‘Up-to-Us‐ness’, Agency, and Determinism

Helen Steward

in A Metaphysics for Freedom

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199552054
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738838 | DOI:
‘Up-to-Us‐ness’, Agency, and Determinism

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This chapter sets out a conception of agency according to which an action is to be thought of as an input into the course of events such that it is essentially up to its agent whether or not it occurs—and argues that if this is indeed what an action is, the existence of actions must be inconsistent with determinism. It also explores Van Inwagen’s Consequence Argument, which, like the argument offered here, exploits the idea that nothing which is already settled by the past and the laws of nature could be up to the agent. It is suggested, however, that Van Inwagen’s argument is inconclusive, and makes a crucial mistaken concession to the compatibilist in appearing to accept that there could be such things as actions which were not ‘up to us’. It is also in this chapter that the notion of ‘settling’ is first introduced.

Keywords: agency; action; agent; determinism; van Inwagen; Consequence Argument; laws of nature; compatibilism; settling; up-to-usness

Chapter.  11131 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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