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ISSN 0869-5377
The Logos Journal

Acting “of One’s Own Free Will”: Modern Reflections on an Ancient Philosophical Problem

Author: Kane Robert

About author:
Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin (UT). Address: 316 Waggener Hall, 78712-1180 Austin, TX, USA. E-mail:

The article presents one of the most influential contemporary libertarian accounts of free will. The author argues that we must rethink the modern tendency to reduce the problem of free will to the problem of free action. The author’s theory of Ultimate Responsibility emphasizes the formation of will (character, motives, values of the agent) as crucial for problems concerning responsibility and freedom. The ability to form the self or “will” depends on the agent’s ability to perform a so-called “selfforming action” not fully determined by the past of the agent. These specific actions occur in situations of genuine indeterminacy and inner conflict between competing motives and goals of the agent. However, to be a genuine source of freedom and responsibility, these self-forming actions should be under control of the agent, as well connected with the personhood of the agent. The author explains how the relevant kind of control can be construed within an indeterministic framework. According to him, some real indeterminacy in the physical world, more specifically, in brain processes, must represent these actions in order for them to be free and not fully determined by past events. The author shows how all these conditions can be combined in a sound and plausible theory that renders the libertarian position no less intelligible than its compatibilist alternatives. The second half of the article answers key points of criticism that have been directed at this theory, paying special attention to the problem of luck.

Keywords: free will; indeterminism; libertarianism; incompatibilism; moral responsibility; ultimate responsibility; luck

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