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Freedom, self and the consequences of determinism

Magill, Kevin Barry; (1993) Freedom, self and the consequences of determinism. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the conditions of free will. Compatibilists believe that free will and determinism are compatible, and argue that all that is required for an action to be free is that it be voluntary; while Incompatibilists argue that it must also be uncaused. I argue that the solutions to Incompatibilist worries about determinism are to be found in the Stoic idea of freedom as acting in accordance with what is reasonable and good, and in a conception of self as reasoning activity. In Parts 1 and 2 I show how it is possible to be free in a deterministic universe. I follow Ted Honderich in rejecting the idea that the consequences of determinism can be settled by clarifying the meanings of terms such as 'free' and 'morally responsible'. I argue, however, that important problems about the consequences of determinism remain. I also show why it is that we cannot experience difficult decisions as caused to happen, and why that is compatible with determinism. I then set out the conception of freedom developed by the Stoics, Spinoza, Kant and Hegel, and argue that this conception is not alien to what is standardly meant by freedom. I show that if we accept the Stoic claim that freedom consists in acting in accordance with what is reasonable, contra-causal freedom is superfluous. To have a free will, and, thus, to be able to say that my actions are truly up to me, requires not only that I be free, but also that 'I' exist as something that my actions can be 'truly up to'. Having set out the conditions of freedom with regard to determinism, I go on to defend the conception of self on which it depends. I oppose those such as Derek Parfit who deny the existence of any unified self. I apply Hegel's idea of Geist as an activity embodying reason, to self. I show how self can be the unifying principle of consciousness, and how it endures over time. Finally, I explore and develop the accounts of freedom and self by showing how one can properly be said to control one's own behaviour, and how, given the account of freedom, a conception of self as reasoning activity can account for self-enslavement.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Freedom, self and the consequences of determinism
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Philosophy, religion and theology; Determinism; Freedom; Self
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10105967
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