Free Will, Agent Causation, and “Disappearing Agents”

Noûs:76-96 (2017)
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A growing number of philosophers now hold that agent causation is required for agency, or free will, or moral responsibility. To clarify what is at issue, this paper begins with a distinction between agent causation that is ontologically fundamental and agent causation that is reducible to or realized in causation by events or states. It is widely accepted that agency presents us with the latter; the view in question claims a need for the former. The paper then examines a “disappearing agent” argument from Derk Pereboom that is aimed at showing that free will requires agent causation that is ontologically fundamental. It is argued that the argument fails. Further, it is argued that, contrary to Pereboom’s claim, the issue raised by his disappearing agent argument is distinct from the problem of present luck that libertarian theories of free will face. The paper concludes with an assessment of the prospects for success of a disappearing agent argument showing that agent causation that is ontologically fundamental is required for agency tout court.
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