Jamesian Free Will, The Two-stage Model Of William James

William James Studies 5:1-28 (2010)
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Research into two-stage models of “free will” – first “free” random generation of alternative possibilities, followed by “willed” adequately determined decisions consistent with character, values, and desires – suggests that William James was in 1884 the first of a dozen philosophers and scientists to propose such a two-stage model for free will. We review the later work to establish James’s priority. By limiting chance to the generation of alternative possibilities, James was the first to overcome the standard two-part argument against free will, i.e., that the will is either determined or random. James gave it elements of both, to establish freedom but preserve responsibility. We show that James was influenced by Darwin’s model of natural selection, as were most recent thinkers with a two-stage model. In view of James’s famous decision to make his first act of freedom a choice to believe that his will is free, it is most fitting to celebrate James’s priority in the free will debates by naming the two-stage model – first chance, then choice -“Jamesian” free will.
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