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Predestination: Free Will

Predestination and Free Will,

Theological View.

Compose: by Ahmad Y Samantho, S.IP

ICAS-Jakarta Students, Islamic Philosophy Masters Program

For The Theology Lecture held by Prof Dr. Hommayoun Hemmati

Predestination appears to be a religious or theological version of universal determinism, a version in which the final determining factor is the will or action of God. It is most often associated with the theological tradition of Calvinism (in Christians Theology, and Asy’arite in Islamic Theology), although some theologians outside the Calvinist tradition, or prior to it (for example, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas), profess similar doctrines. The idea of predestination also plays a role in some religions other than Christianity, perhaps most notably in Islam.

Sometimes the idea of predestination is formulated in a comparatively restricted way, being applied only to the manner in which the divine grace of salvation is said to be extended to some human beings and not to others. John Calvin, for example, writes:

We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death. (Institutes, bk 3, ch. 21, sec. 5)

At other times, however, the idea is applied more generally to the whole course of events in the world; whatever happens in the world is determined by the will of God. Philosophically, the most interesting aspects of the doctrine are not essentially linked with salvation. For instance, if God is the first cause of all that happens, how can people be said to have free will? One answer may be that people are free in so far as they act in accordance with their own motives and desires, even if these are determined by God. Another problem is that the doctrine seems to make God ultimately responsible for sin. A possible response here is to distinguish between actively causing something and passively allowing it to happen, and to say that God merely allows people to sin; it is then human agents who actively choose to sin and God is therefore not responsible.

1 What is predestination?

The idea of predestination belongs to a group of theological ideas which are closely related (if, indeed, they are not practically identical). Among them are foreordination (which is often used merely as a stylistic variant of predestination), divine election (the divine choosing of some persons to receive the gift of salvation), divine providence, the divine governance of the world, divine decrees and divine sovereignty. Perhaps a little more distantly related is the idea of divine foreknowledge (a special case, presumably, of divine omniscience). Sometimes one of these ideas is defined in terms of some of the others. But all of them seem to be special theological concepts, and this method of definition is not very useful to someone who is trying to make an initial entry into this set of ideas.

Calvin, however, in the passage quoted above, speaks of God as having ‘compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man’. Similarly, the Westminster Shorter Catechism defines a divine decree as ‘His eternal purpose according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass’, a definition endorsed in the twentieth century by the prominent Calvinist theologian Louis Berkhof (1959: 102). Perhaps we can make a start, therefore, by thinking of predestination as something like a divine intention about how things should happen in the world. This intention belongs to eternity, or at least it predates the events to which it refers. Calvinist theologians usually add that this divine will is efficacious, in the sense that whatever is decreed, predestined, and so on, is certain to happen in just that way. This efficacy is sometimes said to be mediated through another divine act, the governance of the world.

Put in this way, the doctrine seems fairly straightforward, and makes a strong claim about the way in which the course of the world is related to the divine will. In response to an objection, however, many theologians introduce an important revision, which greatly weakens the idea. This revision will be considered in §3.

2 Sources of the doctrine

The doctrine of predestination appears to have four main sources:

1. Certain biblical passages, most notably in the Pauline epistles, but also in some other places (Boettner (1948) cites all of these). Certain Al Qur’anic verses.

2. Speculation based on rather general considerations about the divine nature and activity – God’s creation of the world, his power, his majesty, and so on. A classic example is that of Thomas Aquinas, who argues that ‘since every agent acts for an end, the ordering of effects towards that end extends as far as the causality of the first agent extends’. But God is the First Cause, whose causality encompasses that of all created agents. And so ‘it necessarily follows that all things, inasmuch as they participate in existence, must likewise be subject to divine providence’ (Summa theologiae Ia, q.22, a.2). Similar to what happens in Christian world, in Islamic wolrd, there is Abu Hasan Al-Asy’ari who assumed that God dominated His servant (human being) whatever He want (al Jabariyyah)

3. Speculation and argument based on a different special attribute of God, namely his foreknowledge of all future events. ‘Foreknowledge implies certainty, and certainty implies foreordination’ (Boettner 1948: 44).

4. Empirical observations of religiously significant facts about the world – for example, that various people, because of the circumstances of their birth, their culture, and such like, have vastly different opportunities for hearing and understanding the Christian message, that there is a great disparity in the responses of people who do hear that message, and so on (see, for example, Calvin’s Institutes, bk 3, ch. 21, sec. 1).

The second and third of these lines of argument, especially, would seem to support the most general and extensive versions of predestination, if they support any at all.

3 Objections and Emendations

From early on in the history of the Church – apparently, indeed, from at least the time of the writing of the Pauline epistles – various objections have been raised against the doctrine of predestination. These include:

1. That it is inconsistent with other passages in the New Testament, such as those which suggest that all human beings will eventually be saved (Boettner (1948) cites and discusses some of these passages, as well as some of the other lines of objection).

2. That it is incompatible with the justice and/or the love of God, because it represents the divine choice and action as arbitrary and unfair.

3. That it is incompatible with human moral responsibility, because it implies that there is no human free will (see Free will).

4. That it impugns the character of God, by making God morally responsible for sin

One of the most serious difficulties which faces a person who considers these objections, and possible replies to them, is that of getting a clear idea of just how strong a claim is made by the doctrine of predestination. The idea of predestination has the ‘feel’ of a causal, or quasi-causal, notion. Initially at least, we tend to think that it is being used to provide a causal explanation of certain facts in the world. Why did this person receive the Gospel when that one did not? Ultimately, at least, it was divine predestination, the divine decree, which had these results. Sometimes this sort of claim seems quite explicit:

An effect conceived in posse only raises [sic] into actuality by virtue of an efficient cause or causes. When God was looking forward from the point of view of His original infinite prescience, there was but one cause, Himself. If any other cause or agent is ever to arise, it must be by God’s agency. If effects are embraced in God’s infinite prescience, which these other agents are to produce, still, in willing these other agents into existence, with infinite prescience, God did virtually will into existence, or purpose, all the effects of which they were to be efficients. (Dabney 1871 (1985): 212)

Often, as in this passage, the idea is developed by suggesting that God is the remote cause, the first cause, who determines all subsequent events by initiating a deterministic chain of causes and effects. This chain terminates in (in many cases) the actions of human agents, who are the proximate causes of events.

This sort of claim seems, of course, to generate immediately the third and fourth sort of objection mentioned above. With reference to free will, some writers (Luther seems to be a prominent example) seem content to accept the implication and to deny that there is any real free will. Others avail themselves of the idea sometimes called (in non-theological contexts) ‘soft’ determinism. They argue that God determines human acts by determining the motives, desires, and so forth, of human beings. Since humans then act in accord with their own desires and motives, they act ‘freely ’, despite the fact that their acts are determined by a divine act from before the foundation of the world.

Perhaps the other objection, that this view makes God responsible for sin because it makes him the cause of each sinful act, seems more troublesome to proponents of predestination. There is a tendency for writers on this topic to put forward very strong and extensive claims about predestination, and to offer arguments which, if they are sound, support these very strong claims. But later, under the pressure of objections, they fall back on versions of the doctrine that seem to be radically revised and weakened.

An example of such a revised version appears in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), which says that:

God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

(Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 3)

This is evidently an attempt to address objections of the third and fourth types mentioned above. If we are to take it seriously, however, we may well be puzzled as to how we are now to understand the claim that God ordains all things. If God is not the author of sin, then it would seem that there are a great many events in the world of which God is not the author. And we may also wonder whether, if the world can have in it some sins of which God is not the author, it may not also have in it many other events of which God is not the author. Furthermore, what shall we say now of those arguments – from foreknowledge, for example – which would seem to include within the scope of the divine determination sins as well as anything else? If we take seriously the qualification that ‘neither is God the author of sin’, and so on, then what remains in our understanding of what divine foreordination amounts to?

In saying this, we may, on the other hand, be too careless and hasty in our understanding of the term ‘author’. Could God be the cause of everything without being the author of everything? If so, then we could retain the Westminster Confession qualification while still accepting the arguments for God’s universal causal responsibility. But in order to be relevant to the problem that is being addressed, authorship must be understood as generating moral responsibility for what one is the author of, while foreordination (or causality) without authorship must not generate such responsibility. What understanding of foreordination and authorship will satisfy these requirements?

One way of proceeding would be to construe foreordination (taqdir) as a very general sort of causal notion which includes at least two kinds of cause. One of them, authorship, is the sort that generates moral responsibility, and the other is the sort that does not. We have already mentioned two sorts of cause, remote and proximate. God was said to be the remote cause of everything, while (in many cases, at least) created agents were the more proximate causes. Unfortunately, however, this distinction does not have the right moral implications. Remote causes drain moral responsibility away from proximate causes. To construe authorship as proximate causality, and thus to say that God is not the proximate cause of sins, would have the opposite effect from that which the defender of predestination needs. The moral responsibility for sins would be transferred from the human agents to God, the remote cause.

AA more promising strategy appeals to a different distinction. This is sometimes put as the difference between positive and negative causality, or between active and passive causality, or between causing something and merely allowing it to happen. This strategy is attractive because this distinction really does seem to have the required moral implications. The morality of doing an act yourself may be very different from that of merely allowing someone else to do a similar act, and actively causing something to happen may be morally different from merely allowing it to happen. So a nineteenth-century apologist for predestination says:

To decree, is nothing more than to determine beforehand, or to foreordain; and, to resolve, or determine to do or permit anything, is to decree it in that sense…. That which is determined to be done, is decreed; and that which is determined to be permitted, is also decreed, when there is power to prevent it…. Now, in one or other of these ways, God ‘has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.’ This, as you know, is the simple language of our catechism. (Smith 1854: 32-6)

And according to the Calvinist theologian Louis Berkhof, ‘the decree respecting sin is not an efficient but a permissive decree, or a decree to permit, in distinction from a decree to produce, sin by divine efficiency’ (1959: 108). Long before either of these, Thomas Aquinas had argued that reprobation (the predestination of some humans to damnation) was not the cause of the sinner’s sin, although predestination was the cause of the elect’s receiving grace. He says that predestination includes the will to confer grace, but of reprobation he says only that it ‘includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin’ (Summa theologiae Ia, q.23, a.3).

The crucial words in these accounts, of course, are ‘permit’, ‘permitted’, ‘in one or other of these ways’, and so on. What God permits may indeed be done by the free will of human beings, and perhaps it is then those human agents, and not God, who bear the moral responsibility for those acts. This really does undercut the objections that say that predestination makes God morally responsible for sin, or that it eliminates the free will of creatures.

But ‘the simple language of our catechism’ used what appear to be very strong notions – foreordination, predestination, divine election, and so on. One may be surprised to hear now that these apparently powerful claims about God can be satisfied merely by God’s allowing other agents to act. At least, interpretations of this sort suggest that the doctrine of predestination may not be nearly as strong as it first appears, and that it is one which may be unusually prone to misapprehension.

Predestination and freewill in Islamic theology

According to Abdel Wahab el-Affendie, in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy : ‘Ilm al-kalam (literally ‘the science of debate’) denotes a discipline of Islamic thought generally referred to as ‘theology’ or (even less accurately) as ‘scholastic theology’. The discipline, which evolved from the political and religious controversies that engulfed the Muslim community in its formative years, deals with interpretations of religious doctrine and the defence of these interpretations by means of discursive arguments.

The rise of kalam came to be closely associated with the Mu‘tazila, a rationalist school that emerged at the beginning of the second century AH (seventh century AD) and rose to prominence in the following century. The failure of the Mu‘tazila to follow up their initial intellectual and political ascendancy by imposing their views as official state doctrine seriously discredited rationalism, leading to a resurgence of traditionalism and later to the emergence of the Ash‘ariyya school, which attempted to present itself as a compromise between the two opposing extremes. The Ash‘arite school gained acceptability within mainstream (Sunni) Islam. However, kalam continued to be condemned, even in this ‘orthodox’ garb, by the dominant traditionally-inclined schools.

In its later stages, kalam attempted to assimilate philosophical themes and questions, but the subtle shift in this direction was not completely successful. The decline of kalam appeared to be irreversible, shunned as it was by traditionalists and rationalists alike. Although kalam texts continued to be discussed and even taught in some form, kalam ceased to be a living science as early as the ninth century AH (fifteenth century AD). Attempts by reformers to revive it, beginning in the nineteenth century, have yet to bear fruit.

1 The pre-Mu‘tazilite groups

The term kalam has usually been translated as ‘word’ or ‘speech’, but a more appropriate rendering in this context would be ‘discussion’, ‘argument’ or ‘debate’. Those who engaged in these discussions or debates were referred to as mutakallimun (those who practise kalam or debate). The term has special significance in that traditionalists disapproved of these discussions, arguing that the early Muslims were not known to have indulged in them. Those who dabbled in such debates were said to have ‘spoken about’ or ‘discussed’ (takallma fi) ‘forbidden’ topics. The proponents of kalam also liked to refer to it as ‘ilm al-usul (the science of basic principles) or ‘ilm al-tawhid (the science of [affirming God’s] unity), and it is under this latter name that some of its topics continue to be taught and discussed in Muslim educational institutions today.

The rise of ‘ilm al-kalam was a result of the many controversies that had divided the Muslim community in its early years. Although the emergence of Islam was characterized by polemics with polytheists and followers of earlier revelations, controversies over fundamental religious questions were deemed irreverent by early Muslims, especially during the lifetime of the Prophet. However, disputes (mainly political) broke out immediately following the death of the Prophet, and again following the tragic events that led to the murder of the third Caliph Othman in AH 35/AD 656, this time heralding the breakdown of the political system established after the Prophet’s death.

In a community that defined itself in terms of its religious identity, political disputes inevitably turned into theological ones. The political struggles over who should lead the Muslim community gave rise to three major competing groups: the Khawarij, who opposed the fourth Caliph ‘Ali and rejected the compromises he made with his opponents; the Shi‘a, who supported ‘Ali; and the Murjiya, who tried to remain neutral. These groups attempted to influence a wider Muslim community dominated by a loose grouping of mainstream schools, mainly conservative or traditionalist, known collectively as ahl al-sunna wa’l-jama‘a (the proponents of the [Prophet’s] traditions and consensus).

The term khawarij (literally ‘rebels’) first referred to a group of dissidents who rebelled against the leadership of ‘Ali following the inconclusive battle of Siffin (AH 37/AD 658) between ‘Ali and his challenger, Mu‘awiya, and later evolved into a distinct antiestablishment tendency. The Khawarij had neither a unified leadership nor a settled doctrine, and was primarily a militant political tendency with an uncompromising attitude. The core of their views revolved around the nature of legitimate leadership and the conditions for salvation. Although the Khawarij’s uncompromising views condemned them to a marginal existence, their impact on the general body of the Muslim community was significant. Most of the major schools of thought that emerged did so in response to one or other of their assertions, especially on the issues of leadership and the ‘status of sinners’.

At the opposite pole stood the Shi‘a (party) of ‘Ali. Unlike the Khawarij, who defied all authority, the Shi‘a believed in the undisputed authority of the divinely ordained imam (leader). The position of ‘Ali as imam and successor to the Prophet was vouchsafed by revelation and was not a matter of opinion. Each imam would then designate his successor by virtue of the divine authority vested in him. In theory, Shi‘ism should not have encouraged much theological speculation, since it sought to perpetuate and reproduce the authority of the Prophet and vest it in the person of the living imam, who had direct access to the divine truth. In practice, however, Shi‘ism did indulge in theological speculation, especially with the emergence of the doctrine of the Absent Imam, which referred the burden of seeking the truth back to the community.

In between these two extremes, a large number of intermediary positions were espoused, notably that of the Murjiya. This group refused to condemn the perpetrators of grave sins (a euphemism for usurpers of power) as unbelievers, but neither did it want to absolve them, arguing that the matter should be left to God to judge in the hereafter. Murjiism was also associated with political neutrality, and an implied tacit support for the status quo.

While the above three groups were political in origin, adopting theological arguments to support their politics, there were also groups of which the primary focus was on theology. The earliest of these was the Qadariyya ( the name, meaning proponents of qadar, or predestination, was a misnomer for this school which supported freedom of the will). This school argued for the absolute freedom of the will. God, its members said, would not put us human beings under obligation to act righteously if we did not possess the power to choose our course of action.

Diametrically opposed to this school were the Jabriyya (determinists). Their most prominent spokesman was Jahm ibn Safwan (d. AH 128/AD 746), who taught that no attributes could be predicated of God except for creation, power and action, since any attribute that could be predicated of creatures was not fit to be predicated of the Creator. As God is the sole Creator and actor, our actions are also authored by him alone; therefore, we as persons have no control over our actions and no free will. Jahm also said that since God could not be described as a speaker, the Qur’an could not be said to be his word, except in the sense of having been created by him.

