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Chapter 1

PHIL-020 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Incompatibilism, Immanence

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Mattingly James

of 2
Robert Kane
Reflections on Free Will, Determinism and Indeterminism
Questions Kane brings up about free will: (1)
1. Is free will compatible with determinism? (this is the compatibility question)
2. Why do we want it?
3. Can we make sense of a free will that is incompatible with determinism?
4. Can such a free will be reconciled with modern images of human beings in the natural and social
Note Cane’s background: he is an incompatibilist about free will
Determinism (according to Google):
-the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to
the will. Some philosophers use determinism to imply that individual beings have no free will and
cannot be held morally responsible for their actions
Free will (according to Kane):
-the power to be the ultimate creator and sustainer of one’s own ends or purposes
Free will (the ultimate definition (2)):
-the power of agents to the be the ultimate creators and sustainers of their own ends or purposes (2)
-The view that a deterministic universe is completely at odds with the notion that persons have a free
will; that there is a dichotomy between determinism and free will where philosophers must choose
one or the other.
Notes/Quotes From the Reading:
-Kane believes that the Compatibility Question is flawed in that there are too many meanings of
“freedom” and “many of them are compatible with determinism” (1)
-incompatibilists believe that we should distinguish people who are “free from physical restraint,
addiction, mental illnesses, etc from people who are not free from these things (1)
-is determinism compatible with “the condition of alternative possibilities?”
-AP = alternate possibilities (2)
-the Compatibility Question cannot be resolved by focusing on alternative possibilities alone, but
alternative possibilities are fueling incompatibilist intuitions (2)
-UR condition: in order to be ultimately responsible for a choice, an agent must be in part responsible
by virtue of choices or actions performed in the past that reflect on current character (2)
-UR = ultimately responsible
Intelligibility Question:
-The case for incompatibility cannot be made on AP alone, it can be made if UR is added (3)
-Intelligibility Question: if free will is not compatible with determinism, it does not seem to be
compatible with indeterminism either (4)
-libertarian strategies: “immanent causation” — since indeterminism leaves it open which way an
agent will choose or act, some “extra” kind of causation or agency must be postulated over and
above the natural flow of events (5)
Indeterminism and Responsibility:
-indeterminism does not have to be involved in all acts done “of our own free wills” for which we are
ultimately responsible (5)
-indeterminism does not need to undermine rationality and voluntariness and it does not need to
undermine control and responsibility (6)
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-there are tons of examples of indeterminism functioning as an obstacle to success without
precluding responsibility (6)
-Examples: assassin and man fighting with his wife breaking a table, businesswoman
-if the assassin does not kill the prime minister, and if the husband does not break the table,
they are not responsible, but if they succeed what they were trying to do, they are
responsible. (8)
-if the business woman helps the victim she will have i) succeeded despite the probability or
chance of failure ii) succeeded in doing what she was trying and wanting to do iii)
succeeded in returning to help…. (10)
-Kane argues that agents act and do have control over their actions (compulsion, coercion, constraint,
inadvertence, accident, etc) (8)
-the failure to do one thing is merely succeeding in doing the other— in the case of self-forming
choices; they are simultaneously trying to make both choices (one is going to succeed) (8)
Responsibility, Luck, and Chance:
-intuition that choices must happen merely by chance (9)
-indeterminism and the effort of will are separate (9)
-first the effort is followed by chance or luck
-if someone is “lucky” are they still responsible? (10)
-do efforts = choices? (11)
-SFA = self-formed action
-indeterminism does diminish control over what we are trying to do and is a hindrance or obstacle to
the realization of our purposes (12)
-indeterminism opens up possibility of pursuing other purposes, of choosing or doing otherwise
in accordance with, rather than against, our wills (voluntary) and reasons (rationally) (12)
-Kane’s overarching question: what could we do with the indeterminism to make sense of free will,
supposing it were in the brain? (14)
-agents cause or bring about their undetermined self-forming choices by making efforts to do so,
voluntarily and intentionally (14)
-Agents are continuing substances and their lives must be spelled out in terms of states, processes,
and events involving them (15)
Main takeaway:
-free will is not something determined by the mind, by something we cannot control— we make our
own choices rationally and voluntarily
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find more resources at oneclass.com