Volume 15, No. 2, 2019 – Special issue: Free Will and Epistemology Guest editors: László Bernáth, Timothy O’Connor and András Szigeti

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  • Preface to the Special Issue
    Robert Lockie

    Pages: 5-12 | Abstract

    Preface to the Special Issue on Free Will and Epistemology written by Robert Lockie.
  • To be Able to, or to be Able not to? That is the Question. A Problem for the Transcendental Argument for Free Will
    Nadine Elzein and Tuomas K. Pernu

    Pages: 13-32 | Abstract | 10.31820/ejap.15.2.1

    A type of transcendental argument for libertarian free will maintains that if acting freely requires the availability of alternative possibilities, and determinism holds, then one is not justified in asserting that there is no free will. More precisely: if an agent A is to be justified in asserting a proposition P (e.g. “there is no free will”), then A must also be able to assert not-P. Thus, if A is unable to assert not-P, due to determinism, then A is not justified in asserting P. While such arguments often appeal to principles with wide appeal, such as the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, they also require a commitment to principles that seem far less compelling, e.g. the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘able not to’ or the principle that having an obligation entails being responsible. It is argued here that these further principles are dubious, and that it will be difficult to construct a valid transcendental argument without them.
  • Determinism and Judgment. A Critique of the Indirect Epistemic Transcendental Argument for Freedom
    Luca Zanetti

    Pages: 33-54 | Abstract | 10.31820/ejap.15.2.2

    In a recent book entitled Free Will and Epistemology. A Defence of the Transcendental Argument for Freedom, Robert Lockie argues that the belief in determinism is self-defeating. Lockie’s argument hinges on the contention that we are bound to assess whether our beliefs are justified by relying on an internalist deontological conception of justification. However, the determinist denies the existence of the free will that is required in order to form justified beliefs according to such deontological conception of justification. As a result, by the determinist’s own lights, the very belief in determinism cannot count as justified. On this ground Lockie argues that we are bound to act and believe on the presupposition that we are free. In this paper I discuss and reject Lockie’s transcendental argument for freedom. Lockie’s argument relies on the assumption that in judging that determinism is true the determinist is committed to take it that there are epistemic obligations – e.g., the obligation to believe that determinism is true, or the obligation to aim to believe the truth about determinism. I argue that this assumption rests on a wrong conception of the interplay between judgments and commitments.
  • Is Free Will Scepticism Self-Defeating?
    Simon-Pierre Chevarie-Cossette

    Pages: 55-78 | Abstract | 10.31820/ejap.15.2.3

    Free will sceptics deny the existence of free will, that is the command or control necessary for moral responsibility. Epicureans allege that this denial is somehow self-defeating. To interpret the Epicurean allegation charitably, we must first realise that it is propositional attitudes like beliefs and not propositions themselves which can be self-defeating. So, believing in free will scepticism might be self-defeating. The charge becomes more plausible because, as Epicurus insightfully recognised, there is a strong connection between conduct and belief—and so between the content of free will scepticism (since it is about conduct) and the attitude of believing it. Second, we must realise that an attitude can be self-defeating relative to certain grounds. This means that it might be self-defeating to be a free will sceptic on certain grounds, such as the putative fact that we lack leeway or sourcehood. This charge is much more interesting because of the epistemic importance of leeway and sourcehood. Ultimately, the Epicurean charge of self-defeat fails. Yet, it delivers important lessons to the sceptic. The most important of them is that free will sceptics should either accept the existence of leeway or reject the principle that “ought” implies “can”.
  • How Do We Know That We Are Free?
    Timothy O’Connor

    Pages: 79-98 | Abstract | 10.31820/ejap.15.2.4

    We are naturally disposed to believe of ourselves and others that we are free: that what we do is often and to a considerable extent ‘up to us’ via the exercise of a power of choice to do or to refrain from doing one or more alternatives of which we are aware. In this article, I probe the source and epistemic justification of our ‘freedom belief’. I propose an account that (unlike most) does not lean heavily on our first-personal experience of choice and action, and instead regards freedom belief as a priori justified. I will then consider possible replies available to incompatibilists to the contention made by some compatibilists that the ‘privileged’ epistemic status of freedom belief (which my account endorses) supports a minimalist, and therefore compatibilist view of the nature of freedom itself.
  • The Conceptual Impossibility of Free Will Error Theory
    Andrew H. Latham

    Pages: 99-120 | Abstract | 10.31820/ejap.15.2.5

    This paper argues for a view of free will that I will call the conceptual impossibility of the truth of free will error theory – the conceptual impossibility thesis. I will argue that given the concept of free will we in fact deploy, it is impossible for our free will judgements—judgements regarding whether some action is free or not—to be systematically false. Since we do judge many of our actions to be free, it follows from the conceptual impossibility thesis that many of our actions are in fact free. Hence it follows that free will error theory—the view that no judgement of the form ‘action A was performed freely’—is false. I will show taking seriously the conceptual impossibility thesis helps makes good sense of some seemingly inconsistent results in recent experimental philosophy work on determinism and our concept of free will. Further, I will present some reasons why we should expect to find similar results for every other factor we might have thought was important for free will.
  • Can Self-Determined Actions be Predictable?
    Amit Pundik

    Pages: 121-140 | Abstract | 10.31820/ejap.15.2.6

    This paper examines Lockie’s theory of libertarian self-determinism in light of the question of prediction: “Can we know (or justifiably believe) how an agent will act, or is likely to act, freely?” I argue that, when Lockie’s theory is taken to its full logical extent, free actions cannot be predicted to any degree of accuracy because, even if they have probabilities, these cannot be known. However, I suggest that this implication of his theory is actually advantageous, because it is able to explain and justify an important feature of the practices we use to determine whether someone has acted culpably: our hostility to the use of predictive evidence.