Front Page Titles (by Subject) Freedom vs. Determinism - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Freedom vs. Determinism - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
About Liberty Fund:
This work is copyrighted by the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and is put online with their permission.
Fair use statement:
Freedom vs. Determinism
“Compatibilism.” Mind 87 (July 1978): 421–428.
Is a deterministic account of human action compatible with human freedom? A theory known as compatibilism (or soft determinism) denies that determinism must mean a person's lack of freedom or ability to act otherwise than he does.
The compatibilist grants that prior conditions causally determine human action. However, not all of those considerations are relevant in deciding whether a person has the ability to act otherwise. As G.E. Moore argued, a person's behavior is partly determined by what he wills. If a person wills differently, he can act differently. The compatibilist must, accordingly, explain our ability to will or choose. The best strategy for the compatibilist to show the compatibility of freedom and determinism is to focus on deliberate action. If the determinist can explain how a person could deliberately act otherwise than how he in fact did, he would explain the most important kind of freedom.
Deliberate freedom of action appears possible from the following analysis. A person is said to do x “freely” if, although doing x, he is also able to do something else, namely y. In this case he would be able to do y if: (1) there is something z such that, were he to will z, he would do y; and (2) there is some physically possible situation in which he would know y is the best alternative and, with this knowledge, he would do z.
This analysis means that a person would be free to regulate what he values or desires by a program of self-training. We can clarify this. There was some time prior to time t when the person was able to bring about his having at time t different values and desires. He thus could have willed differently at time t because it would bring about more of what he valued.