2 Mu‘tazila and rise of kalam

These earlier schools were amorphous groupings, very fluid both in membership and doctrine. With the exception of the Shi‘a, who later developed into a number of coherent sects, these tendencies either faded away or merged into other tendencies. The rise of a systematic theological discourse had to await the emergence of the Mu‘tazila. The association of kalam with the Mu‘tazila, who were characterized by their elitism and their militant rationalism, determined its course and its eventual fate. The Mu‘tazila attempted to systematize religious doctrine into a rational schema centred on the affirmation of God’s absolute unity and absolute justice (see Ash‘ariyya and Mu‘tazila).

However, the Mu‘tazila’s elitism and their irreverent quest for ‘a reason for everything,’ to paraphrase al-Shahrastani, alienated the more conservative mainstream tendencies. The latter questioned the very possibility of a theological discourse of the type advocated by the Mu‘tazila, regardless of content, viewing such discourse as at best superfluous and at worst a heretical deviation. This attitude was expressed succinctly by Malik ibn Anas (d. AH 179/AD 795), the leading jurist of Medina, when asked to explain how God could be said to have ‘established himself on the Throne’ as mentioned in the Qur’an: ‘The establishment is known, the modality is unknown, the belief in it is obligatory and asking questions about it is an unwarranted innovation.’ On the question of divine justice, the traditionalists rejected the Mu‘tazila’s attempts to impose human and rational concepts of justice on God. It would be meaningless to speak of justice in this context, since God was the absolute sovereign and absolute master of all His creation, which meant that anything which He did was by definition just

The struggle between the two trends came to a head in the ‘creation of the Qur’an’ controversy which erupted in the first half of the third century AH (ninth century AD). The ‘Inquisition’ which the Mu‘tazila instigated with the help of the ruler of the day, the Caliph al-Ma’mun (AH 198-218/AD 813-33), to enforce this and related doctrines proved disastrous, not only for the Mu‘tazila but also for the discipline of kalam itself. In spite of being reclaimed for orthodoxy by Abu’l-Hassan al-Ash’ari and others, the science and art of arguing matters of faith with appeal to unaided human reason fell into disrepute and went into a decline from the start of the sixth century.

3 Main themes

Classical definitions tended to emphasize the apologetic function of kalam, probably in order to appease traditionalist critics. Al-Iji speaks of ‘a science which makes it possible to prove the truth of religious doctrines by marshalling arguments and repelling doubts’ (al-Mawaqif: 7). Kalam, however, has also been the arena on which battles over what constituted true religious doctrine were fought between rival schools.

The subject of kalam, to quote al-Iji again, was ‘knowledge on which the proofs of religious doctrines depend, directly or indirectly’ (al-Mawaqif: 7). It was also said to deal with ‘usul (basics), as opposed to furu’ (subsidiary issues). These included the fundamentals of religious belief, such as God, his attributes and acts, the proofs of religious doctrines, the nature of the universe and our place in it.

The first issue that divided Muslims into opposing schools was the question of political authority and its legitimacy. Most traditionalist and mainstream schools accepted the actual procedures adopted to elect the

first four caliphs as normative, thus affirming that a ruler gains legitimacy by being freely elected by the influential members of the community. The Khawarij accepted the procedures up to the election of the third caliph, but then added that even an elected caliph should be removed if he deviated from his mandate. The Khawarij also held that any qualified individual was fit to be caliph, provided the community at large approved of him. The traditionalists narrowed the field of selection to the Prophet’s tribe, Quraysh, while the Shi‘a narrowed it still further to the Prophet’s family, in particular his son-in-law ‘Ali and the latter’s descendants. Shi‘ism argued that political leadership, being the most important religious institution, could not be left for human reason to determine.

The second major issue to be discussed within kalam was the status of the grave sinner. The Khawarij started this debate by arguing, contrary to mainstream opinion, that any person who committed a grave sin

automatically became a non-believer, thus forfeiting all rights and protections afforded by Islamic law. The Murjiya argued for the withholding of judgment while tending to widen the interpretation of who an intermediate position, being neither a Muslim nor an unbeliever.

The third major issue discussed in kalam was freedom of the will. The Mu‘tazila and Qadariyya both came out unequivocally in support of freedom of the will. They held that we are the creators of our own acts, for otherwise God would be committing a grave injustice if he were to punish those who had no choice in what they did (see Evil, problem of §3; Free will). At the other extreme, the Jabriyya held that man could not have any control over his actions, since God was the sole creator and actor. Most other groups tried to strike a balance between these two poles. The Shi‘a tended to affirm the freedom of the will and some of them, such as the Zaydiyya, agreed completely with the Mu‘tazila on this. Some Shi‘a factions, however, qualified their stance by affirming that we are in part compelled because of the chain of causation that triggered our acts. The Khawarij accepted the idea of predestination, holding that God was the Creator of the acts of people, and that nothing occurs which he did not will. This was also the view of mainstream orthodox and traditionalist groups, who affirmed that the will of God was supreme and that he was the creator of all human acts, whether evil or good; nothing could happen on earth that contradicted his will. This position was later given some nuances by al-Ash‘ari, who argued that God created human acts, but we acquired (kasaba) these acts by willing them prior to their creation.

The fourth major issue discussed in kalam was the question of divine attributes. The Jabriyya used the affirmation of the uniqueness of God’s attributes to deny the existence of free will. The Mu‘tazila developed

the idea further, arguing that God could not have attributes in addition to his essence, for this would mean a multiplicity of eternal entities. Later Mu‘tazilites, such as Abu’l-Hudhayl al-‘Allaf (d. AH 227/AD 842), added

that the divine attributes are identical with the divine essence. God’s knowledge is not an attribute added to his essence, but is identical with that essence.

Early Shi‘ite theologians opposed the Mu‘tazila, affirming God’s immanence in space and denying his immutability and transcendence of time and space. They held that God’s will was also mutable, and ascribed motion to him. God could also be the locus of accidents (hawadith) and was corporeal in some sense. God’s knowledge and will could not be eternal, for this would negate human freedom and make accountability redundant. It could also imply the eternal existence of things. Later Shi‘ite theologians, however, especially the Zaydiyya, repudiated most of the anthropomorphisms of their predecessors and veered towards Mu‘tazilite positions.

Traditionalists (who include the Ash‘ariyya) affirmed the reality of God’s eternal attributes, which they said were neither identical with his Essence nor distinct from it. They also affirmed the literal sense of apparently anthropomorphic Qur’anic references, such as those to God’s ‘face’, ‘hands’ and ‘eyes’, adding that the exact nature of these limbs could not be known.

Related to the issue of divine attributes was the issue of the Qur’an’s creation. The Mu‘tazila denied that God’s words were eternal and affirmed that the Qur’an had to be created; this idea was accepted also by the Khawarij. However, the bulk of the traditionalists (and Ash‘ariyya) rejected this view, arguing that one could not describe God’s speech as created because this would mean that God was subject to changing states. Speech (kalam) was one of God’s eternal attributes, and the Qur’an, being God’s word, could not be said to be created or uncreated. Some early Shi‘i theologians, in particular Hisham ibn al-Hakam (d. c. AH 200/AD 816), developed a more sophisticated version of the latter argument, saying that the Qur’an (or God’s word) could not be described as creator, created or uncreated, because an attribute, being an adjective, could not have another adjective predicated of it. Similarly, one could not say about God’s attributes that they were eternal or contingent.

Besides these main themes, kalam touched on related issues such as whether God could be seen in the hereafter (with the Mu‘tazila rejecting this, while their opponents affirmed beatific vision), the nature and limits of faith, whether hellfire and paradise were everlasting, and the nature and limits of God’s knowledge, will and power. Starting with ‘Allaf, some philosophical themes were introduced into kalam, in particular the discussion of such questions as the nature and classification of knowledge and the nature of movement, bodies and things. It even went on to discuss questions belonging to other sciences, such as biology, psychology and chemistry, as well as various logical investigations. However, this expansion of the scope of kalam coincided with its decline and did not lead to significant advances in any of these areas.

4 Methodological tendencies

Kalam generally dealt either with attempting to justify religious beliefs to reason, or with employing reason to draw new conclusions and consequences from these beliefs. Its doctrines comprise three majorcomponents: the articulation of what a school regarded as fundamental beliefs; the construction of the speculative framework within which these beliefs must be understood; and the attempt to give coherence

these views within the accepted speculative framework.

