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Anscombe, Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret, , . Were you a Zygote?
1985, In Griffiths, A.P. (ed.) Philosophy and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: The usual way for new cells to come into being is by division of old cells. So the zygote, which is a—new—single cell formed from two, the sperm and ovum, is an exception. Textbooks of human genetics usually say that this new cell is beginning of a new human individual. What this indicates is that they suddenly forget about identical twins.

Comment: This paper can be particularly useful in teaching in two contexts: (1) ethical issues at the beginning of life; and (2) metaphysics of personal identity.

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Barnes, Elizabeth, , Ross Cameron. Back to the Open Future
2011, Philosophical Perspectives 25(1): 1-26.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: Many of us are tempted by the thought that the future is open, whereas the past is not. The future might unfold one way, or it might unfold another; but the past, having occurred, is now settled. In previous work we presented an account of what openness consists in: roughly, that the openness of the future is a matter of it being metaphysically indeterminate how things will turn out to be. We were previously concerned merely with presenting the view and exploring its consequences; we did not attempt to argue for it over rival accounts. That is what we will aim to do in this paper.

Comment: This could be set as a further reading, with the authors’ ‘The Open Future: Bivalence, Determinism, and Ontology’ as a core.

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Barnes, Elizabeth, , Ross Cameron. The Open Future: Bivalence, Determinism, and Ontology
2009, Philosophical Studies 146(2): 291-309.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: In this paper we aim to disentangle the thesis that the future is open from theses that often get associated or even conflated with it. In particular, we argue that the open future thesis is compatible with both the unrestricted principle of bivalence and determinism with respect to the laws of nature. We also argue that whether or not the future (and indeed the past) is open has no consequences as to the existence of (past and) future ontology.

Comment: This text might seem to be advanced because of the many issues it handles, but it’s written so clearly that I think it could (if taught in detail as a core text) be suitable for an intermediate metaphysics class. In particular, the class could be split into three groups, with each group tasked with researching one of bivalence, determinism and eternalism, and explaining i) how they are alleged to conflict with the open future, and ii) how Barnes and Cameron argue that they aren’t in fact in conflict with the thesis that the future is open.

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Broad, Jacqueline, , Karen Detlefsen. (eds.) Women and Liberty, 1600-1800: Philosophical Essays
2017, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Francesca Bruno, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: This book addresses the theme of liberty as it is found in the writing of women philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, or as it is theorized with respect to women and their lives. It covers both theoretical and practical philosophy, with chapters grappling with problems in the metaphysics of free will (both human and God’s), the liberty (or lack thereof) of women in their moral, personal lives as well as their social-political, public lives, and the interactions between the metaphysical and normative issues. The chapters draw upon writing of both women and men, and notably, upon a wide range of genres, including more standard philosophical treatises as well as polemical texts, poetry, plays, and other forms of fiction. As such, this book alerts the reader to the wide range of conceptions of what counts as a philosophical text in the early modern period. Several chapters also grapple with the relation between early modern and contemporary ways of thinking about the theme of women and liberty, thus urging the reader to appreciate the continuing importance of these earlier philosophers in the history of philosophy and of feminism. Ultimately, the chapters in this text show how crucial it is to recover the too-long forgotten views of female and women-friendly male philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for in the process of recovering these voices, our understanding of philosophy in the early modern period is not only expanded, but also significantly altered toward a more accurate history of our discipline.

Comment: This volume covers ethical, political, metaphysical, and religious notions of liberty, including chapters on women’s ideas about the metaphysics of free will and chapters examining the topic of women’s freedom (or lack thereof) in their moral and personal lives. Some of the papers in this collection could be assigned individually in an undergraduate early modern survey course; or it could be one of the main texts for a more advanced (undergraduate or graduate) course on the topic of liberty/freedom, from a variety of philosophical perspectives (ethical, political, metaphysical, and religious).

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Buss, Sarah, , . Personal autonomy
2008, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: To be autonomous is to be a law to oneself; autonomous agents are self-governing agents. Most of us want to be autonomous because we want to be accountable for what we do, and because it seems that if we are not the ones calling the shots, then we cannot be accountable. More importantly, perhaps, the value of autonomy is tied to the value of self-integration. We don’t want to be alien to, or at war with, ourselves; and it seems that when our intentions are not under our own control, we suffer from self-alienation. What conditions must be satisfied in order to ensure that we govern ourselves when we act? Philosophers have offered a wide range of competing answers to this question.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Haji, Ishtiyaque, , . Moral appraisability: puzzles, proposals, and perplexities
1998, New York: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Back matter: This book explores the epistemic or knowledge requirement of moral responsibility. Haji argues that an agent can be blamed (or praised) only if the agent harbors a belief that the action in question is wrong (or right or obligatory). Defending the importance of an “authenticity” condition when evaluating moral responsibility, Haji holds that one cannot be morally responsible for an action unless the action issues from sources (like desires or beliefs) that are truly the agent’s own. Engaging crucial arguments in moral theory to elaborate his views on moral responsibility, Haji addresses as well fascinating, underexamined topics such as assigning blame across an intercultural gap and the relevance of unconscious or dream thoughts when evaluating responsibility.

