Philosophical Papers

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Improving the Metaphysical Argument against Free Will

Noel Hendrickson


Galen Strawson and Saul Smilansky have offered a well-known argument that free will does not exist because the control involved is so robust that it would require influence over an infinite series of prior decisions. (Strawson 1986, 1994, 2002, Smilansky 2000, 2002) Unfortunately, while this metaphysical argument has attracted widespread attention, it has garnered few adherents. Thus, in order to improve the metaphysical argument against free will, I offer a new interpretation of the argument, its fundamental principle, and its relationship to incompatibilism. I demonstrate that the central principle of the argument is just as defensible as the central principle of one of the major arguments for incompatibilism (namely, Robert Kane\'s argument from ‘ultimate responsibility\' in Kane 1996). Therefore, the metaphysical argument against free will deserves much more respect than it currently receives.

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