Contextualizing Free Will

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Hawthorne makes the interesting suggestion that ascriptions of free will might be contextsensitive. Yet, the specific freedom contextualist account he presents makes freedom contextualism look like a non-starter. In this paper, I shall step into the breach for freedom contextualism. My aim is twofold. On the one hand, I shall argue that freedom contextualism can be motivated on the basis of our ordinary practice of freedom attribution, which shows that the view is anything but ad hoc and explains data which cannot be accounted for by an ambiguity hypothesis. On the other hand, I shall suggest a more plausible freedom contextualist analysis, which emerges naturally once we pair the assumption that freedom requires that the agent could have acted otherwise with a plausible semantics of “can” statements. I'll dub the resulting view Alternate Possibilities Contextualism, or APC, for short. In contrast to Hawthorne's view, APC is well-motivated in its own right, does not beg the question against the incompatibilist and delivers a context parameter which allows for a wide range of context shifts. I conclude that, far from being a non-starter, freedom contextualism sets an agenda worth pursuing.
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Archival date: 2019-09-11
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