Ifs, Cans, and Free Will: The Issues

Bernard Berofsky

in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Ifs, Cans, and Free Will: The Issues


This article examines current debates about conditional analyses. It begins with G. E. Moore but focuses primarily on the forty-year period since the publication of J. L. Austin's influential essay “Ifs and Cans” (1961), which criticized Moore's view. Despite the difficulties with conditional analyses of can, power, and freedom, conditional analyses are far from dead among contemporary philosophers. Many compatibilists continue to believe that the spirit, if not the letter, of conditional or hypothetical analyses of power and freedom can be salvaged by focusing on more sophisticated interpretations of modal and counter/actual claims about what might or might not occur in possible worlds that are similar to the actual world. Yet conditional analyses of can, power, and freedom have frequently been on the defensive in recent philosophy; and many other compatibilists now try to avoid them altogether while seeking other ways to undermine arguments for incompatibilism. The article concludes with alternative compatibilist strategy that the author believes is worth pursuing.

Keywords: conditional analyses; G. E. Moore; J. L. Austin; compatibilism; can; power; freedom

Article.  10338 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Metaphysics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »