Roderick Chisholm on Freedom of the Will

Topics: Determinism, Free will, Causality Pages: 2 (697 words) Published: April 24, 2005
There is much debate over the issue of whether we have complete freedom of the will or if our will caused by something other than our own choosing. There are three positions adopted by philosophers regarding this dispute: determinism, libertarianism, and compatibilism. Determinists believe that freedom of the will does not exist. Since actions are events that have some predetermined cause, no actions can be chosen and thus there is no will to choose. The compatibilist argues that you can have both freedom of the will and determinism. If the causes which led to our actions were different, then we could have acted in another way which is compatible with freedom of the will. Libertarians believe that freedom of the will does exist.

Roderick Chisholm defends Libertarianism, and in his essay "Human Freedom and The Self" argues that we have freedom of the will. Chisholm does not abandon the idea of causes but instead defines two types of causation. The first is transeunt causation where one event or state of affairs causes another event or state of affairs. This causation is based on a relationship between events. The second is immanent causation where an agent causes an event or state of affairs. An agent is an uncaused causer of events who is not bound by the laws of nature. This causation is based on the relationship between an agent and an event. Chisholm quotes a passage from Aristotle to demonstrate his immanent causation, "Thus, a staff moves a stone, and is moved by a hand, which is moved by a man" (Chisholm, 409). This event of moving a stone with a staff was caused transeuntly by the moving of the hand. The hand movement was caused transeuntly by the contraction of certain muscles, which was caused transeuntly by neurological activity in the man's brain. So, where does the immanent causation fit in? Ultimately we can back track the transeunt causations to the immanent cause which in this case is the man causing the brain event. This brain...
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