Richard L. Franklin
Richard L. Franklin, the Australian philosopher, developed an idea of indeterministic (libertarian) freedom as the "selective directing of attention" in our thoughts, which develop intentions preparatory to actions. This rough idea seems to be in much earlier thought (e.g., William James's Principles of Psychology), and Franklin seems unaware of the importance of the concept of focusing attention in modern psychology and cognitive science. Franklin is enthusiastic about analytical language philosophical techniques inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein which dis-solve philosophical problems. He is not embarrassed to say that such a concept puts human freedom outside the natural causal order, which he believes is causal and deterministic. His view is thus in the category of "metaphysical" freedoms such as agent causation, non-occurrent causation, and contra-causal freedom. He cites R. M. Hare, Wilfred Sellars, Richard Taylor, and others as holding similar views.
Excerpts from Franklin's Freewill and Determinism
(Routledge, Kegan, Paul, 1968) THE PROBLEM (pp.1-5) The problem of freewill is always with us. Both libertarianism and determinism, and each in many forms, have been proved to the satisfaction of innumerable protagonists; while to the satisfaction of innumerable others the conflict has been dissolved, has been shown to rest on misunderstandings of the concepts involved. The thesis of this book is both more modest and more ambitious than any of these. It is more modest in that, though I have argued for one particular view, I have not claimed to present conclusive reasons for it; and in fact I have tried to show in what respects, and on what grounds, it could and would be rationally rejected by many men. It is more ambitious in that I believe I have placed the problem in a new perspective. I have suggested why there is this never-ending dispute; what underlies the contentions of each position; why at a given period one may be in the ascendent over others; why the protagonists so easily, in fact almost inevitably, overstate their cases; and finally, what might offer the best chance of future progress. Let us begin with a simple statement of the problem, and of the positions which may be adopted. Men do not often doubt that in most circumstances they can freely decide between one course of action and another, in a way that certainly inanimate objects, and presumably also animals, cannot. Nor, in the realm of morals, do they often doubt that unless a man chose freely he cannot properly be praised or blamed for his action. These beliefs give rise to a problem, however, when they are considered together with other frequently held ones which may seem to leave no place for such freedom. There thus arises the philosophical problem of freewill. Historically the difficulty has often been that of reconciling freedom with beliefs in God's omniscience or foreordination of all things, which raise what may be called questions of predestination. In the present climate of opinion among British philosophers these issues have been largely handed over to theologians, and for reasons of space I shall largely have to leave them there. I am concerned with another set of considerations which give rise to what may be called the problem of determinism. People not only make choices, they explain why choices are made and they predict what they will be. If we reflect on what is involved in explanation or prediction we may conclude that they always involve some more or less explicit and more or less precise generalisation to the effect that this sort of thing occurs in this sort of situation. The ideal limit of such a generalisation is a causal or scientific law to which there are no exceptions. Moreover, on further reflection we may decide we cannot doubt that such laws exist, even if undiscovered. For we can hardly doubt that in principle all that occurs is fully explicable, and only this ideal limit, it may seem, would give a really satisfactory explanation. In traditional language the Law of Causation, that every event has a cause, is equivalent to the Principle of Sufficient Reason, 'by virtue of which', as Leibniz formulates it, we consider that no fact can be real or existing and no proposition can be true unless there is a sufficient reason, why it should be thus and not otherwise, even though in most cases these reasons cannot be known to us. And on this Principle (together with the Principle of Contradiction), he said, all our reasoning is based., Yet the existence of such causal laws may seem to imply that for a given agent in a given situation only one course of action is a real possibility, and may thus seem incompatible with his freedom. To this general problem philosophers return many different answers, but they may conveniently be grouped into three types. One position is that our distinctive human power to choose implies 'contra-causal' or undetermined freedom. This is libertarianism. It divides into various forms, which differ as to whether all or only some, and if so which, choices imply indeterminism. For example, one form holds that we have undetermined freedom only when facing up to moral demands. The second group consists of philosophers who accept the incompatibility which the libertarian alleges between causality and at least the usual notion of freedom; accept, as he does not, the principle of universal causation; and thus reject the belief in freedom. These are par excellence determinists. We may, however, distinguish two sub-groups. First, there are those who aim to break to men the news that they are in no significant sense free. Secondly, there are those who set out to reconcile determinism with some consciously transformed notion of freedom. They agree that the common or unphilosophical notion of freedom inclines to libertarianism, but argue that this is a vulgar error, and that true freedom is, say, the recognition of necessity. The less that such a philosopher emphasises or concedes that his view of freedom is not the common one, the more he merges into a third group. These deny that the suggested incompatibility between freedom and universal causation exists at all. They refuse to save the notion of freedom by transforming it; they believe it is not the common man but the philosopher who is confused. Since, they suggest, we all assume both that we are free and that all events can be explained, it is for the philosopher to show by careful analysis how these beliefs fit together, and not to sacrifice either to the other. If we thus examine carefully what is under our noses we will discover what we might have expected: that the apparent conflict is due to various conceptual errors, such as, in the realm of morals, a faulty analysis of the concept of responsibility, or of the assertion that the agent 'could have done something else'. We will then see that what we all mean by freedom, and not some truncated or transformed account of it, is compatible with, and perhaps requires, determinism. Traditionally there are only two classifications, 'libertarian' and 'determinist', to apply to all these positions; for the word 'indeterminist', which is sometimes found, seems to be nothing but a synonym for 'libertarian'. This leads to little confusion, except In the case of the third group of philosophers. 'Libertarian' suggests to them that we have an undetermined freedom, and 'determinist' that we are not as free as we thought; and it is the very point of their contention that both these suggestions are wrong. Since they claim that on a proper analysis the problem dissolves, I find it sometimes useful to call them `dissolutionists'. In general, there are some contexts, such as that of clarifying the precise libertarian position, where it is convenient to call all denials of libertarianism 'determinist'; and others, including many ethical ones, where the threefold classification is more helpful. But all such nomenclature is merely a matter of convenience, and I do not wish to pin on anyone a label to which he would object. 1
The central issue may be put in terms of a contrast between two notions, which may be called self-determinism and indeterminism. No one other than an absurd fatalist would suggest that a man is in normal circumstances at the mercy of his environment, as a rudderless boat is driven by the waves. It is we who decide how to act, and act as we decide. We respond to situations with more or less intelligence and integrity. Another person, or we in a different mood, might respond to the same situation quite differently. No account of a man's environment and external stimuli would usually enable us to know what he will do; the answer will depend on his own deliberation and choice. We might express this manifest ability of human beings to transcend a mere immediate reaction to stimuli by saying that they are self-determined. But this is quite compatible with saying that there are causal or scientific laws (for example, psychological ones about thought-processes, or physiological ones about brain-processes) which govern an agent's decision. The fact that a full causal account would have to be enormously complicated, that it would have to include statements about the agent as well as about his environment, and that it cannot in practice be achieved, does not show that it is in principle unobtainable. So self-determinism is compatible with determinism; indeed it is the only intelligent form of determinism. The determinist says that this self-determinism is the only sense (if any) in which a man is free, and the dissolutionist adds that it is in fact all we mean when we speak of human freedom. The libertarian, however, denies this. He insists that such laws, if they existed, would be incompatible with our most basic conception of freedom. His view may be put by saying that man's freedom is undetermined.1