Freedom and Process

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Gelok, Ryan
free will , process
Both Hilary Bok, in “Freedom and Practical Reason,” and Robert Kane, in “Responsibility, Luck, and Chance: Reflections on Free Will and Indeterminism,” make at least implicit use of process-based accounts of deliberation to establish their positions. But Bok is a compatibilist while Kane is a libertarian—the usefulness of the notion of process to opposing sides of the contemporary free will debate suggests that it might be this notion that is doing the work for Bok and Kane rather than elements specific to their separate doctrines. At the very least it suggests that an exploration of process will offer a better understanding of the interplay between compatibilism and libertarianism in the free will debate. In this thesis, I discuss the process-based accounts of John Dewey and A. N. Whitehead—primarily from Dewey’s Human Nature and Conduct and Whitehead’s Process and Reality—in an effort to bring out features of such accounts that are relevant to the issues of free will and human action. Following focused discussions of Dewey and Whitehead I explore how their specific accounts bear upon the positions of Bok and Kane in their aforementioned articles, and conclude that Dewey and Whitehead would reject both the compatibilist and libertarian positions, taking up something of a middle ground between the two views. I then end the thesis by exploring how a more general process account of human action bears upon Bok and Kane, concluding that it is possible to reconcile their views with such a general account with only some reinterpretation and restriction of their positions. In general, I conclude that process-based accounts of human action favour neither compatibilist nor libertarian positions, but rather a mixture or middle ground between the two.
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