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Indeterminism and Control: A Plea for Action Theory

Lecture by Niels van Miltenburg (Utrecht and Konstanz) organized by the Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

The current free will debate is all about control. Compatibilists and Libertarians fall all over themselves to establish that it is their account which secures the most control. But how much control is needed to turn a mere intentional action into a free action? Libertarians argue that indeterminism is required in order to enhance basic agential control sufficiently for an action to be free; compatibilists argue that this is not necessary, or even that indeterminism diminishes an agent’s control over her action.

I will analyze recent libertarian arguments to the effect that indeterminism is required to enhance control, and argue that they are unsuccessful. I will suggest that this failure is not accidental, but that it derives from the near universal agreement, by all parties in the debate, that basic intentional control (the control required to turn a mere bodily movement into an intentional action) is to be explained in terms of the event causal theory of action – a theory that is clearly compatible with both determinism and indeterminism.

Therefore, I will argue, the libertarian should explore a radically different strategy and reject the current framing of the debate: she should not argue that indeterminism enhances control, or that determinism diminishes it. Rather, she should argue that determinism destroys control. In other words, the libertarian should not just deny the compatibility of determinism and free action, but the compatibility of determinism with intentional agency itself.

Niels van Miltenburg

Niels van Miltenburg is a lecturer/researcher in philosophy employed by Utrecht University and the University of Konstanz. His research interests include Action Theory, Free Will, Metaphysics, Epistemology and Philosophy of Science.

When & where?

Wednesday 4 November 2015, 15.15 – 17.00
Room Alfa, Faculty of Philosophy

Last modified:16 October 2015 3.52 p.m.