John Perry: Freedom and the Self

Hume proposed a way of reconciling freedom and determinism (liberty and necessity); being free is being determined by one's own reasons, desires, preferences, wants, intentions, deliberations and decisions. Followers of Hume are called `compatibilists'. Kant said Hume's `solution' was no more than a `wretched subterfuge'. Those who share Kant's view are known as `incompatibilists'. Modern incompatibilism depends on the `consequence argument':

"If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us."
(Van Inwagen, "An Argument for Incompatibilism".)

Drawing on ideas from the first two lectures, I develop an account of compatibilism and show why the Consequence Argument does not work.


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