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Free Will as Etiological Self-Sufficiency

Law, Lok-Chun (2018) Free Will as Etiological Self-Sufficiency. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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To argue for the pessimism that free will is impossible in a deterministic world, a powerful way has been to invoke a case in which a behavior has a cause that is intuitively excusing and the cause is deterministic, beyond the agent’s control, and opaque to the agent. The pessimist then argues: '(i) The agent in such a case is not fully responsible for the behavior. And (ii) if our world is deterministic, every behavior in it must also have a cause with the above characteristics. Therefore, we could not be fully responsible for our behavior in a deterministic world.' I do not dispute premises (i) and (ii) but contend that the conclusion does not follow. For if the behavior is right, the agent can be free in it and fully responsible for it even if it has a causal lineage of the said kind. In fact, if the behavior is wrong, the agent cannot be fully free in it whether or not it has such a lineage. This asymmetry follows from my conception of free action, which is in terms of a feature present in every intentional action: when someone is acting in a certain way intentionally, they thereby understand why they are so acting not as a fact they discover. Furthermore, if what they so understand is in a specific sense sufficient to explain why they are acting in the given way rather than not in that way, then they bear free will in the behavior. What the above etiological sufficiency takes is for the behavior to be an unimpeded manifestation of the agent’s power of reason and for this power to be fully developed for considerations relevant to the practical situation. One feature that distinguishes this view from those of other free will optimists is the upshot that fully free action occurs much less commonly than it is allowed by those views. It also follows from the present view that, since an action is unfree in every way it is wrong, blame and resentment cannot be justified in a way in which recognition and gratitude can be.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Law, Lok-Chunlol13@pitt.edulol130000-0001-5094-5641
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairMcDowell, Johnjmcdowel@pitt.edujmcdowel
Committee CoChairThompson, Michaelpractical.wisdom@gmail.commthompso
Committee MemberEngstrom, Stephenengstrom@pitt.eduengstrom
Committee MemberSchafer,
Committee MemberSetiya,
Date: 26 September 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 1 June 2018
Approval Date: 26 September 2018
Submission Date: 11 July 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 127
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Spontaneity of rational representation, Self-consciousness in intentional action, Empirical explanations of conduct, Upbringing’s impact on development, Susan Wolf’s compatibilism, Anscombe on practical knowledge
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2018 22:50
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2018 22:50


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