Vol. 12, No. 2, June 2009, 167 –179
The truth in compatibilism and the truth of libertarianism
Department of Philosophy, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
The paper offers the outlines of a response to the often-made suggestion that it is impossible to see how indeterminism could possibly provide us with anything that we might want in the way of freedom, anything that could really amount to control, as opposed merely to an openness in the ﬂow of reality that would constitute the injection of chance, or randomness, into the unfolding of the processes which underlie our activity. It is suggested that the best ﬁrst move for the libertarian is to make a number of important concessions to the compatibilist. It should be conceded, in particular, that certain sorts of alternative possibilities are neither truly available to real, worldly agents nor required in order that those agents act freely; and it should be admitted also that it is the compatibilist who tends to give the most plausible sorts of analyses of many of the ‘can’ and ‘could have’ statements which seem to need to be assertible of those agents we regard as free. But these concessions do not bring compatibilism itself in their wake. The most promising version of libertarianism, it is argued, is based on the idea that agency itself (and not merely some special instances of it which we might designate with the honoriﬁc appellation ‘free’) is inconsistent with determinism. This version of libertarianism, it is claimed, can avoid the objection that indeterminism is as difﬁcult to square with true agential control as determinism can sometimes seem to be.
Keywords: libertarianism; free will; compatibilism; agency; chance; luck; determinism
In this paper, I want to attempt to provide a partial outline of a libertarian response