Free Will Remains a Mystery

Peter van Inwagen

in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780195178548
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Free Will Remains a Mystery

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This article is organized into two parts. The first restates and reaffirms a formal version of the Consequence Argument first presented in van Inwagen (1983) and then defends this version against a recent objection by Thomas McKay and David Johnson (1996). The second part defends the conclusion that the concept of agent causation is useless to the philosopher who wants to maintain that free will and indeterminism are compatible. But it does not attempt to show that the concept of agent causation is incoherent or that the real existence of agent causation should be rejected for scientific reasons. It assumes—for the sake of argument—that agent causation is possible and that it in fact exists. It presents an argument for the conclusion that free will and indeterminism are incompatible even if our acts or their causal antecedents are products of agent causation. The article concludes that free will remains a mystery—that is, free will undeniably exists and there is a strong and unanswered prima facie case for its impossibility.

Keywords: Consequence Argument; agent causation; free will; indeterminism; incompatibilism

Article.  9878 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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