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The Impossibility of Free Will and Ultimate Responsibility


Alexia Syrmos

University of Washington, US
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This paper concerns itself with the metaphysics of free will. To posit, as some philosophers do, that free will and determinism are incompatible is to provide a necessary condition for free will. Yet what should a sufficient condition look like? In other words, how might indeterminists provide a positive account of free will? In section 2 of this paper, I provide a few definitions and discuss an influential argument against compatibilism, namely the view that free will and determinism are compatible. This will help to identify some important criteria for theories of free will. Section 3 shows how abandoning determinism and adopting indeterminism is also problematic, and that we thus need to fill in the definition of free will. Section 4 presents the first part of Robert Kane’s definition of free will, which goes along the lines of “we make choices based on our beliefs, priorities, etc.” and section 5 offers Kane’s account of Self-Forming Actions to explain how our beliefs and priorities are our own. The core of my objection will take place in section 6, where I show how the concept of a Self-Forming Action cannot make free will compatible with indeterminism in that the idea of a Self-Forming Action is incoherent.

How to Cite: Syrmos, A., 2014. The Impossibility of Free Will and Ultimate Responsibility. International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, 6(2), pp.12 (85–91). DOI:
Published on 04 Jun 2014.
Peer Reviewed


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