Free Will as a Psychological Accomplishment

In David Schmidtz & Carmen Pavel (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Freedom. Oxford University Press (2016)
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I offer analyses of free will in terms of a complex set of psychological capacities agents possess to varying degrees and have varying degrees of opportunities to exercise effectively, focusing on the under-appreciated but essential capacities for imagination. For an agent to have free will is for her to possess the psychological capacities to make decisions—to imagine alternatives for action, to select among them, and to control her actions accordingly—such that she is the author of her actions and can deserve credit or blame for them. For an agent to act of her own free will is for her to have had (reasonable) opportunity to exercise these capacities in making her decision and acting. There is a long philosophical tradition of treating free will as the set of capacities that, when properly functioning, allow us to make decisions that contribute to our leading a good or flourishing life. On this view, free will is a psychological accomplishment. Free will allows us to be the causal source of our actions in a way that is compatible with determinism and naturalism.

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Eddy Nahmias
Georgia State University


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