1135 Words3 Pages

For centuries philosophers have debated over the presence of free will. As a result of these often-heated arguments, many factions have evolved, the two most prominent being the schools of Libertarianism and of Determinism. Within these two schools of thought lies another debate, that of compatibilism, or whether or not the two believes can co-exist. In his essay, Has the Self “Free Will”?, C.A. Campbell, a staunch non-compatiblist and libertarian, attempts to explain the Libertarian argument.
To achieve this, Campbell first sets out the two pre-suppositions necessary to the Libertarian argument. Firstly, he defines which kind of freedom he is discussing when he speaks of free will. Campbell characterizes “the freedom at issue” as one that predominantly concerns a person’s inner acts and decisions (377). A person’s observable acts are important only as they show an inner “life of choice”(377). Therefore the moral freedom assumed is that freedom which concerns inner acts.
The second, and more complicated, of Campbell’s requirements is to define what constitutes a “free act.” There are two parts to this definition. The first necessitates “that the act must be one of which the person judged can be regarded as the sole author” (378). This point raises the question of how one can determine authorship. For certainly “the raw material of impulses and capacities that constitute [one’s] hereditary endowment” cannot be determined by the individual and surely have an impact on his inner acts (378). Further, the individual cannot control “the material and social environment in which he is destined to live” and these factors must influence his inner acts as well (378). Campbell allows that, while these aspects do have an impact on one’s inner acts, people in general “make allowances” for them, and still feel morally responsible for one’s self (378). In other words, one recognizes the effects of hereditary and environment on his inner acts, but acknowledges that his self can and should still be held morally responsible, as it can overcome these factors. Thus, Campbell claims, sole authorship of an act is possible. The second part of this definition of a “free act” requires that one could have acted otherwise because one could have chosen otherwise (380). With this final presupposition, Campbell states that an act is a free act if and only if...

... middle of paper ...

...” in that it is a “creative act of moral decision” and is only significant from the inner standpoint (387/389)). With these criticisms dispelled, Campbell can finally claim Libertarianism as the leading philosophical viewpoint.
With Campbell’s argument entirely laid out, the final question remains: is it sound? Based on the premises of his arguments as I see them, I believe I am safe in saying that yes, his argument is sound. Campbell has explained his premises clearly enough to persuade me into his manner of thinking. The only threat to his argument that I see lies in the his rebuttal of the meaninglessness criticism. I feel that he did not respond to this critique head on. Campbell claims that only the person making the moral choice can be aware of the reasons he made that choice. He, also, claimed that even a Determinist placed in a position of moral choice, has to be aware of his freedom of decision, but, if that is true, how do the advocates of meaninglessness fail to see the reason behind the choices they have made? This is the only point I am aware of that can jeopardize the soundness of Campbell’s argument. If he can explain this, he will have made a libertarian out of me.

Open Document