The various schools of kalam agreed with the traditionalists in accepting the authority of texts as the basis of the first component. They disagreed, however, about the extent to which these texts should be subjected to ‘rational’ analysis. Traditionalists had always suspected that the ‘reason’ being referred to was in fact the suspect intellect of infidel heretics; why else would a believer want to drag the articles of faith in front of the court of human reason, fallible and limited as it was? The traditionalist suspicion of non-Islamic influences behind every early kalam-ist ‘heresy’ has been reproduced by modern researchers, who seek an alien origin for every idea expressed in kalam (see Orientialism and Islamic philosophy). However, the impact of non-Islamic influences on the evolution of the schools of kalam, though undeniable, could easily be exaggerated. Many of kalam’s early themes, such as the status of the sinner or the question of political legitimacy, appear to have arisen within a purely Islamic context.

Regarding the second component, the speculative framework, the early groups did not erect elaborate systems. It is with the Mu‘tazila that we find the first attempt to construct such a system, based on their five

principles (divine unity, divine justice, divine warnings, the intermediary status and the enjoining of virtue and discouragement of vice). The Mu‘tazila also brought with them an attitude of absolute confidence in human reason and a consequent lack of reverence for the authority of texts, which they regularly challenged.

The third component, the cohesion of views within the speculative framework, also came into prominence with the Mu‘tazila, who tried to systematize the body of religious beliefs and harmonize its components, provoking intense controversy as they attempted to reinterpret key elements of orthodoxy in order to achieve this. The attempts at systematization inevitably led to the raising of philosophical questions. Later Mu‘tazilite thinkers, such as al-‘Allaf and Ibrahim al-Nazzam (d. AH 231/AD 846), reflected in their theses the influence of translated Greek philosophical texts and propagated a worldview influenced by Hellenistic speculation (see Greek philosophy: impact on Islamic philosophy). The Ash‘arite school, especially al-Juwayni and al-Ghazali, formally introduced the tools of Aristotelian logic into the methodology of kalam (see Logic in Islamic philosophy).

This introduction of philosophical themes and methods and the employment of formal logic in the Aristotelian tradition represented a significant development in kalam. Prior to that, kalam arguments had used textual and linguistic analysis as their central tools. However, in spite of these forays into philosophical speculation and the employment of Aristotelian logic, kalam remained firmly anchored in a specifically Islamic framework. Authoritative texts were routinely cited to clinch an argument, while an accusation of heresy was thought to be a conclusive refutation of any argument.

Even without the help of philosophy, however, Ash‘arism brought to kalam a trenchant scepticism that had a healthy impact on the field of rational argument. This scepticism was carried to great lengths by al-Ghazali, who used it to demolish the confused Neoplatonism of the Hellenizing philosophers. This approach had the potential to contribute much more to the advancement of knowledge than the dogmatic

reiteration of philosophical theses, but that potential was not to be realized because the kalam practitioners were more interested in demolishing their opponents’ arguments than in constructing viablel aternatives.

5 Later evolution and decline

The decline of kalam proceeded apace from the fifth century AH (eleventh century AD), settling by the ninth century AH (fifteenth century AD) into ossified dogmatic texts that, to paraphrase al-Ghazali, taught the dogma as well as its formal ‘proof’, which was not the same thing as proving it to be true. This decline of kalam became too apparent to ignore even by its practitioners. Al-Iji comments that the aversion to the discipline in his time meant that engaging in it had become ‘among the majority a reprehensible thing’ (al-Mawaqif: 4). Ibn Khaldun, another Ash‘arite writing during the same period (c. AH 779/AD 1377), deplored

the fact that kalam had deteriorated and become confused with philosophy, on top of being redundant because the heresies it was meant to combat had become extinct.

However, kalam’s problem was not so much its fusion with philosophy as its failure to evolve into a fully-fledged philosophical system with its own complete frame of reference. The possible evolution in thisdirection had been interrupted by a number of factors. First, there was the rift that developed between kalam as a discipline and philosophy proper; this was caused in part by the decline of the Mu‘tazila, the

natural allies of philosophy. In addition, the failure of the Mu‘tazila to develop a common language with their opponents, thus turning kalam into a kind of sectarian pursuit rather than a discipline, was duplicated by

the philosophers. The quasi-religious reverence shown by early Muslim philosophers to Greek texts put them at odds with mainstream thought, causing them to behave like just another sect. This limited the interaction between kalam and philosophy, as each treated its basic principles and texts as ‘sacred’ rather than as theses which could themselves be questioned. The rise of philosophy thus came both at the expense of kalam and in opposition to it, and this antagonism damaged both.

Kalam was also undermined by the rise of pro-traditionalist tendencies within the discipline itself. It was difficult to reconcile vigorous rationalist discourse with the traditionalist position, which discouraged questioning in many key areas and even counselled the acquiescence in apparent contradictions. At another level, the resurgence of traditionalism under Ahmad ibn Hanbal and subsequent revivals under Ibn Taymiyya and his disciples was anti-kalam, rejecting not only its theses but its methods as anathema. Rearguard actions fought by Ash‘arite and Maturidi scholars of the fifth to eighth centuries AH (eleventh to fourteenth centuries AD), failed to stem this tide and revive kalam. Finally, complementing the effect of traditionalism was the rise and popularity of Sufi mysticism (see Mystical philosophy in Islam). Although opposed by traditionalism, Sufism was also anti-rationalist and had also grown at the expense of kalam and philosophy.

With all these powerful forces deployed against it, the decline of kalam was inevitable. The early schools of kalam all became extinct, but traces of their teachings remain embedded within the doctrines of the six main schools of Islamic jurisprudence. The two main Shi‘a schools (the Ithna ‘Ashriyya and Zaydiyya) have inherited some aspects of Mu‘tazilite rationalism and doctrines. Shi‘ism has also been more successful in assimilating Sufi tendencies and more reconciled to philosophical discourse. The Hannafiyya became closely associated with the Maturidi school of kalam. The Shafi‘iyya espoused Ash‘arism as a general rule, as did the Malikiyya, although with less enthusiasm. The Hanbalites favoured an anti-rationalist and anthropomorphic position, distrusting kalam altogether.

6 Conclusion

The manifest failure by the various schools of ‘ilm al-kalam either to create for itself a secure niche among the religious sciences, or to attain the status of a philosophical system independent of religious dogma, was not merely the result of the arrogant elitism of the Mu‘tazila and their political opportunism. A deeper malaise afflicted the rationalist schools, reflected in their methodological confusion and, simultaneously, their militant dogmatism. Ironically, it was left to the traditionalist theologians, notably al-Ash‘ari, al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyya, to introduce some healthy scepticism into the discourse by revealing some of the more glaring self-contradictions of the rationalist dogmas. However, the traditionalists not only inherited some of the confusion of their opponents, they also added some of their own.

An interesting example of this confusion was the uncritical acceptance by all schools of kalam of the Neoplatonic premise that the perfection of God as an eternal being meant that he could not be the locus of accidents (hawadith), while rejecting its logical consequence: God’s remoteness from his creation and the impossibility of his day-to-day involvement with it. The confusion which this self-contradiction generated was then cited by many as a proof of how inadequate reason was in dealing with matters of faith. The choice offered the community was thus between rationalists who discredited themselves by their manifest errors, and traditionalists who exploited these errors and confusion to discredit rational thought as such.

The attacks of self-doubt brought by turmoil of modern times have created an atmosphere for a revival of Islamic theology and philosophy (see Islamic philosophy, modern). The pioneers of the modern Islamic revival, such as Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad ‘Abduh, tried to revive Islamic philosophy and kalam; al-Afghani indeed insisted that the revival of philosophy was an indispensable precondition for any Islamic revival. A century later, the tides of revival have drowned all attempts at philosophizing. On the face of it, the vibrancy and capacity for self-regeneration of the Islamic faith seem to be proportionately resistant to the emergence of systematic theologies and philosophies.

However, in spite of the self-satisfaction on the part of orthodoxy, on the grounds that history has condemned the systems rejected by Islam as fatally flawed and confused, there can be no substitute for setting up a viable worldview and a defensible theology, which would remain fallible and incomplete but still an essential guide for life. It would seem that if Islam is to continue as a living system, ‘ilm al-kalam (or something like it) may need to be revived, so that progress towards Muslim self-understanding, interrupted some six centuries or so ago, can be resumed.

Fatalism ( Predeterminism )

‘Fatalism’ is sometimes used to mean the acceptance of determinism, along with a readiness to accept the consequence that there is no such thing as human freedom. The word is also often used in connection with a theological question: whether God’s supposed foreknowledge means that the future is already fixed. But it is sometimes explained very differently, as the view that human choice and action have no influence on future events, which will be as they will be whatever we think or do. On the face of it this is barely coherent, and invites the assessment that fatalism is simply an expression of resigned acceptance.

