Agent-causal libertarianism, statistical neural laws and wild coincidences

Synthese 195 (10):4563-4580 (2018)
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Agent-causal libertarians maintain we are irreducible agents who, by acting, settle matters that aren’t already settled. This implies that the neural matters underlying the exercise of our agency don’t conform to deterministic laws, but it does not appear to exclude the possibility that they conform to statistical laws. However, Pereboom (Noûs 29:21–45, 1995; Living without free will, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001; in: Nadelhoffer (ed) The future of punishment, Oxford University Press, New York, 2013) has argued that, if these neural matters conform to either statistical or deterministic physical laws, the complete conformity of an irreducible agent’s settling of matters with what should be expected given the applicable laws would involve coincidences too wild to be credible. Here, I show that Pereboom’s argument depends on the assumption that, at times, the antecedent probability certain behavior will occur applies in each of a number of occasions, and is incapable of changing as a result of what one does from one occasion to the next. There is, however, no evidence this assumption is true. The upshot is the wild coincidence objection is an empirical objection lacking empirical support. Thus, it isn’t a compelling argument against agent-causal libertarianism.

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Jason D. Runyan
Indiana Wesleyan University


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