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Book assesses beliefs about free will

Libertarian Accounts of Free Will
By Randolph Clarke
Oxford University Press

Most of us think that when we act we exercise free will and are thus responsible for what we do. Most of us also think that at least some free actions-those that are the sources of our responsibility-must be undetermined by what precedes them. Most of us, then, endorse libertarianism, which combines the belief that we have free will with the belief that having free will (and being responsible) requires indeterminism. (Libertarianism, in this sense, has no relation to the political view of the same name). Libertarian accounts of free will purport to tell us all that it takes for someone to exercise free will, where one requirement is that a basic free action must be undetermined. But this requirement raises difficult challenges. An undetermined action, many object, would be random or arbitrary; it could not be rational or rationally explicable; the agent would lack control over such an occurrence.

Written by UGA associate professor of philosophy Randolph Clarke, Libertarian Accounts of Free Will offers a balanced assessment of libertarian accounts, defending some against some of the objections that they face but finding none to be entirely adequate. The upshot is that if free will and responsibility are indeed incompatible with determinism, then free will and responsibility are impossible. This is a troubling conclusion; if it is correct, then most of us hold two basic beliefs about free will that cannot both be true.