Libertarianism, Moral Character, and Alternative Possibilities in Thomas Reid

History of Philosophy Quarterly 35 (1):59-75 (2018)
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Abstract

In the following paper, I wish to examine a problem for the theist libertarian. On the one hand, libertarians insist that freedom requires possible alternatives open to the agent. On the other hand, God’s perfectly formed moral character implies that He always does the morally best. Give His moral character, then, it appears that there are no possible alternatives open to God. We thus get a dilemma for the theist libertarian: either a) God is not libertarian free – because His moral character rules out possible alternatives; or b) God’s character is not perfectly formed – because libertarian freedom requires that it is possible for God to act out of character. In the present paper, I argue that Thomas Reid, a paradigmatic libertarian, has the theoretical tools to retain a robust account of libertarian freedom without compromising a robust account of perfectly formed characters. In sum, it is necessary that agents with fully formed characters always act in character (read de dicto), but it is possible that agents with fully formed characters act out of character (read de re). The former claim captures the robustness of perfectly formed moral characters and the latter claim captures the robustness of libertarian freedom.

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Juan Garcia Torres
Wingate University

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