Dretske on the Metaphysics of Freedom

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 23 (4):619-630 (1993)


Most philosophers of action have seen little or no connection between the individuation of action and questions of freedom and responsibility. Is this a mistake? According to a recent suggestion by Fred Dretske it may be. Dretske views overt actions not as observable events with a distinctive sort of causal history, but rather as causal sequences, in which a distinctive sort of inner cause produces the appropriate outcome. So when Jimmy voluntarily wiggles his ears, the motion of his ears is not his action; it is only a component of the action, its result. The entire action consists in an event-causal sequence wherein an inner event C causes the result: it is C’s causing the motion of Jimmy’s ears.

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Hugh J. McCann
Texas A&M University

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