Explain the metaphysical issue of free will, including why we think it is important. What is the fundamental question, and what other kind of freedom gets confused with freedom of the will if this question is not identified? Explain what determinism is and why thinking about free will in the way indicated above makes the two seem incompatible. In "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Per ...[Show More]
the metaphysical issue of free will, including why we think it is important.
What is the fundamental question, and what other kind of freedom gets confused
with freedom of the will if this question is not identified? Explain what
determinism is and why thinking about free will in the way indicated above
makes the two seem incompatible. In "Freedom of the Will and the Concept
of a Person," Harry Frankfurt presents an interesting account of free will
that he claims makes free will compatible with determinism (as well as with
indeterminism or some "third" possibility). Explain his conception of
free will and why he thinks it is compatible with determinism. (Be sure to
indicate how his claim of compatibility does not involve the confusion
referenced above.) Frankfurt also claims to detach the notion of free will from
its traditional connection to the notion of moral responsibility. Explain how
on his view people can be morally responsible even when they do not have free
will. Finally, assess Frankfurt's view. If his account were adequate, would it
show that free will is compatible with determinism and that one does not need
to be acting with free will to be morally responsible? Does his account address
the fundamental question in the issue of free will adequately? Support your
evaluations with reasons.
1 year ago
When an agent exercises free will over her choices and actions, her choices and actions are up to her. But up to her in what sense? As should be clear from our historical survey, two common (and compatible) answers are: (i) up to her in the sense that she is able to choose otherwise, or at minimum that she is able not to choose or act as she does, and (ii) up to her in the sense that she is the source of her action.
Even if there is a distinction between freedom of will and freedom of action, it appears that free will is necessary for the performance of free actions. If Allison is brainwashed during her nap to want to walk her dog, then even if no external impediment prevents her from carrying through with this decision, we would say that her taking the dog for a walk is not a free action. Presumably, the reason why it would not be a free action is because, in the case of brainwashing, Allison’s decision does not arise from her free will. Thus, it looks like free will might be a necessary condition for free action, even if the two are distinct. In what follows, the phrase “acting with free will” means engaging in an action as the result of the utilization of free will. Use of the phrase does not deny the distinction between free will and free action.
The second reason to care about free will is that it seems to be required for moral responsibility. While there are various accounts of what exactly moral responsibility is, it is widely agreed that moral responsibility is distinct from causal responsibility. Consider a falling branch that lands on a car, breaking its window. While the branch is causally responsible for the broken window, it is not morally responsible for it because branches are not moral agents. Depending on one’s account of causation, it also might be possible to be morally responsible for an event or state of affairs even if one is not causally responsible for that same event or state of affairs.
Harry Frankfurt is a prominent defender of a compatibilist view of free will. In “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person”, Frankfurt presents a theory of free action. A person is morally responsible for their action if and only if that person could have done otherwise. However, these sorts of worries are not ultimately of great importance, since the case that Frankfurt presents as an example of moral responsibility without alternate possibilities might rather be thought of directly as an example of free will. Frankfurt conception of the freedom of the will appears to be neutral with regard to the problem of determinism. It seems conceivable that it should be causally determined that a person is free to want what he wants to want. If this is conceivable, then it might be causally determined that a person enjoys a free will. There is no more than an innocuous appearance of paradox in the proposition that it is determined, ineluctably and by forces beyond their control, that certain people have free wills and that others do not.
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