Free will and agential powers
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Free Will and Agential Powers. Randolph Clarke Florida State University. Free will – or freedom of the will – is often taken to be a power of some kind. The power in question would be a power of the agent, not of the will. .

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Free Will and Agential Powers

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Free will and agential powers

Free Will and Agential Powers

Randolph Clarke

Florida State University


Free will or freedom of the will is often taken to be a power of some kind

Free will – or freedom of the will – is often taken to be a power of some kind.


The power in question would be a power of the agent not of the will

The power in question would be a power of the agent, not of the will.


Free will and agential powers

Locke’s initial account of freedom illustrates one difficulty in understanding free will in this way.


Free will and agential powers

He held: I’m at liberty to A just in case I have a power to A or not A, according to which of these I will to do.


B eing at liberty to will to a can t be understood in this fashion

Being at liberty to will to A can’t be understood in this fashion.


How can it be understood

How can it be understood?


1 willing first how should willing be understood for our purposes here

1. WillingFirst, how should willing be understood, for our purposes here?


Willing must be the kind of thing that one can do freely

Willing must be the kind of thing that one can do freely.


If we can do anything freely we can freely perform intentional actions

If we can do anything freely, we can freely perform intentional actions.


Paradigmatic instances of willing will be instances of performing some intentional action

Paradigmatic instances of willing will be instances of performing some intentional action.


Not intending not always coming to intend

Not:IntendingNot always:Coming to intend


Deciding is a kind of willing

Deciding is a kind of willing.


What about trying

What about trying?


Trying is attempting

Trying is attempting.


T rying isn t a distinct action type on a par with walking and speaking

Trying isn’t a distinct action type on a par with walking and speaking.


Trying to a is going about or being engaged in the business of a ing

Trying to A is going about or being engaged in the business of A-ing.


Free will and agential powers

In some cases, willing to do a certain thing is some early portion of one’s attempt to do that thing. It’s an initiation of an attempt.


Free will and agential powers

2. Up to YouYou’re free with respect to willing to A only if, on the occasion in question, it’s up to you whether you will to A then.


I f you re free with respect to making a decision to b then it s up to you whether you decide to b

If you’re free with respect to making a decision to B, then it’s up to you whether you decide to B.


Free will and agential powers

If you’re free with respect to initiating an attempt to C, then it’s up to you whether you initiate such an attempt.


The expression it s up to you is sometimes used in ways that don t concern free will

The expression “it’s up to you” is sometimes used in ways that don’t concern free will.


But there s a use that does

But there’s a use that does.


T his places a constraint on construals of powers to be employed in an account of free will

This places a constraint on construals of powers to be employed in an account of free will.


It must be up to the agent whether these powers are exercised

It must be up to the agent whether these powers are exercised.


Free will and agential powers

3. PowersPowers are a class of properties including dispositions, tendencies, liabilities, capacities, and abilities.


Examples fragility solubility

Examples:fragility, solubility


S ome things sometimes assumed about dispositions should not be assumed about all powers

Some things sometimes assumed about dispositions should not be assumed about all powers.


A standard definition of fragility t he disposition to break in response to being struck

A standard definition of ‘fragility’:the disposition to break in response to being struck.


The canonical form t he disposition to r in response to s

The canonical form:the disposition to R in response to S.


O is fragile df o is disposed to break in response to being struck

o is fragile =df o is disposed to break in response to being struck.


Not all powers are amenable to this kind of treatment

Not all powers are amenable to this kind of treatment.


A ll powers are powers to do something

All powers are powers to do something.


Free will and agential powers

Not every power has a stimulus that can be identified by semantic analysis of a familiar name for that power.


Example narcolepsy

Example:narcolepsy


Free will and agential powers

Other powers might have stimuli that are identifiable by semantic analysis, but those stimuli might not guarantee the powers’ manifestations.


Examples irritability diligence fragility

Examples:irritability, diligence, fragility


Finally there appear to be powers that simply don t have any relevant stimulus conditions

Finally, there appear to be powers that simply don’t have any relevant stimulus conditions.


What might the stimulus of a power to freely will be perhaps intending

What might the stimulus of a power to freely will be?Perhaps intending.


There s a difficulty imposed by the up to you constraint

There’s a difficulty imposed by the up-to-you constraint.


Perhaps this is why some writers on free will describe its exercise as a kind of spontaneity

Perhaps this is why some writers on free will describe its exercise as a kind of spontaneity.


Free will and agential powers

Reid: the active powers of intelligent agents are utterly different in kind from the powers of inanimate objects. Indeed, only the former are powers in the proper sense of the word.


4 the power to initiate an attempt consider an instance of a young child s agency

4. The Power to Initiate an AttemptConsider an instance of a young child’s agency.


The child exercises a power to try to crawl over and get the shiny object

The child exercises a power to try to crawl over and get the shiny object.


Free will and agential powers

We might manage an account of a power to initiate an attempt if we set our sights lower than free will.


Free will and agential powers

A power to initiate an attempt to A might be (at least in part):a disposition to initiate an attempt to A in response to coming to have a present-directed intention with relevant content.


H aving powers to initiate attempts to do various things requires having a host of other powers

Having powers to initiate attempts to do various things requires having a host of other powers.


5 up to the agent whether she wills our powers to will are rational powers

5. Up to the Agent Whether She WillsOur powers to will are rational powers.


Their stimuli might be a kind of seeing as or taking there to be reasons to do certain things

Their stimuli might be a kind of seeing-as, or taking there to be reasons to do certain things.


