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Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 3 MT10

Event Name Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 3 MT10
Start Date 25th Oct 2010 4:30pm
End Date 25th Oct 2010 6:30pm
Duration 2 hours

Paul Russell (University of British Columbia)

"Critical Compatibilism and the Limits of Free Will" to be held in the Lecture Room, 10 Merton Street, Oxford - Seminars in Moral Philosophy webpage


Among the major representatives of the compatibilist position in the free will debate there exists an established consensus that insofar as we can secure human freedom and moral responsibility against any perceived sceptical threat (e.g. incompatibilist worries about the implications of determinism) there is no basis for “pessimism”, where this is understood in terms of a sense of despair, anxiety or disillusionment about the human predicament arising from reflection on these matters. More specifically, in its orthodox forms compatibilists have embraced optimism and rejected any basis for pessimism grounded on familiar incompatibilist and sceptical objections relating to problems of fate and luck. In this paper I argue that compatibilists require a less complacent attitude with respect to the limits of free will understood in terms of the lack of “ultimacy”. The position I will describe and defend – critical compatibilism – holds that the relevant basis for our (pessimistic) sense of disillusionment and disenchantment is not scepticism but rather the recognition that we are free and responsible agents in face of limits and constraints on our agency that can be accurately and appropriately described in terms of being subject to fate and luck. This is a position that contrasts not only with orthodox (complacent) compatibilism but also with the other familiar positions on this subject - including the various modes of scepticism and libertarianism. I will illustrate the general significance of this position with reference to the case of ‘Hamlet’.

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