The purpose of this course is to investigate questions about those mental capacities which ground, or are the ultimate sources of, our (metaphysical) freedom. Some such capacities are cognitive, as our capacity to recognize reasons; others are volitional, as the capacity to make choices; and some are ‘executive’ as the capacity to act on such choices. In this course, we shall discuss several different interpretations of such capacities as well as the issue what sort of metaphysics about the mind, if any, is compatible with them. The course will begin by considering a strategy for the defence of a libertarian doctrine of free will and develop from there.
Students attending this course are expected to familiarize themselves with the most important issues concerning the problem of free action and the nature of mental properties which enable agents to act freely.
Topics and reading:
I. Reasons explanation of action and determinism:
- Introduction: explanation of actions and deterministic processes
- R. Kane ‘Responsibility, Luck, and Chance: Reflections on Free Will and Indeterminism’. Journal of Philosophy 96, 1999: 217–240; P. van Inwagen ‘Free Will Remains a Mystery, Part II’, Philosophical Perspective 14 (2000): 10-19.
- C. Ginet ‘Reasons Explanation of Action: An Incompatibilist Account’, Philosophical Perspectives 3 (1989) 17–46.
- McCann, H. ‘Agency, Control, and Causation’, in his The Works of Agency, Cornell University Press, 1998: 170-191.
II. Freedom, deliberation and self-knowledge:
- H. G. Frankfurt ‘Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person’, in The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays, CUP, 1988: 11-25; G. G. Watson ‘Free Agency’, in Agency and Answerability: Selected Essays, OUP, 2004: 13-32.
- Pettit, P – Smith, M. ‘Freedom in Belief and Desires’, Journal of Philosophy 93, 1996: 429-449.
- Velleman, D. ‘Epistemic Freedom’, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 70, 1989: 73-97.
- O’Brian, L. ‘On Knowing One’s Own Actions’ in Self-Knowing Agents, OUP, 2007: 156–190.
III. Free will, neuroscience, and epiphenomenalism:
- Haggard, P. ‘Does Brain Science Change our View of Free Will?’, in R. Swinburn (ed.) Free Will and Modern Science, OUP, 2011: 7-24.
- Mele, A. ‘Neuroscience and Free Will’, in Effective Intentions, OUP, 2009: 67-90.
- Gallagher, S. ‘Where is the Action? Epiphenomenalism and the Problem of Free Will’, in S. Pocket et al. (eds.) Does Consciousness Explain Behavior?, MIT Press, 2009: 109-124.
- Wegner, D. – Wheatley, T. ‘Apparent Mental Causation’, American Psychologist 54, 1999: 480-491; Wegner, D. ‘The mind’s best trick’, Trends in Cognitive Science 7/2, 2003: 65-69; Bayne, T. ‘Phenomenology and the Feeling of Doing’, in S. Pocket et al. (eds.) Does Consciousness Explain Behavior?, MIT Press, 2009: 169-185.