On When the Will is Free

  • Hugh J. McCann
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 266)


Defenders of libertarian free will are generally of the view that the sort of freedom they uphold attends most, if not all, of our decisions and actions. Exceptions, if any, are apt to be claimed only for cases of duress or compulsion, in which it might be thought that the will is somehow bowled over by the strength of a particular motive. Recently, however, Peter van Inwagen has suggested that libertarian freedom is a rare condition at best, one that can obtain only in unusual circumstances (van Inwagen 1989).1 The reason is simply that in the great majority of situations of decision and action, what to do is absolutely clear to us; and, van Inwagen argues, when this is so we cannot do otherwise. This result is disheartening, the more so since it is also a common sense belief that most operations of the will are free. If, on an incom-patibilist account of freedom, this cannot be, prospects for a convincing defense of libertarianism are considerably diminished. Accordingly, it is worth considering whether the challenge presented by van Inwagen’s argument can be met. I shall try to argue that it can.


Positive Motivation Motivate Alternative Modal Necessity Common Sense Belief Phone Ring 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hugh J. McCann
    • 1
  1. 1.Texas A&M UniversityUSA

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