Free will and agential powers

The powers to come to have present-directed intentions might be powers to do so in response to taking there to be certain practical reasons.


Likewise it seems for the powers to become motivated to do certain things

Likewise, it seems, for the powers to become motivated to do certain things.


Free will and agential powers

And the powers to come to believe might be powers to acquire beliefs in response to taking there to be evidence for those beliefs or arguments in their support


These suggestions face a problem

These suggestions face a problem.


Free will and agential powers

If the exercise of our powers to will depends on things not themselves up to us, it’s hard to see how it can be up to us whether we exercise these powers.


Free will and agential powers

6. Opposing PowersPerhaps:if it’s up to me whether I will to A, I must have a power to will to A and also a power to do something incompatible with my willing to A.


One such power would be a power to will not to a

One such power would be a power to will not to A.


Free will and agential powers

Another would be a power to suspend the execution of one’s motivational states while one evaluates their objects.


Free will and agential powers

Suppose that I have: a power to decide to A in response to coming to intend to make up my mind whether to A, and also a power to decide not to A in response to that same stimulus.


Free will and agential powers

It might be that having both of these powers, or two or more similarly opposing powers, is required for being free to decide to A.


Free will and agential powers

Suppose that I have: a power to initiate an attempt to A in response to coming to intend to A right away, and also a power to suspend execution of such an intention in response to the same stimulus.


Free will and agential powers

It might be that having both of these powers, or two or more similarly opposing powers, is required for being free to initiate an attempt to A.


Free will and agential powers

7. Stimulus PresenceIt might contribute to conditions in which it’s up to me whether I decide to A if I now intend to make up my mind right away whether to A.


Free will and agential powers

The suggestion isn’t that this is required, but rather that together with other conditions it might be sufficient.


Free will and agential powers

Suppose that I’ve just now taken there to be good reason to A and I’ve not yet become motivated to A.


Free will and agential powers

But suppose I have a power to become so motivated in response to taking there to be good reason to A.


Free will and agential powers

And suppose I have further powers: to come to intend to make up my mind right away whether to A in response to coming to be motivated to A,


To decide to a in response to coming to have such an intention

to decide to A in response to coming to have such an intention,


And to decide not to a in response to this same stimulus

and to decide not to A in response to this same stimulus.


Free will and agential powers

We might consider whether the circumstances just described suffice for its being up to me whether I decide to A.


Free will and agential powers

8. Non-Causal PowersThe manifestation of a rational power is something done in the light of reason, something done for a reason.


And some philosophers maintain that nothing can be both done for a reason and caused

And some philosophers maintain that nothing can be both done for a reason and caused.


Something done for a reason is responsive to the normativity of reasons

Something done for a reason is responsive to the normativity of reasons.


Free will and agential powers

But causal processes, it’s sometimes said, “bring about their effects with complete indifference to the question of whether those effects have cogent considerations in their favour” (Lowe 1998: 156).


I m not convinced

I’m not convinced.


Free will and agential powers

There can be causal outcomes that are sensitive to whether earlier stages of the processes leading to them consist of someone’s taking there to be reasons of various sorts


Free will and agential powers

Further, taking there to be a reason can be responsive to there actually being something that has a certain normative significance.


Free will and agential powers

When one’s taking there to be a reason to A results in an appropriate way from there being a reason to A, and one’s A-ing is caused in the right way by one’s taking there to be a reason to A, one can have A-ed for a reason.


Free will and agential powers

Coming to desire, believe, and intend, and deciding and trying can be things that we do for reasons and also things that are caused.


Powers to do these things can be causal dispositions rational powers can be causal dispositions

Powers to do these things can be causal dispositions. Rational powers can be causal dispositions.


This is not yet to say that free will can be

This is not yet to say that free will can be.


Free will and agential powers

There remains the problem of understanding how it can be up to me whether I do a certain thing if my power to do that thing is a causal disposition of the sort we’ve been considering.


However it s hard to see how appeal to a non causal power is going to help here

However, it’s hard to see how appeal to a non-causal power is going to help here.


Free will and agential powers

9. Agent-Causal PowersIt’s sometimes said that when an agent freely makes a decision, the agent causes something, and the agent’s causing that thing isn’t causation by any occurrence or state.


It s causation by an enduring substance

It’s causation by an enduring substance.


Free will and agential powers

Sometimes it’s said that there exists this kind of substance causation only in the case of exercises of free will; all other causation is causation by events or states.


This seems to me unlikely

This seems to me unlikely.


Other theorists hold that all causation is fundamentally causation by objects or substances

Other theorists hold that all causation is, fundamentally, causation by objects or substances.


Free will and agential powers

Substance-causal powers of this sort might have characteristic stimuli.Indeed, it’s sometimes held that they must.


An object causes something it s said always by doing something or by undergoing some change

An object causes something, it’s said, always by doing something, or by undergoing some change.


Free will and agential powers

This kind of view of agential powers requires only minor alteration of the dispositional view suggested earlier.


Free will and agential powers

But precisely because it involves such a minor reformulation of the dispositional view, it’s hard to see that it constitutes any advance over that view.


Free will and agential powers

10. IndeterminismHave I failed to mention the key requirement, that one is free to will to A only if it’s undetermined whether one wills to A?


I can t see how this would help

I can’t see how this would help.


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