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Freedom & Explanation

  • Author(s): Hollowell, Joshua Randall
  • Advisor(s): Fischer, John Martin
  • et al.
Abstract

In this dissertation I will explicate the sourcehood and leeway conditions, primarily by way of the concept of explanation. This yields three significant results. First, in clarifying the leeway condition, we find that it has two distinct ideas packed into it--one modal, one explanatory. These two ideas in fact correspond to two quite different versions of the control condition. Second, it turns out that the connection between the leeway condition and the sourcehood condition is far tighter than heretofore supposed. Though these are usually treated as clearly distinct and perhaps competing versions of the control condition,⁠ it turns out that they share a common core. Specifically, both involve what I call the explanatory condition, according to which you are only responsible for what you do if you are the explanation of it. That is, if you are the explanation in an unqualified sense.

The most exciting result, though, is that incompatibilists of either stripe are committed to a contentious claim about explanation: the displacement principle. According to the displacement principle, earlier `links' in explanatory chains displace later ones. That is, in a case where A explains B, and B explains C, A would displace B, meaning that the explanation of C is A and not B. So, for instance, if the past and the laws of nature explain my character and motivational profile, and these, at least apparently, explain my actions, then in fact it is the past and the laws that explain my action. My character and motivational profile are merely an apparent explanation of my actions. This is, I argue the central point of dispute between compatibilists and incompatibilists. If the displacement principle is true, it is hard to see how the incompatibilist can fail. If, on the other hand, it is false, it is hard to see how the incompatibilist could succeed. Defending the displacement principle will not be a simple task. The incompatibilist faces an uphill battle.

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