How (not) to think about the sense of ‘able’ relevant to free will

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 65 (10):1289-1307 (2022)
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This essay is an investigation into the sense of ‘able’ relevant to free will, where free will is understood as requiring the ability to do otherwise. I argue that van Inwagen's recent functional specification of the relevant sense of ‘able’ is flawed, and that explicating the powers involved in free will shall likely require paying detailed attention to the semantics and pragmatics of ‘can’ and ‘able’. Further, I argue that van Inwagen's promise-level ability requirement on free will is too strong. I also argue that Mele's conjecture that the strength of the ability to perform the ‘alternative’ action be no higher than the strength of the ability exercised in performing an action is mistaken. I suggest there is an asymmetry in the strengths of the abilities which make up the n-way power that comprises free will, and that this looks to have some interesting consequences for the connection between the abilities required for free will and, e.g. the ‘up to us’ locution.

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