Thomas Reid on Character and Freedom

History of Philosophy Quarterly 29 (2):159-176 (2012)
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Abstract

According to Thomas Reid, an agent cannot be free unless she has the power to do otherwise. This claim is usually interpreted as a version of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. Against this interpretation, I argue that Reid is committed to the seemingly paradoxical position that an agent may have the power to do otherwise despite the fact that it is impossible that she do otherwise. Reid's claim about the power to do otherwise does not, therefore, entail the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. When it is an agent's character that deprives her of alternate possibilities, she is not thereby deprived of either power or freedom, and this is true even if the agent was not free or active in the formation of her character.

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Kenneth L. Pearce
James Madison University

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