Individual Freedom: Actions

Ian Carter

in A Measure of Freedom

Published in print March 1999 | ISBN: 9780198294535
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598951 | DOI:
 Individual Freedom: Actions

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Defending a non-value-based and therefore purely empirical conception of overall freedom must involve showing how available actions can, at least in theory, be individuated and counted. The problems encountered here include the fact that actions can have an indefinite number of descriptions, that they can be subjected to indefinite spatio-temporal division, and that they give rise to indefinitely long causal chains of events. Solutions to these problems can be found through an application of Donald Davidson’s notion of actions as particulars, and by thinking of act-tokens as located in particular units within a space-time grid. Once possible actions have been adequately individuated, a formula for the measurement of freedom can be constructed, adapting a formula originally proposed by Hillel Steiner and taking into account the compossibility of particular actions and the probability of their being unconstrained. Careful attention to the structure of sets of available actions helps to mitigate some of the supposed counterintuitive implications of this analysis. Furthermore, subscribing to this empirical approach to the measurement of overall freedom does not necessarily imply subscribing to an empiricist or physicalist conception of action.

Keywords: actions; act-tokens; causal chains; compossibility; Donald Davidson; events; physicalist; probability; spatio-temporal division; Hillel Steiner

Chapter.  24544 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Political Theory

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