The traditional view is that of the compatibilists which states that freedom is the ability to act, or not to act, according to the determinations of the will. It is so defined to make it compatible with the theory of determinism, which essentially states that all actions have a causal explanation due to the state of the world in the moment previous.
However, the definition is clearly inadequate due to the fundamental flaws of determinism and its failure to account for deliberation or personal choice. A superior alternative is offered by what Taylor calls the theory of agency, but is more commonly known as libertarianism.
In discussing a theory one must start with some data in order to prove the validity of the theory, and in discussing determinism this is no different. Two suitable criteria dealing with the decision making process are: firstly that we at times deliberate with the view of making a decision , and secondly regardless of whether I deliberate I sometimes have a personal choice in the decision making process. These criteria are ideal because they are both things that we as individuals are fairly certain of so any acceptable theory must account for them in some way. For common sense, a virtue in argumentation, suggests that it is easier to accept the veracity of partial self-determination in the decision making process than an abstract philosophical theory. To asses the applicability of the data to determinism a more in depth examination of determinism is needed, which Taylor defines as having three tenets: Firstly, that the theory of determinism is true. Secondly, that voluntary behaviour is free unless constrained, and finally that causes of voluntary behaviour are certain states, condition, decisions, and desires. The principle problem of determinism is precisely this last tenet, for what are the causes of the inner states that cause my actions? Where do they come
Cited: Russell, B. Problems of Philosophy. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1997. Taylor, R. Metaphysics. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993