Volume 1, Issue 1, Spring 2007
What is the Problem of Freedom of the Will?
I argue in the paper that the problem of freedom has been misconstrued. There is no one problem of freedom but many problems concerning individual agents’ responsiveness to principles and reasons. The problem of free will results from attempts to incorporate the notion of freedom, which belongs to the order of guiding action, into a determinist framework of explanation. My view could be seen as compatibilist because it denies the existence of a fundamental conflict between freedom and determinism. However, since libertarian accounts of local indeterminism are pointless on my view, it cannot be easily place with the compatibilism/libertarianism distinction. Instead of entering the hopelessly unproductive metaphysical debates about freedom and determinism, I propose to turn attention to the domain of ethics. Problems of freedom are questions about the deliberative processes that terminate in action and about reasons and principles on which they are based. To say that an action is free is not to claim that it is independent from causal determination; rather, it is to say that it has been decided upon.