Taken as meaning exactly what it says, the dictum that human choice and action have no influence on future events is absurd, since any action must make some aspects of some future events different from how they would have been had that action not been performed. If I leave the house, then something happens in the future which would not have happened had I not left it, even if that just turns out to be my rapid return to where I would have been had I stayed at home. Likewise, unless we are to deny that how we decide to behave ever has any effect on how we actually do behave, we must agree that our choices of action frequently affect future events. So if fatalism is not to fall into immediate incoherence, it must be understood rather differently, perhaps as saying only that there are certain things destined to happen irrespective of what we do. (Usually these will be events of particular significance: the soothsayer’s prediction will come true, regardless of any attempts we may make to ensure that it does not.)

It follows that fatalism, in this form, cannot be supported by any argument which, if it worked at all, would apply to all future events. Any argument for thoroughgoing causal determinism would fall into this category. So would the notorious argument from the sea-battle: if there will be a sea-battle tomorrow, it is true now that there will be; if there will not, it is true now that there will not be. So since one of these is true now, there is nothing we can do to influence whether there will be a battle or not. If this reasoning works, it works for every future event. But in any case, although this argument and variants of it are found, it faces a severe difficulty. For it will have to address the crucial question about the direction of dependence: does the occurrence of the battle depend on the truth of today’s statement, or the truth of today’s statement on tomorrow’s events? The fatalist conclusion calls for the former, but the latter is far more plausible and the basic argument does nothing to refute it.

Fatalism can appear more coherent if seen against a certain kind of background. Whether it appears more plausible depends on the reader’s attitude to the background, which many will find rather too superstitious for their taste. We are to think of powers, watching over human life, who have decreed that certain things shall happen to certain people (that a particular individual will die young, that Oedipus will kill his own father), and are bent on manipulating the world, and perhaps also the fated individual’s state of knowledge, so as to bring their decrees about. Imagine a rat in a maze, from which you have decided that it will never find its way out. If it turns left (which leads to the exit), you take out a piece from somewhere else in the maze and slot it in round the next corner, turning the chosen route into a dead end. If it turns right, you do nothing, since the right turn leads to a dead end anyway.

It should be noted that fatalism, understood in this way, has very little to do with problems about the freedom of the will. In choosing which way to turn, our rat can be free in the strongest sense that any libertarian has ever dreamed of; the fates make their move after it has made its choice. Oedipus may be equally free; the fates make sure that he does not know who the obstructive old man at the crossroads really is. Had he known that, no doubt he would have made his free choice differently, leaving the fates to outwit him in another way on another occasion.

Free will

‘Free will’ is the conventional name of a topic that is best discussed without reference to the will. Its central questions are ’What is it to act (or choose) freely?’, and ’What is it to be morally responsible for one’s actions (or choices)?’ These two questions are closely connected, for freedom of action is necessary for moral responsibility, even if it is not sufficient.

Philosophers give very different answers to these questions, hence also to two more specific questions about ourselves: (1) Are we free agents? and (2) Can we be morally responsible for what we do? Answers to (1) and (2) range from ’Yes, Yes’ to ’No, No’ – via ’Yes, No’ and various degrees of ’Perhaps’, ’Possibly’, and ’In a sense’. (The fourth pair of outright answers, ’No, Yes’, is rare, but appears to be accepted by some Protestants.) Prominent among the ’Yes, Yes’ sayers are the compatibilists, who hold that free will is compatible with determinism. Briefly, determinism is the view that everything that happens is necessitated by what has already gone before, in such a way that nothing can happen otherwise than it does. According to compatibilists, freedom is compatible with determinism because freedom is essentially just a matter of not being constrained or hindered in certain ways when one acts or chooses. Thus normal adult human beings in normal circumstances are able to act and choose freely. No one is holding a gun to their heads. They are not drugged, or in chains, or subject to a psychological compulsion. They are therefore wholly free to choose and act even if their whole physical and psychological make-up is entirely determined by things for which they are in no way ultimately responsible – starting with their genetic inheritance and early upbringing.

Incompatibilists hold that freedom is not compatible with determinism. They point out that if determinism is true, then every one of one’s actions was determined to happen as it did before one was born. They hold that one cannot be held to be truly free and finally morally responsible for one’s actions in this case. They think compatibilism is a ‘wretched subterfuge…, a petty word-jugglery’, as Kant put it (1788: 189-90). It entirely fails to satisfy our natural cconvictions about the nature of moral responsibility.

The incompatibilists have a good point, and may be divided into two groups. Libertarians answer ’Yes, Yes’ to questions (1) and (2). They hold that we are indeed free and fully morally responsible agents, and that determinism must therefore be false. Their great difficulty is to explain why the falsity of determinism is any better than the truth of determinism when it comes to establishing our free agency and moral responsibility. For suppose that not every event is determined, and that some events occur randomly, or as a matter of chance. How can our claim to moral responsibility be improved by the supposition that it is partly a matter of chance or random outcome that we and our actions are as they are?

The second group of incompatibilists is less sanguine. They answer ’No, No’ to questions (1) and (2). They agree with the libertarians that the truth of determinism rules out genuine moral responsibility, but argue that the falsity of determinism cannot help. Accordingly, they conclude that we are not genuinely free agents or genuinely morally responsible, whether determinism is true or false. One of their arguments can be summarized as follows. When one acts, one acts in the way one does because of the way one is. So to be truly morally responsible for one’s actions, one would have to be truly responsible for the way one is: one would have to be causa sui, or the cause of oneself, at least in certain crucial mental respects. But nothing can be causa sui – nothing can be the ultimate cause of itself in any respect. So nothing can be truly morally responsible.

Suitably developed, this argument against moral responsibility seems very strong. But in many human beings, the experience of choice gives rise to a conviction of absolute responsibility that is untouched by philosophical arguments. This conviction is the deep and inexhaustible source of the free will problem: powerful arguments that seem to show that we cannot be morally responsible in the ultimate way that we suppose keep coming up against equally powerful psychological reasons why we continue to believe that we are ultimately morally responsible.

1 Compatibilism

Do we have free will? It depends what you mean by the word ’free’. More than two hundred senses of the word have been distinguished; the history of the discussion of free will is rich and remarkable. David Hume called the problem of free will ’the most contentious question of metaphysics, the most contentious science’ (1748: 95).

According to compatibilists, we do have free will. They propound a sense of the word ’free’ according to which free will is compatible with determinism, even though determinism is the view that the history of the universe is fixed in such a way that nothing can happen otherwise than it does because everything that happens is necessitated by what has already gone before (see Determinism And indeterminism).

Suppose tomorrow is a national holiday. You are considering what to do. You can climb a mountain or read Lao Tse. You can mend your bicycle or go to the zoo. At this moment you are reading the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You are free to go on reading or stop now. You have started on this sentence, but you don’t have to… finish it.

In this situation, as so often in life, you have a number of options. Nothing forces your hand. It seems natural to say that you are entirely free to choose what to do. And, given that nothing hinders you, it seems natural to say that you act entirely freely when you actually do (or try to do) what you have decided to do.

Compatibilists claim that this is the right thing to say. They believe that to have free will, to be a free agent, to be free in choice and action, is simply to be free from constraints of certain sorts. Freedom is a matter of not being physically or psychologically forced or compelled to do what one does. Your character, personality, preferences, and general motivational set may be entirely determined by events for which you are in no way responsible (by your genetic inheritance, upbringing, subsequent experience, and so on). But you do not have to be in control of any of these things in order to have compatibilist freedom. They do not constrain or compel you, because compatibilist freedom is just a matter of being able to choose and act in the way one prefers or thinks best given how one is. As its name declares, it is compatible with determinism. It is compatible with determinism even though it follows from determinism that every aspect of your character, and everything you will ever do, was already inevitable before you were born.

If determinism does not count as a constraint or compulsion, what does? Compatibilists standardly take it that freedom can be limited by such things as imprisonment, by a gun at one’s head, or a threat to the life of one’s children, or a psychological obsession and so on.

It is arguable, however, that compatibilist freedom is something one continues to possess undiminished so long as one can choose or act in any way at all. One continues to possess it in any situation in which one

is not actually panicked, or literally compelled to do what one does, in such a way that it is not clear that one can still be said to choose or act at all (as when one presses a button, because one’s finger is actually forced down on the button).

