Free will, narrative, and retroactive self-constitution

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Abstract
John Fischer has recently argued that the value of acting freely is the value of self-expression. Drawing on David Velleman’s earlier work, Fischer holds that the value of a life is a narrative value and free will is valuable insofar as it allows us to shape the narrative structure of our lives. This account rests on Fischer’s distinction between regulative control and guidance control. While we lack the former kind of control, on Fischer’s view, the latter is all that is needed for self-expression. I first develop Fischer’s narrative account, focusing on his reliance on temporal loops as giving us control over the value of our lives. Second, I argue that the narrative account grants us greater power over the past than Fischer would allow: since narrative allows not only for changes in how we feel about episodes in our past but what those episodes in fact were, it allows for a kind of retroactive self-constitution. Finally, I suggest that this modification of the narrative view opens the possibility of a conception of freedom far stronger than guidance control. It does not give us the libertarian control over whether to choose A or B in the present, but it does provide a measure of control over the sort of person an agent has been, and thus whether she is the sort of person who will choose A or B in the future.
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ALTFWN-2
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First archival date: 2014-04-29
Latest version: 2 (2014-07-18)
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2014-04-27

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