Free Action and Free Will
Rival conceptions of free agency can be understood as competing interpretations of the notions of self-determination and alternative possibilities, and the characteristic shape of the dialectic between compatibilists and incompatibilists can be understood in these terms. Compatibilism holds that self-determining action is action proceeding from an unencumbered will, and likewise freedom to do otherwise is dependency on the agent's will. Incompatibilists object that freedom requires not just dependency on the will but self-determination of the will. It is not clear, however, that any sense can be made of this requirement. This chapter spells out this dialectic by means of a distinction between explanatory and modal incompatibilism, concluding that if there is a coherent account of free agency, then it is compatible with a deterministic or mechanistic metaphysics. The options are compatibilism or scepticism.
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