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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 42, 2017

Robert J. Hartman
Pages 301-312
DOI: 10.5840/jpr2017426102

Counterfactuals of Freedom and the Luck Objection to Libertarianism

Peter van Inwagen famously offers a version of the luck objection to libertarianism called the ‘Rollback Argument.’ It involves a thought experiment in which God repeatedly rolls time backward to provide an agent with many opportunities to act in the same circumstance. Because the agent has the kind of freedom that affords her alternative possibilities at the moment of choice, she performs different actions in some of these opportunities. The upshot is that whichever action she performs in the actual-sequence is intuitively a matter of mere chance. I explore a new response to the Rollback Argument: If there are true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom, then the agent performs the same action each time she is placed in the same circumstance, because that is what she would freely do in that circumstance. This response appears to negate the chancy intuition. Ultimately, however, I argue that this new response is unsuccessful, because there is a variant of the Rollback Argument that presents the same basic challenge to the libertarian on the assumption that there are true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom. Thus, true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom do not provide the libertarian with a solution to the Rollback Argument.

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