Comment: Chapter 3 is particularly useful in teaching about moral responsibility, free will and determinism. Chapter 12 provides an interesting discussion of relations between blameworthiness and cultural determination.

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Ismael, Jenann, , . Causation, Free Will, and Naturalism
2013, In Don Ross, James Ladyman, and Harold Kincaid (eds.), Scientific Metaphysics, (2013) OUP.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

This chapter addresses the worry that the existence of causal antecedents to your choices means that you are causally compelled to act as you do. It begins with the folk notion of cause, leads the reader through recent developments in the scientific understanding of causal concepts, and argues that those developments undermine the threat from causal antecedents. The discussion is then used as a model for a kind of naturalistic metaphysics that takes its lead from science, letting everyday concepts be shaped and transformed by scientific developments.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on metaphysics (either in sections on causation or free will), philosophy of science, or naturalism. The paper is quite long, but it is clearly written and not too technical. It provides a nice overview of the folk notion of causation, and how this may be amended in the light of scientific developments. It also serves as a good example of peculiarly naturalistic metaphyisics more generally.

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Jorati, Julia, , . Du Châtelet on Freedom, Self-Motion, and Moral Necessity
2019, Journal of the History of Philosophy 57 (2):255-280
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Julia Jorati

Abstract: This paper explores the theory of freedom that Emilie du Châtelet advances in her essay “On Freedom.” Using contemporary terminology, we can characterize this theory as a version of agent-causal compatibilism. More specifically, the theory has the following elements: (a) freedom consists in the power to act in accordance with one’s choices, (b) freedom requires the ability to suspend desires and master passions, (c) freedom requires a power of self-motion in the agent, and (d) freedom is compatible with moral necessity but not with physical necessity. While these elements may at first appear disparate, the paper shows that they fit together quite well. The resulting theory is a surprising combination of doctrines that appear to be based on Samuel Clarke’s libertarian account of free will and doctrines that are reminiscent of the compatibilist accounts of John Locke, Anthony Collins, Gottfried Leibniz, and Thomas Hobbes.

Comment: Gives an overview of Du Châtelet’s views on freedom of the will; can be useful to someone who wants to teach Du Châtelet’s essay “On Freedom”

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Jorati, Julia, , . Gottfried Leibniz [on Free Will]
2017, In Kevin Timpe, Meghan Griffith & Neil Levy (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Free Will. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 293–302
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Julia Jorati

Abstract: Leibniz was obsessed with freedom. He turns to this topic again and again throughout his long career. And what he has to say about freedom is much more resourceful and inventive than typically acknowledged. While building on medieval theories—for instance by describing freedom in terms of the relation between the agent’s will and intellect—he also adds radically new elements and even anticipates some views that are popular today. The combination of theses about free will that Leibniz endorses in his mature writings is unusual and may at first appear inconsistent: (a) he claims that some of our actions are free, (b) he links free agency closely to agent causation and in fact appears to deny that there is event causation; (c) he accepts a form of determinism. In other words, Leibniz endorses what we can describe as an agent-causal compatibilist theory of freedom. The three theses may seem to be in tension not only because proponents of agent causation views are typically incompatibilists, but also because determinism is often defined in a way that presupposes event causation. As we will see soon, however, the tension is merely apparent. Leibniz’s version of agent-causal compatibilism is perfectly coherent and has some unique advantages over rival accounts.

Comment: Gives an overview of Leibniz’s views on freedom of the will; can be used for survey courses on early modern philosophy or for courses on the free will debate.

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Murdoch, Iris, , . The Darkness of Practical Reason
1998, in Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature. Allen Lane/the Penguin Press, 193-202
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion, Contributed by:

Introduction: In his book, Freedom of the Individual, Stuart Hampshire argues as follows. In human beings (as opposed to things) power a function of will and will is a function of desire. Some desires are “thought-dependent” in that they depend on statable beliefs which, if they altered,- would alter the desires, and so such desires cannot be defined by purely behavioural criteria, since the subject’s conception of what he wants is constitutive of the wanting. We do not discover our thought-dependent desires inductively, by observation, we formulate them in the light of our beliefs. We have the experience of being convinced by evidence and of changing our beliefs and so willing differently, and there seems to be no set of sufficient conditions outside our thinking which could explain this situation equally well. […] I wish to make an entry into Professor Hampshire’s argument at the point where he dismisses the doctrine of the transcendent will.