Consider pilots of hijacked aeroplanes. They usually stay calm. They choose to comply with the hijackers’ demands. They act responsibly, as we naturally say. They are able to do other than they do, but they choose not to. They do what they most want to do, all things considered, in the circumstances in which they find themselves. All circumstances limit one’s options in some way. It is true that some circumstances limit one’s options much more drastically than others; but it does not follow that one is not free to choose in those circumstances. Only literal compulsion, panic, or uncontrollable impulse really removes one’s freedom to choose, and to (try to) do what one most wants to do given one’s character or personality. Even when one’s finger is being forced down on the button, one can still act freely in resisting the pressure, and in many other ways.

Most of us are free to choose throughout our waking lives, according to the compatibilist conception of freedom. We are free to choose between the options that we perceive to be open to us. (Sometimes we would rather not face options, but are unable to avoid awareness of the fact that we do face them.) One has options even when one is in chains, or falling through space. Even if one is completely paralysed, one is still free in so far as one is free to choose to think about one thing rather than another. Sartre (1948) observed that there is a sense in which we are ’condemned’ to freedom, not free not to be free.

Of course one may well not be able to do everything one wants – one may want to fly unassisted, vapourize every gun in the United States by an act of thought, or house all those who sleep on the streets of Calcutta by the end of the month. But few have supposed that free will, or free agency, is a matter of being able to do everything one wants. That is one possible view of what it is to be free; but according to the compatibilists, free will is simply a matter of having genuine options and opportunities for action, and being able to choose between them according to what one wants or thinks best.

It may be said that dogs and other animals can be free agents, accordingto this basic account of compatibilism. Compatibilists may reply that dogs can indeed be free agents. And yet we do not think that dogs can be free or morally responsible in the way we can be. So compatibilists need to say what the relevant difference is between dogs and ourselves.

Many suppose that it is our capacity for self-conscious thought that makes the crucial difference, because it makes it possible for us to be explicitly aware of ourselves as facing choices and engaging in processes of reasoning about what to do. This is not because being self-conscious can somehow liberate one from the facts of determinism: if determinism is true, one is determined to have whatever self-conscious thoughts one has, whatever their complexity. Nevertheless, many are inclined to think that a creature’s explicit self-conscious awareness of itself as chooser and agent can constitute it as a free agent in a fundamental way that is unavailable to any unself-conscious agent.

Compatibilists can agree with this. They can acknowledge and incorporate the view that self-conscious awareness of oneself as facing choices can give rise to a kind of freedom that is unavailable to unself-conscious agents. They may add that human beings are sharply marked off from dogs by their capacity to act for reasons that they explicitly take to be moral reasons. In general, compatibilism has many variants. According to Harry Frankfurt’s version, for example, one has free will if one wants to be moved to action by the motives that do in fact move one to action (Frankfurt 1988). On this view, freedom is a matter of having a personality that is harmonious in a certain way. Freedom in this sense is clearly compatible with determinism.

Compatibilism has been refined in many ways, but this gives an idea of its basis. ‘What more could free agency possibly be?’, compatibilists like to ask (backed by Hobbes (1651), Locke (1690), and Hume (1748), among others). And this is a very powerful question.

2 Incompatibilism

Those who want to secure the conclusion that we are free agents do well to adopt a compatibilist theory of freedom, for determinism is unfalsifiable, and may be true. (Contemporary physics gives us no more reason to suppose that determinism is false than to suppose that it is true – though this is contested; for further discussion see Determinism and indeterminism.) Many, however, think that the compatibilist account of things does not even touch the real problem of free will. They believe that all compatibilist theories of freedom are patently inadequate. What is it, they say, to define freedom in such a way that it is compatible with determinism? It is to define it in such a way that a creature can be a free agent even if all its actions throughout its life are determined to happen as they do by events that have taken place before it is born: so that there is a clear sense in which it could not at any point in its life have done otherwise than it did. This, they say, is certainly not free will. More importantly, it is not a sufficient basis for true moral responsibility.

One cannot possibly be truly or ultimately morally responsible for what one does if everything one does is ultimately a deterministic outcome of events that took place before one was born; or (more generally) a deterministic outcome of events for whose occurrence one is in no way ultimately responsible.

These anti-compatibilists or incompatibilists divide into two groups: the libertarians and the no-freedom theorists or pessimists about free will and moral responsibility. The libertarians think that the compatibilist account of freedom can be improved on. They hold (1) that we do havefree will, (2) that free will is not compatible with determinism, and (3) that determinism is therefore false. But they face an extremely difficult task: they have to show how indeterminism (the falsity of determinism) can help with free will and, in particular, with moral responsibility.

The pessimists or no-freedom theorists do not think that this can be shown. They agree with the libertarians that the compatibilist account of free will is inadequate, but they do not think it can be improved on. They agree that free will is not compatible with determinism, but deny that indeterminism can help to make us (or anyone else) free. They believe that free will, of the sort that is necessary for genuine moral responsibility, is provably impossible. The pessimists about free will grant what everyone must: that there is a clear and important compatibilist sense in which we can be free agents (we can be free, when unconstrained, to choose and to do what we want or think best, given how we are). But they insist that this compatibilist sense of freedom is not enough: it does not give us what we want, in the way of free will; nor does it give us what we believe we have. And it is not as if the compatibilists have missed something. The truth is that nothing can give us what we (think we) want, or what we ordinarily think we have. All attempts to furnish a stronger notion of free will fail. We cannot be morally responsible, in the absolute, buck-stopping way in which we often unreflectively think we are. We cannot have ’strong’ free will of the kind that we would need to have, in order to be morally responsible in this way.

The fundamental motor of the free will debate is the worry about moral responsibility (see Responsibility). If no one had this worry, it is doubtful whether the problem of free will would be a famous philosophical problem. The rest of this discussion will therefore be organized around the question of moral responsibility.

First, though, it is worth remarking that the worry about free will does not have to be expressed as a worry about the grounds of moral responsibility. A commitment to belief in free will may be integral to feelings that are extremely important to us independently of the issue of moral responsibility: feelings of gratitude, for example, and perhaps of love. One’s belief in strong free will may also be driven simply by the conviction that one is or can be radically self-determining in one’s actions (in a way that is incompatible with determinism) and this conviction need not involve giving much – or any – thought to the issue of moral responsibility. It seems that a creature could conceive of itself as radically self-determining without having any conception of moral right or wrong at all – and so without being any sort of moral agent.

3 Pessimism

One way of setting out the no-freedom theorists’ argument is as follows.

(1) When you act, you do what you do, in the situation in which you find yourself, because of the way you are. It seems to follow that

(2) To be truly or ultimately morally responsible for what you do, you must be truly or ultimately responsible for the way you are, at least in certain crucial mental respects. (Obviously you don’t have to be responsible for the way you are in all respects. You don’t have to be responsible for your height, age, sex, and so on. But it does seem that you have to be responsible for the way you are at least in certain mental respects. After all, it is your overall mental make-up that leads you to do what you do when you act.)


(3) You cannot be ultimately responsible for the way you are in any respect at all, so you cannot be ultimately morally responsible for what you do.

Why is that you cannot be ultimately responsible for the way you are? Because

(4) To be ultimately responsible for the way you are, you would have to have intentionally brought it about that you are the way you are, in a way that is impossible.

The impossibility is shown as follows. Suppose that

(5) You have somehow intentionally brought it about that you are the way you now are, in certain mental respects: suppose that you have intentionally brought it about that you have a certain mental nature N, and that you have brought this about in such a way that you can now be said to be ultimately responsible for having nature N. (The limiting case of this would be the case in which you had simply endorsed your existing mental nature N from a position of power to change it.)

For this to be true

(6) You must already have had a certain mental nature N-1, in the light of which you intentionally brought it about that you now have nature N. (If you did not already have a certain mental nature, then you cannot have had any intentions or preferences, and even if you did change in some way, you cannot be held to be responsible for the way you now are.)

But then

(7) For it to be true that you and you alone are truly responsible for how you now are, you must be truly responsible for having had the nature N-1 in the light of which you intentionally brought it about that you now have nature N.


(8) You must have intentionally brought it about that you had that nature N-1. But in that case, you must have existed already with a prior nature, N-2, in the light of which you intentionally brought it about that you had the nature N-1.

And so on. Here one is setting off on a potentially infinite regress. In order for one to be truly or ultimately responsible for how one is, in such a way that one can be truly morally responsible for what one does,

something impossible has to be true: there has to be, and cannot be, a starting point in the series of acts of bringing it about that one has a certain nature – a starting point that constitutes an act of ultimate self-origination.

