in advance which way Mike would go, even if the demon knew all the facts about the universe prior to Mike's deliberation, for these facts would not determine the outcome. Yet Mike would still have control over his choice in a certain sense. He could not control all the thoughts and imagined scenarios that come to mind by chance. But he would be in control of how he reacted to those thoughts and imaginings once they did occur. And his choice of Hawaii in the end would be perfectly rational, not arbitrary, if the weight of all the considerations that did come to mind (some of them by chance) weighed in favor of Hawaii. In this way, choices could thus be controlled and rational even though indeterminism was involved in the deliberations leading up to them. A view of this kind is called causal indeterminism or event–causal libertarianism, for it allows that our thoughts, images, memories, beliefs, desires, and other reasons may be causes of our choices or actions without necessarily determining choices and actions; and yet this view does not postulate any extra kind of agent-causation either. Two philosophers who have suggested causal indeterminist views of this kind (without endorsing them), Daniel Dennett and Alfred Mele, argue that a view of this kind would give libertarians at least some of the important things they demand about free will. Such a view, for example, provides for an "open future," such as we think we have when we exercise free will. We would not have to think that our choices and the future direction of our lives had somehow been decided long before we were born. Nor would it be possible for behavioral engineers to completely control our behavior as in Walden Two or for Laplacian demons to know what we were going to do, if chance considerations might enter our deliberations.It is unfortunate that Kane did not accept Dennett's ideas for "giving libertarians what they want." He might have reconciled many libertarians and compatibilists. Instead, Kane wants something more - indeterminism in the decision itself - so that our actions are not determined by our prior deliberations and alternative possibilities, however much these are our own creations.
Yet, as Dennett and Mele also admit, a causal indeterminist view of this deliberative kind does not give us everything libertarians have wanted from free will. For Mike does not have complete control over what chance images and other thoughts enter his mind or influence his deliberation. They simply come as they please. Mike does have some control after the chance considerations have occurred.Kane seems to want his freedom both ways. He wants the agent to "control which of the chance events occur" and he also wants chance to be involved at the decision stage to prevent its being "determined." But the place for chance is in the first stage, where alternative possibilities are generated. And control is only needed in the second stage, where decisions and choices are made. Nevertheless, Kane adds randomness to our choices to produce what he calls "dual (or plural) rational control" over our actions. But then there is no more chance involved. What happens from then on, how he reacts, is determined by desires and beliefs he already has. So it appears that he does not have control in the libertarian sense of what happens after the chance considerations occur as well. Libertarians require more than this for full responsibility and free will. What they would need for free will is for the agent to be able to control which of the chance events occur rather than merely reacting to them in a determined way once they have occurred. Yet, as Mele points out, while this causal indeterminist view does not give us all the control and responsibility that libertarians have wanted, it does give us many of the things they crave about free will (an open future, a break in the causal order, etc.). And it is clearly a possible view. Perhaps it could be further developed to give us more; or perhaps this is as much as libertarians can hope for.
When we wonder about whether agents have freedom of will (rather than merely freedom of action), what interests us is not merely whether they could have done otherwise, even if the doing otherwise is undetermined, but whether they could have done otherwise voluntarily (or willingly), intentionally, and rationally. Or, more generally, we are interested in whether they could have acted in more than one way voluntarily, intentionally, and rationally, rather than only in one way voluntarily, and so on, and in other ways merely by accident or mistake, unintentionally or irrationally. (p. 128)Kane does notice that our thoughts "come to us" unbidden and that control, in the second stage, insures that our actions "come from us." Our willed actions "depend on us," as Aristotle required. Kane has an illustrated version of the standard argument against free will. He describes the usual determinism and randomness objections (the two horns of the Libertarian Dilemma) as the ascent and descent of what he calls "Incompatibilism Mountain." (A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, p.34) The ascent problem is to show free will is incompatible with determinism. The descent problem is to show that free will is compatible with indeterminism. In earlier works Kane described ascent as "the compatibility question" and descent as "the intelligibility problem." This is similar to what we do in a critical analysis of the standard argument against free will, in our two-stage model for free will, and in our requirements for free will. Free will is incompatible with strict causal determinism, but it actually requires an adequate determinism for moral responsibility. And free will is compatible with an indeterminism that generates alternative possibilities without making chance the direct cause of actions. In a recent work (Four Views on Free Will, 2007), Kane defends Libertarianism and again suggests that his occasional self-forming actions might involve a tension and uncertainty in our minds that stirs up a "chaos" which is sensitive to micro-indeterminacies at the neuronal level.
All free acts do not have to be undetermined on the libertarian view, but only those acts by which we made ourselves into the kinds of persons we are, namely the "will-setting" or "self-forming actions" (SFAs) that are required for ultimate responsibility.Kane says the indeterminism arising from a tension-creating conflict in the will
"would be reflected in appropriate regions of the brain by movement away from thermodynamic equilibrium. The result would be a stirring up of chaos in the neural networks involved. Chaos in physical systems is a phenomenon in which very small changes in initial conditions are magnified so that they lead to large and unpredictable changes in the subsequent behavior of a system.