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Free Will and Agential Powers

Free Will and Agential Powers

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Free Will and Agential Powers

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  1. Free Will and Agential Powers Randolph Clarke Florida State University

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

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

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

  5. 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.

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

  7. How can it be understood?

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

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

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

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

  12. Not:IntendingNot always:Coming to intend

  13. Deciding is a kind of willing.

  14. What about trying?

  15. Trying is attempting.

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

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

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

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

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

  23. But there’s a use that does.

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

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

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

  27. Examples:fragility, solubility

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

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

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

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

  32. Not all powers are amenable to this kind of treatment.

  33. All powers are powers to do something.

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

  35. Example:narcolepsy

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

  37. Examples:irritability, diligence, fragility

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

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

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

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

  42. 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.

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

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

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

  46. 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.

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

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

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

  50. 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.