Freedom, reason, and holding responsible

Dragoun, Ivo (2020) Freedom, reason, and holding responsible. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (1MB)


In this thesis, I present a novel compatibilist solution to the problem of free will. The presented solution rests on three strategic pillars.

The first pillar: It is widely accepted that the justifiability of our common practice of holding others morally responsible is seriously undermined should it turn out that free will is impossible. This threat to the practice is what motivates the discussion of the problem of free will. However, the motivation is not, I will argue, theoretically innocent. It comes part and parcel with certain deeply misleading constraints. In Chapter 1, I challenge the widely accepted background motivation and the associated constraints. The insight generated by the discussion in Chapter 1 allows me to approach the problem of free will from a different angle.

The second pillar: The vast majority of philosophers agree that free will can be attributed only to agents that are, in some suitably robust sense, rational; that is, they see rationality as a necessary condition of attributability of free will. In Chapter 2, I formulate an original argument in support of this view. In Chapter 3, I present a thought experiment designed to show that, and how, rationality can be understood as not only a necessary condition but a condition that is, in fact, sufficient for the attributability. I conclude that acting rationally is all there is to acting freely.

The third pillar: The logic of my account of how rationality can be understood as a sufficient condition of the attributability of free will is such that it won`t help neutralize the threat that universal causal determinism poses to the justifiability of our practice of holding others morally responsible. This theoretical impotence will be perceived as a weakness of the account. The last two chapters of the thesis are meant to neutralize the perceived weakness.

It is generally, and mostly implicitly, assumed that once it has been established that we have free will, there won`t be any other principle reason that undermines the justifiability of our practice of holding others morally responsible. I challenge the assumption. I argue that there is another such principal reason in virtue of which the practice is irremediably unjustifiable. To be able to argue so, I first identify the kind of holding morally responsible that calls for the free will assumption. This is done in Chapter 4. In Chapter 5, I argue that the kind of holding morally responsible that calls for the free will assumption is in principle unjustifiable due to the morally corrupted essence of man. I conclude that the theoretical impotence of my account of free will regarding the issue of the justifiability of our practice of holding others morally responsible cannot be taken as a weakness of the account because the practice is, for a separate reason, irremediably unjustifiable anyway.

In Appendix, I offer a separate argument for the claim that man`s moral standing is essentially corrupted. The argument relies on an interpretation of a passage from the New Testament and as such its appeal is somewhat limited. The target audience of the argument is a broadly Christian reader. Because of the limited appeal of the argument, it hasn`t been included in the main body of the thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0608 Will. Volition. Choice. Control
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2020 09:09
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2020 09:09

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update