Free Will, Art and Morality

The Journal of Ethics 12 (3-4):307 - 325 (2008)
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The discussion in this paper begins with some observations regarding a number of structural similarities between art and morality as it involves human agency. On the basis of these observations we may ask whether or not incompatibilist worries about free will are relevant to both art and morality. One approach is to claim that libertarian free will is essential to our evaluations of merit and desert in both spheres. An alternative approach, is to claim that free will is required only in the sphere of morality—and that to this extent the art/morality analogy breaks down. I argue that both these incompatibilist approaches encounter significant problems and difficulties—and that incompatibilist have paid insufficient attention to these issues. However, although the analogy between art and morality may be welcomed by compatibilists, it does not pave the way for an easy or facile optimism on this subject. On the contrary, while the art/morality analogy may lend support to compatibilism it also serves to show that some worries of incompatibilism relating to the role of luck in human life cannot be easily set aside, which denies compatibilism any basis for complacent optimism on this subject

Author's Profile

Paul Russell
University of British Columbia


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