There is a more concise way of putting the point: in order to be truly morally responsible for what one does, it seems that one would have to be the ultimate cause or origin of oneself, or at least of some crucial part

of one’s mental nature. One would have to be causa sui, in the old terminology. But nothing can be truly or ultimately causa sui in any respect at all. Even if the property of being causa sui is allowed to belong (unintelligibly) to God, it cannot plausibly be supposed to be possessed by ordinary finite human beings. ’The causa sui is the best self-contradiction that has been conceived so far’, as Nietzsche remarked in Beyond Good and Evil:

it is a sort of rape and perversion of logic. But the extravagant pride of man has managed to entangle itself profoundly and frightfully with just this nonsense. The desire for ’freedom of the will’ in thesuperlative metaphysical sense, which still holds sway, unfortunately, in the minds of the half-educated; the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one’s actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society involves nothing less than to be precisely this causa sui and, with more than Baron Münchhausen’s audacity, to pull oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the swamps of nothingness. (1886: §21)

In fact, nearly all of those who believe in strong free will do so without any conscious thought that it requires ultimate self-origination. Nevertheless, this is the only thing that could actually ground the kind of strong free will that is regularly believed in, and it does seem that one way in which the belief in strong free will manifests itself is in the very vague and (necessarily) unexamined belief that many have that they are somehow or other radically responsible for their general mental nature, or at least for certain crucial aspects of it.

The pessimists’ argument may seem contrived, but essentially the same argument can be given in a more natural form as follows. (i) It is undeniable that one is the way one is, initially, as a result of heredity and early experience. (ii) It is undeniable that these are things for which one cannot be held to be in any way responsible (this might not be true if there were reincarnation, but reincarnation would just shift the problem backwards). (iii) One cannot at any later stage of one’s life hope to accede to true or ultimate responsibility for the way one is by trying to change the way one already is as a result of one’s heredity and previous

experience. For one may well try to change oneself, but (iv) both the particular way in which one is moved to try to change oneself, and the degree of success in one’s attempt at change, will be determined by how one already is as a result of heredity and previous experience. And (v) any further changes that one can bring about only after one has brought about certain initial changes will in turn be determined, via the initial changes, by heredity and previous experience. (vi) This may notbe the whole story, for it may be that some changes in the way one is are traceable to the influence of indeterministic or random factors.


(vii) it is foolish to suppose that indeterministic or random factors, for which one is ex hypothesi in no way responsible, can in themselves contribute to one’s being truly or ultimately responsible for how one is.

The claim, then, is not that people cannot change the way they are. They can, in certain respects (which tend to be exaggerated by North Americans and underestimated, perhaps, by members of many other cultures). The claim is only that people cannot be supposed to change themselves in such a way as to be or become truly or ultimately responsible for the way they are, and hence for their actions. One can put the point by saying that the way you are is, ultimately, in every last detail, a matter of luck – good or bad.

4 Moral responsibility

Two main questions are raised by the pessimists’ arguments. First, is it really true that one needs to be self-creating or causa sui in some way, in order to be truly or ultimately responsible for what one does, as step (2) of the pessimists’ argument asserts? Addressing this question will be delayed until §6, because a more basic question arises: What notion of responsibility is being appealed to in this argument? What exactly is this ’ultimate’ responsibility that we are held to believe in, in spite of Nietzsche’s scorn? And if we do believe in it, what makes us believe in it?

One dramatic way to characterize the notion of ultimate responsibility is by reference to the story of heaven and hell: ’ultimate’ moral responsibility is responsibility of such a kind that, if we have it, it makes sense to propose that it could be just to punish some of us with torment in hell and reward others with bliss in heaven. It makes sense because what we do is absolutely up to us. The words ’makes sense’ are stressed because one certainly does not have to believe in the story of heaven and hell in order to understand the notion of ultimate responsibility that it is used to illustrate. Nor does one have to believe in the story of heaven and hell in order to believe in ultimate responsibility (many atheists have believed in it). One does not have to have heard of it.

The story is useful because it illustrates the kind of absolute or ultimate responsibility that many have supposed – and do suppose – themselves to have. It becomes particularly vivid when one is specifically concerned with moral responsibility, and with questions of desert; but it serves equally well to illustrate the sense of radical freedom and responsibility that may be had by a self-conscious agent that has no concept of morality. And one does not have to refer to the story of heaven and hell in order to describe the sorts of everyday situation that seem to be primarily influential in giving rise to our belief in ultimate responsibility.

Suppose you set off for a shop on the eve of a national holiday, intending to buy a cake with your last ten pound note. Everything is closing down. There is one cake left; it costs ten pounds. On the steps of the shop someone is shaking an Oxfam tin. You stop, and it seems completely clear to you that it is entirely up to you what you do next. That is, it seems clear to you that you are truly, radically free to choose, in such a way that you will be ultimately responsible for whatever you do choose. You can put the money in the tin, or go in and buy the cake, or just walk away. (You are not only completely free to choose. You are not free not to choose.)

Standing there, you may believe that determinism is true. You may believe that in five minutes’ time you will be able to look back on the situation and say, of what you will by then have done, ’It was determined that I should do that’. But even if you do believe this, it does not seem to undermine your current sense of the absoluteness of your freedom, and of your moral responsibility for your choice.

One diagnosis of this phenomenon is that one cannot really believe that determinism is true, in such situations of choice, and cannot help thinking that the falsity of determinism might make freedom possible. But the feeling of ultimate responsibility seems to remain inescapable even if one does not think this, and even if one has been convinced by the entirely general argument against ultimate responsibility given in §3. Suppose one accepts that no one can be in any waycausa sui, and yet that one would have to be causa sui (in certain crucial mental respects) in order to be ultimately responsible for one’s actions. This does not seem to have any impact on one’s sense of one’s radical freedom and responsibility, as one stands there, wondering what to do. One’s radical responsibility seems to stem simply from the fact that one is fully conscious of one’s situation, and knows that one can choose, and believes that one action is morally better than the other. This seems to be immediately enough to confer full and ultimate responsibility. And yet it cannot really do so, according to the pessimists. For whatever one actually does, one will do what one does because of the way one is, and the way one is is something for which one neither is nor can be responsible, however self-consciously aware of one’s situation one is.

The example of the cake may be artificial, but similar situations of choice occur regularly in human life. They are the experiential rock on which the belief in ultimate responsibility is founded. The belief often takes the form of belief in specifically moral, desert-implying responsibility. But, as noted, an agent could have a sense of ultimate responsibility without possessing any conception of morality, and there is an interesting intermediate case: an agent could have an irrepressible experience of ultimate responsibility, and believe in objective moral right and wrong, while still denying the coherence of the notion of desert.

5 Metaphysics and moral psychology

We now have the main elements of the problem of free will. It is natural to start with the compatibilist position; but this has only to be stated to trigger the objection that compatibilism cannot possibly satisfy our

intuitions about moral responsibility. According to this objection, an incompatibilist notion of free will is essential in order to make sense of the idea that we are genuinely morally responsible. But this view, too,

has only to be stated to trigger the pessimists’ objection that indeterministic occurrences cannot possibly contribute to moral responsibility: one can hardly be supposed to be more truly morally responsible for one’s choices and actions or character if indeterministic occurrences have played a part in their causation than if they have not played such a part. Indeterminism gives rise to unpredictability, not responsibility. It cannot help in any way at all.

The pessimists therefore conclude that strong free will is not possible, and that ultimate responsibility is not possible either. So no punishment or reward is ever truly just or fair, when it comes to moral matters.

This conclusion may prompt a further question: What exactly is this ’ultimate’ responsibility that we are supposed to believe in? One answer refers to the story of heaven and hell, which serves to illustrate the kind of responsibility that is shown to be impossible by the pessimists’ argument, and which many people do undoubtedly believe themselves to have, however fuzzily they think about the matter. A less colourful

answer has the same import, although it needs more thought: ‘ultimate’ responsibility exists if and only if punishment and reward can be fair without having any pragmatic justification.

Now the argument may cycle back to compatibilism. Pointing out that ’ultimate’ moral responsibility is obviously impossible, compatibilists may claim that we should rest content with the compatibilist account of things – since it is the best we can do. But this claim reactivates the incompatibilist objection, and the cycle continues.

There is an alternative strategy at this point: quit the traditional metaphysical circle for the domain of moral psychology. The principal positions in the traditional metaphysical debate are clear. No radically new option is likely to emerge after millennia of debate. The interesting questions that remain are primarily psychological: Why do we believe we have strong free will and ultimate responsibility of the kind that can be characterized by reference to the story of heaven and hell? What is it like to live with this belief? What are its varieties? How might we be changed by dwelling intensely on the view that ultimate responsibility is impossible?

