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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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Churchland, Patricia, , . The impact of Neuroscience on Philosophy
2008, Neuron 60, November 6
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Diversifying SyllabiChurchland claims that experimental science has gradually (and rightfully and successfully) replaced philosophical investigations of the world, and suggests that the time has come for philosophy of mind and moral philosophy to “cede” to experimental science. She claims that conceptual analysis has been undermined by “a torrent of neuro­psychological results” that contradict folk psychology (i.e. intuition). Thus, self­respecting philosophers of mind have begun to engage with experimental science. Moral philosophers have not yet realized that their field is going in the same direction, and that their stories are about to be superceded by a “naturalistic framework for looking at human morality and decision making” (409). She gives some examples from animal studies bearing on social behaviour and organization like monogamy, trust and cooperation, social attachment, group cooperation or amalgamation. One central point is that moral rules play only a partial role, if at all, in the “brain’s decision” when faced with “constraint­satisfaction problems” (410).

Comment: This text offers a perfect way to address the common reservations regarding the validity and usefullness of philosophy in the age of neuroscience among the students. It clearly distinguishes between the questions which can and cannot be answered empirically, and shows how the aims of philosophy and neuroscience differ. As the text is very approachable, it can easily be used even outside of a philosophy class; in more focused ethics or philosophy of mind classes it might be best accompanied by more specialised texts.

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Du Châtelet, Emilie, , . On Freedom
2020, Online Translation by Julia Jorati, with the help of Julie Roy; based on “Sur la liberté,” in Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, vol. 14, edited by William H. Barber, 484–502. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1989.
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by:

Abstract: The question of freedom is the most interesting question we could examine, since one can say that all of morality depends on this single question. Something so interesting justifies departing from my subject a little bit in order to enter this discussion, and to put here in front of the reader’s eyes the main objections that people make against freedom, so that he can judge for himself their soundness.

Comment: This is an English translation of Emilie Du Châtelet’s “Sur la liberté.” This 18th century text discusses freedom of the will, determinism, and divine foreknowledge.

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Foot, Philippa, , . Virtues and Vices
1978, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by: Nomy Arpaly

Publisher’s Note: This collection of essays, written between 1957 and 1977, contains discussions of the moral philosophy of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and some modern philosophers. It presents virtues and vices rather than rights and duties as the central concepts in moral philosophy. Throughout, the author rejects contemporary anti? naturalistic moral philosophies such as emotivism and prescriptivism, but defends the view that moral judgements may be hypothetical rather than (as Kant thought) categorical imperatives. The author also applies her moral philosophy to the current debates on euthanasia and abortion, the latter discussed in relation to the doctrine of the double effect. She argues against the suggestion, on the part of A. J. Ayer and others, that free will actually requires determinism. In a final essay, she asks whether the concept of moral approval can be understood except against a particular background of social practices.

Comment: Foot stands out among contemporary ethical theorists because of her conviction that virtues and vices are more central ethical notions than rights, duties, justice, or consequences. Since the author discusses multiple relevant topics (abortion, euthanasia, free will/determination, and the ethics of Hume and Nietzsche) this book is a really complete reading for Ethics courses. The book can be used in both, undergraduate and postgraduate courses, but the last eight essays are more suitable for postgraduates.

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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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Hieronymi, Pamela, , . Controlling Attitudes
2006, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 87 (1):45-74
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: I hope to show that, although belief is subject to two quite robust forms of agency, “believing at will” is impossible; one cannot believe in the way one ordinarily acts. Further, the same is true of intention: although intention is subject to two quite robust forms of agency, the features of belief that render believing less than voluntary are present for intention, as well. It turns out, perhaps surprisingly, that you can no more intend at will than believe at will.

Comment: I find this paper to be a valuable addition to classes on implicit biases, reasons, and moral psychology. It provides a good basis for discussion on how these topics relate to free will, and what sorts of control (and responsibilities) we have over our mental lives – including our desires, our beliefs, and other thoughts.

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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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Oshana, Marina, , . Personal Autonomy and Society
1998, Journal of Social Philosophy 29(1): 81–102.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Content: Oshana argues against ‘internalist’ theories of autonomy that focus exclusively on psychological conditions internal to the agent – what goes on inside her head – and suggests instead that certain social relations must obtain between the agent and those around her for genuine autonomy to be possible.

Comment: Oshana argues that personal autonomy is a socio-relational phenomenon partially constructed by external, social relations. She also offers an interesting and detailed critique of internalist accounts, which makes the text very useful in teaching on autonomy and free will in general. The text is best used as a further reading in undergraduate and a more central required reading in postgraduate teaching. It offers a good synopsis of Gerald Dworkin’s influential conception of autonomy.

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Roskies, Adina L., , . Neuroscientific challenges to free will and responsibility
2006, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10(9): 419-423.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: Recent developments in neuroscience raise the worry that understanding how brains cause behavior will undermine our views about free will and, consequently, about moral responsibility. The potential ethical consequences of such a result are sweeping. I provide three reasons to think that these worries seemingly inspired by neuroscience are misplaced. First, problems for common-sense notions of freedom exist independently of neuroscientific advances. Second, neuroscience is not in a position to undermine our intuitive notions. Third, recent empirical studies suggest that even if people do misconstrue neuroscientific results as relevant to our notion of freedom, our judgments of moral responsibility will remain largely unaffected. These considerations suggest that neuroethical concerns about challenges to our conception of freedom are misguided.

Comment: Roskies offers an overview of the debate, providing useful glossary of positions related to it together with a graph representing the relations between them. This can be particularly useful when explaining the differences between the metaphysical, epistemic and ethical claims made in this debate.

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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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