The problem of free will: an overview of major studies by analytical philosophers in late 20th – early 21st century

15 June, 2018

Volkov D.
First pub. in: Философский журнал. 2016. Т. 9. № 3. С. 175–189.

This paper is an overview of contemporary studies on the problem of free will and moral responsibility. Its main purpose is to outline the key figures, theories and arguments which have contributed significantly toward finding a solution to this paradox. No similar survey has as yet appeared in Russian, and the Russian-speaking readers remain largely unaware of the main positions in the debate. From the author’s point of view, the leading exponents of contemporary philosophy of free will are Robert Kane, Derk Pereboom, Daniel Dennett and John Martin Fischer. The former two advocate incompatibilist theories, such as libertarianism and hard incomaptibilism respectively, whereas Dennett and Fischer share the compatibilist view. According to Kane and Pereboom, free will and moral responsibility are not compatible with causal determinism which claims that all events have a cause and that every cause necessitates the effect. In Dennett’s and Fischer’s theories, on the contrary, free will and moral responsibility are compatible with causal determinism. The author of the present article contends that compatibilist theories have the most promise, seeing as they conform better to the existing practices of interpersonal relations. To defend the compatibilist choice, however, one has to demonstrate the falsity of the opposing arguments, such as the consequence argument and the manipulation argument, which seems not to be an impossible task since the arguments propounded by the antagonists of compatibilism are inconclusive and have significant flaws.

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