Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis explores the merits and limits of John Hawthorne’s contextualist analysis of free will. First, I argue that contextualism does better at capturing the ordinary understanding of ‘free will’ than competing views because it best accounts for the way in which our willingness to attribute free will ordinarily varies with context. Then I consider whether this is enough to conclude that the contextualist has won the free will debate. I argue that this would be hasty, because the contextualist, unlike her competitors, cannot tell us whether any particular agent is definitively free, and therefore cannot inform any practices that are premised on whether a particular agent is morally responsible. As such, I argue that whether the contextualist “wins the free will debate” depends on whether it is more important to capture the ordinary understanding of ‘free will’ or more important to inform our practices of ascribing moral responsibility.
Stern, Reuben E., "Can the Contextualist Win the Free Will Debate?" (2011). Philosophy Theses. Paper 101.