the soft determinist response n.
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the soft determinist response. the incompatibility argument. Determinism is true. If Determinism is true, then none of our actions are free. None of our actions are free.

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the incompatibility argument
the incompatibility argument
  • Determinism is true.
  • If Determinism is true, then none of our actions are free.
  • None of our actions are free.

[I]f it is a matter of pure chance that a man should act in one way rather than another, he may be free but he can hardly be responsible. And indeed when a man’s actions seem to us quite unpredictable, when, as we say, there is no knowing what he will do, we do not look upon him as a moral agent. We look upon him rather as a lunatic.

-A.J. Ayer


A kleptomaniac is not a free agent, in respect of his stealing, because he does not go through any process of deciding whether or not to steal…


…Or rather, if he does go through such a process, it is irrelevant to his behavior. Whatever he resolved to do, he would steal all the same. And it is this that distinguishes him from the ordinary thief.


If I am constrained, I do not act freely. But in what circumstance can I legitimately be said to be constrained? An obvious instance is the case in which I am compelled by another person to do what he wants.


If this is correct, to say that I [was free] … is to say, first, that I should have acted otherwise if I had so chosen; secondly, that my action was voluntary in the sense in which the actions, say, of the kleptomaniac are not; and thirdly, that nobody compelled me to choose as I did: and these three conditions may very well be fulfilled.


Ayer’s Analysis: An action is free iff (i) the person chose to act on the basis of reasons, (ii) if the person had chosen otherwise, she would have done otherwise, and (iii) the person was not compelled to act.