The Limits of Free Will

ISBN : 9780190627607

Paul Russell
304 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Oct 2017
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The Limits of Free Will contains a selection of papers concerning free will and moral responsibility. The problems arising in this field of philosophy, which are deeply rooted in the history of the subject, are also intimately related to a wide range of other fields, such as law and criminology, moral psychology, theology, and, more recently, neuroscience. The papers included in this collection were written and first published over a period of three decades, although most have appeared in the past decade or so. During this period this area of philosophy has been particularly active and it continues to attract a great deal of interest and attention. Among the topics covered, as they relate to these problems, are the challenge of skepticism; moral sentiment and moral capacity; necessity and the metaphysics of causation; practical reason; free will and art; fatalism and the limits of agency; and our metaphysical attitudes of optimism and pessimism. Some of the papers in this collection are primarily critical in character, presenting critiques and commentary on major works or contributions in the contemporary scene. Others are mainly constructive, aiming to develop and articulate a distinctive account of compatibilism. The general theory advanced, which is described as a form of "critical compatibilism", rejects any form of unqualified or radical skepticism but also insists that a plausible compatibilism has significant and substantive implications about the limits of agency and argues that this licenses a metaphysical attitude of (modest) pessimism on this topic. Finally, each paper in this collection is self-standing and can be read in isolation from the others. There is, nevertheless, a core set of themes and issues that unite and link them all together. The collection is arranged and organized in a format that enables the reader to appreciate and recognize these links and the core themes that unite them.


Table of Contents

I. Free Will and Causal Relations
1. Sorabji and the Dilemma of Determinism
[With an Addendum, 2016]
2. Causation, Compulsion and Compatibilism

II. Responsibility, Skepticism and Moral Sentiment
3. Strawson's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility
4. Responsibility and the Condition of Moral Sense
5. Moral Sense and the Foundations of Responsibility
6. Responsibility, Naturalism and 'the Morality System

III. Practical Reason, Art and Manipulation
7. Practical Reason and Motivational Skepticism
8. Free Will, Art and Morality
9. Selective Hard Compatibilism: Manipulation and Moral Standing

IV. Pessimism and the Limits of Free Will
10. Compatibilist-Fatalism: Finitude, Pessimism and the Limits of Free Will
11. Pessimists, Pollyannas and the New Compatibilism
12. Free Will Pessimism

List of related publications

About the author: 

Paul Russell is Professor in Philosophy at the University of British Columbia and the University of Gothenburg. His publications include Freedom and Moral Sentiment: Hume's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility (Oxford University Press, 1995); The Riddle of Hume's Treatise: Skepticism, Naturalism, and Irreligion (Oxford University Press, 2008); and editor of The Philosophy of Free Will (Oxford University, 2013).

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