Comment: This text offers an advanced-level criticism of Stuart Hampshire’s account of practical reason, it would be suitable for courses on the philosophy of action, philosophy of mind or philosophy of psychology. Since this text is very short, it would be best utilised as a supplement to Stuart Hampshire’s Thought and Action as knowledge of Hampshire’s account is necessary in order to follow this text. It could also be useful for facilitating/incorporating discussions of the imagination into any of the aforementioned potential courses.

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Nida-Rümelin, Martine, , . Freedom and the Phenomenology of Agency
2018, Erkenntnis 83 (1):61-87.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Nora Heinzelmann

Abstract: Free action and microphysical determination are incompatible but this is so only in virtue of a genuine conflict between microphysical determination with any active behavior. I introduce active behavior as the veridicality condition of agentive experiences and of perceptual experiences and argue that these veridicality conditions are fulfilled in many everyday cases of human and non-human behavior and that they imply the incompatibility of active behavior with microphysical determination. The main purpose of the paper is to show that the view proposed about active behavior leads to a natural compromise between libertarianism and compatibilism, which avoids the flaws of both positions while preserving their central insights.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Sartorio, Carolina, , . Causation and Free Will
2016, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Jingbo Hu

Publisher’s Note: Carolina Sartorio argues that only the actual causes of our behaviour matter to our freedom. The key, she claims, lies in a correct understanding of the role played by causation in a view of that kind. Causation has some important features that make it a responsibility-grounding relation, and this contributes to the success of the view. Also, when agents act freely, the actual causes are richer than they appear to be at first sight; in particular, they reflect the agents’ sensitivity to reasons, where this includes both the existence of actual reasons and the absence of other reasons. So acting freely requires more causes and quite complex causes, as opposed to fewer causes and simpler causes, and is compatible with those causes being deterministic. The book connects two different debates, the one on causation and the one on the problem of free will, in new and illuminating ways.

Comment: This book provides an interesting compatibilist theory for free will and moral responsibility. Chapter One can be used as an introductory material about the Frankfurt-style cases as well as the motivations for compatibilism. Chapter Four can be used as an auxiliary reading for Fischer and Ravizza’s reasons-responsiveness theory for it points out some problem of their theory and provides an alternative proposal.

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Steward, Helen, , . A Metaphysics for Freedom
2012, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Publisher’s note: A metaphysics for freedom argues that determinism is incompatible with agency itself–not only the special human variety of agency, but also powers which can be accorded to animal agents. It offers a distinctive, non-dualistic version of libertarianism, rooted in a conception of what biological forms of organisation might make possible in the way of freedom.

Comment: Specific chapters (e.g. 1 and 4) would be useful for an advanced philosophy of mind/action course, but also it could be really nice to read the whole book in a dedicated Masters course – reading and discussing one chapter per seminar. Chapter 1 is especially useful because it outlines Steward’s position, ‘agency incompatibilism’ which it could be useful to have students discuss and compare with classical compatibilism and incompatibilism. Chapter 4 is also a great one to use because it discusses animal agency – this could perhaps come towards the end of an intermediate philosophy of mind course – once students have already learned something about agency when considered in relation to humans.

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Steward, Helen, , . Agency Incompatibilism and Divine Agency
2015, European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 7(3): 67-78.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: In this paper, I consider whether an argument for compatibilism about free will and determinism might be developed from the thought that God’s agency seems consistent with the rational determination of at least some divine actions by the True and the Good. I attempt to develop such an argument and then consider how to respond to it from the point of view of my own position, which I call Agency Incompatibilism. I argue that a crucial premise in the argument is ambiguous and offer responses to the argument on behalf of the Agency Incompatibilist, on each of the two disambiguations.

Comment: This article could be used in a number of ways: (i) in a course on the metaphysics of freedom – after all, even if one is an atheist, it’s interesting to examine one’s metaphysics of freedom when applied to the divine domain, and this paper does so in a way that also presents a fascinating version of incompatibilism; (ii) in a Philosophy of Religion course element on divine freedom (iii) as a secondary reading relating to both of the above.

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Steward, Helen, , . The Truth in Compatibilism and the Truth of Libertarianism
2009, Philosophical Explorations 12 (2):167 – 179.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Will Hornett

Abstract: 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.

Comment: Steward’s paper is an innovative response to a classic problem for libertarianism in the free will debate. It should be taught in any Free Will module which deals with libertarianism and luck.

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