Dissertation, University of Sydney (2019
In this thesis, I will defend a new kind of compatibilist account of free action, indirect conscious control compatibilism (or indirect compatibilism for short), and argue that some of our actions are free according to it. My argument has three components, and involves the development of a brand new tool for experimental philosophy, and the use of cognitive neuroscience. The first component of the argument shows that compatibilism (of some kind) is a conceptual truth. Contrary to the current orthodoxy in the free will literature, which is that our concept of free will is an incompatibilist concept - a concept according to which we have free will only if determinism is false - I will show that our concept of free will is in fact a compatibilist concept - a concept according to which we can have free will even if determinism is true - and I do so using a new experimental philosophy methodology inspired by two-dimensional semantics.
Of course, even if our concept of free will is a compatibilist concept, this does not mean that there are any free actions in the world: the current empirical evidence from the brain sciences appears to show that there might be no, or very few, free actions in the world, even on many compatibilist understandings of what it would take for there to be free will. The second component of the argument addresses this concern by extending our understanding of compatibilism. Agents act freely either when their actions are caused by compatibilistically acceptable psychological processes, or are indirectly caused by those same processes. Hence the name of my account: indirect compatibilism.
The final component of the argument defends my new account against some interesting objections and provides evidence from cognitive neuroscience that some of our actions count as free by the lights of indirect compatibilism.