Necessity and Constraint


in The Freedom of the Will

Published in print September 1970 | ISBN: 9780198243434
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680687 | DOI:
Necessity and Constraint

Show Summary Details


Although the general argument for always preserving the status quo is bound to fail, it may still be true that freedom and responsibility, when properly analysed, will be found to be immune to revision, or at least to elimination. It has been traditionally assumed that freedom is opposed to necessity, or predictability, or causal explicability. But, some philosophers have argued that this is a mistake. What relieves a man of responsibility is constraint (or compulsion), not necessity. Constraint defeats responsibility because it is not at all up to the individual concerned whether the soi-disant action take place or not; what he decides is irrelevant. It is, they allege, a complete confusion to suppose that determinism has any bearing on freedom, responsibility, or the moral life. It is only, they say, our unfortunate habit of speaking of Laws of Nature, that has led us to think of them as prescribing the future, instead of simply describing events, economically and compendiously, just as they occur, without in any way telling them how they are to happen.

Keywords: freedom; necessity; constraint; responsibility

Chapter.  1121 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.