Chapter

Ifs and Cans<sup>1</sup>

J. L. Austin, J. O. Urmson and G. J. Warnock

in Philosophical Papers

Third edition

Published in print March 1979 | ISBN: 9780192830210
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597039 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/019283021X.003.0009

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

Ifs and Cans1

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Criticises G. E. Moore’s highly influential proposal that ascriptions of agent ability implying freedom of choice or action, what the agent could do, are analyzable as conditional statements regarding what the agent would do under certain circumstances. Austin objects against Moore that some uses of ‘if’ are non-conditional and goes on to examine the uses of these non-conditional cases. Moore’s proposal also lies at the heart of some compatibilist theories of free will and determinism. Austin argues determinism to be a pseudo-problem, so long as it remains a notion that is not itself clear cut.

Keywords: Austin; compatibilism; conditional; determinism; free will; freedom; G. E. Moore; if

Chapter.  11203 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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