Close calls and the confident agent: Free will, deliberation, and alternative possibilities

Philosophical Studies 131 (3):627-667 (2006)
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Abstract
Two intuitions lie at the heart of our conception of free will. One intuition locates free will in our ability to deliberate effectively and control our actions accordingly: the ‘Deliberation and Control’ (DC) condition. The other intuition is that free will requires the existence of alternative possibilities for choice: the AP condition. These intuitions seem to conflict when, for instance, we deliberate well to decide what to do, and we do not want it to be possible to act in some other way. I suggest that intuitions about the AP condition arise when we face ‘close calls,’ situations in which, after deliberating, we still do not know what we really want to do. Indeed, several incompatibilists suggest such close calls are necessary for free will. I challenge this suggestion by describing a ‘confident agent’ who, after deliberating, always feels confident about what to do (and can then control her actions accordingly). Because she maximally satisfies the DC condition, she does not face close calls, and the intuition that the AP condition is essential for free will does not seem to apply to her. I conclude that intuitions about the importance of the AP condition rest on our experiences of close calls and arise precisely to the extent that our deliberations fail to arrive at a clear decision. I then raise and respond to several objections to this thought experiment and its relevance to the free will debate
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