A full answer to these questions is beyond the scope of this entry, but one fundamental cause of our belief in ultimate responsibility has been mentioned. It lies in the experience of choice that we have as self-conscious agents who are able to be fully conscious of what they are doing when they deliberate about what to do and make choices. (We choose between the Oxfam box and the cake; or we make a difficult, morally neutral choice about which of two paintings to buy.) This raises an interesting question: Is it true that any possible self-conscious creature that faces choices and is fully aware of the fact that it does so must experience itself as having strong free will, or as being radically self-determining, simply in virtue of the fact that it is a self-conscious agent (and whether or not it has a conception of moral responsibility)? It eems that we cannot live or experience our choices as determined, even if determinism is true. But perhaps this is a human peculiarity, not an inescapable feature of any possible self-conscious agent. And perhaps it is not even universe

Compiled and rearranged into this treatise title from :

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Version 1.0, London: Routledge, by Ahmad Y. Samantho


Abdel Haleem, M. (1996) ‘Early Kalam’, in S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds) History of Islamic Philosophy,

London: Routledge, ch. 5, 71-88.(Description of some of the variety among early theologians in Islam.)

‘Abduh, M. (1954) Risalat al-tawhid (Treatise on Divine Unity), Cairo: Dar al-Manar; French trans. by B.

Michel and M. Abdel Razik, Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Gauthner, 1925.(An early modern

attempt at reformulating kalam textbooks.)

Anawati, G. and Gardet, L. (1950) Introduction à la théologie musulmane (Introduction to Muslim

Theology), Paris: Vrin.(One of the most thorough discussions of kalam in a Western language.)

Corbin, H. (1993) History of Islamic Philosophy, trans. L. Sherrard, London: Kegan Paul

International.(While most introductions tend to neglect Shi‘i contributions to kalam, this one

redresses the imbalance, with an extensive bibliography.) al-Farabi (c.870-950) Ihsa’ al-‘ulum (Enumeration of Sciences), ed. A. González Palencia, with Spanish translation (Catálogo de las ciencias), Madrid: Maestre, 1932. (A survey of the state of learning in the fourth century AH (tenth century AD), offering an assessment of kalam in its heyday from a philosophical perspective.)

Farrukh, O. (1979) Tarikh al-fikr al-‘arabi ila ayyam Ibn Khaldun (The History of Arab Thought up to the

Time of Ibn Khaldun), Beirut: Dar al-‘Ilm li’l-Malayin.(A general introduction to kalam and Islamic philosophy with a comprehensive bibliography of Arabic sources.) al-Ghazali (c.1107) al-Munqidh min al-dalal (The Deliverer from Error), ed. and trans. F. Jabre, Erreur et déliverance, Beirut: al-Lajnah al-Lubnaniyyah li-Tarjamat al-Rawai‘, 1965; trans. W. Montgomery Watt, The Faith and Practice of al-Ghazali, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1953.(A celebrated intellectual autobiography by the most famous Ash‘arite author, telling of how he had sought salvation in kalam, in vain.) al-Ghazali (c.1111) Iljam al-‘awam ‘an ‘ilm al-kalam (Restraining Commoners from Kalam), ed. M. al-Baghdadi, Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, 1985.(Al-Ghazali’s final attacks on kalam, arguing that it would be harmful for most people to indulge in it.)

Goldziher, I. (1910) Vorlesungen über den Islam (Introduction to Islam), Heidelberg; trans. A. Hamori and

R. Hamori, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.(An early introduction that still stands out in spite of minor flaws that are a feature of its times.)

Hallaq, W. (1993) Ibn Taymiyya Against the Logicians, Oxford: Clarendon Press.(A translation of a

summary of Ibn Taymiyya’s al-Radd ‘ala al-mantiqiyyin with a good introduction to the latter’s crusade against logic and philosophy.) al-Iji (before 1355) Al-mawaqif fi ‘ilm al-kalam(Book of Stations on Kalam), Cairo: Dar al-’Ulum.(Textbook which reflects the culmination of the rapprochement between philosophy and kalam in later Maturidi thought.)

Macdonald, D. (1903) Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence and Constitutional Theory, New York: Scribner’s.(A

scholarly introduction that deserves its status as a classic in the field.)

Madelung, W. (1985) Religious Schools and Sects in Medieval Islam, London: Variorum Reprints.(A reprint

of essays published by the author over many years covering various aspects of kalam and the

evolution of religious thought in Islam.)

Montgomery Watt, W. (1948) Free Will and Predestination in Early Islam, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University

Press.(A discussion of the beginning of theological thinking in Islam.)

Montgomery Watt, W. (1962) Islamic Philosophy and Theology, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.(A

broader introduction to kalam and Islamic philosophy.)

Morewedge, P. (ed.) (1979) Islamic Philosophical Theology, Albany, NY: State University of New York

Press.(A collection of essays by leading writers in the field.)

Muhajarani, A. (1996) ‘Twelve-Imam Shi‘ite Theological and Philosophical Thought’, in S.H. Nasr and O.

Leaman (eds) History of Islamic Philosophy, London: Routledge, ch. 8, 119-43. (Discussion of the main principles of Shi‘ite theologians.)

al-Nashshar, A. (1984) Manahij al-bahth ‘ind mufakkiri al-Islam (The Research Methodologies of Muslim

Thinkers), Beirut: Dar al-Nahda al-‘Arabiyyah.(An attempt to shed light on the evolution of methodological approaches in philosophy, theology and science in medieval Islam.)

Pavlin, J. (1996) ‘Sunni Kalam and Theological Controversies’, in S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds) History

of Islamic Philosophy, London: Routledge, ch. 7, 105-18.(Account of some of the most

important Sunni theologians.)

al-Tusi (c.1270) Talkhis al-muhassal (Summary of [al-Razi’s] Muhassal), ed. T.A. Sa’d, Beirut: Dar al-Kitab

al-‘Arabi.(A summary and commentary on al-Razi by a leading Shi‘ite scholar who favoured Neoplatonist philosophy more than did al-Razi and other practitioners of kalam.)

Wensinck, A. (1932) The Muslim Creed, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (An early introduction

which influenced a large number of writers on the subject.)

Aristotle (c. mid 3rd century BC) De Interpretatione, in The Complete Works of Aristotle ed. J Barnes,

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984, vol. 1, 25-38.(Chapter 9 introduces the notorious sea-battle example. Aristotle appears to be arguing that to avoid fatalism we must give up the idea that the law of excluded middle applies to statements about the future. However, the passage has given rise to a great deal of conflicting interpretation.)

Cicero (44 BC) De Fato (On Fate), with trans. and commentary by R.W. Sharples, Warminster: Aris &

Phillips, 1991.(Sections 28-30 offer an account of Stoic views on fatalism, which they appear to have understood both as determinism and in the sense emphasized in this entry.)

Taylor, R. (1963) Metaphysics, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. (Chapter 5 is on fatalism. It presents a

version of the sea-battle argument, with the usual concealed defect.)

Aquinas, T. (1266-73) Summa theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province, London:

Burns, Oates & Washbourne., 1920. (This is an extensive and extremely influential piece of philosophical theology by one of the major figures in medieval philosophy and theology.)

Berkhof, L. (1959) Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 4th edn.(A discussion of a standard

range of theological topics by a significant American Calvinist theologian.)

Boettner, L. (1948) The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 6th edn.(This

is a very extensive and useful discussion of this topic by a strong defender of the Calvinist tradition.)

Calvin, J. (1559) Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. F.L. Battles, Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster

Press, 1960.(This is the major theological work by one of the most prominent Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century.)

Dabney, R.L. (1871) Lectures in Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1985.(This

was originally published as Syllabus and Notes of the Course of Systematic and Polemic Theology Taught in Union Theological Seminary, Virginia; the Baker volume is reprinted from the revised edition of 1878.)

SSmith, W.D. (1854) What is Calvinism? Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian Board of Publication.(This is a

highly polemical defence of Presbyterian Calvinism.) ( 1646) Westminster Confession of Faith, in P. Schaff (ed.) The Creeds of Christendom, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1919, vol. 3, 676-703.(A confessional statement which has been very widely used in Presbyterian churches; see page 604 for the quotation in §3.) ( 1648) Westminster Shorter Catechism, in P. Schaff (ed.) The Creeds of Christendom, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1919, vol. 3, 600-73.(The definition in §1 is from Question 7, on page 677.)

Alexander of Aphrodisias (c. AD 200) On Fate, with translation and commentary by R.W. Sharples,

London: Duckworth, 1983. (Incompatibilist defence of free will against the Stoics, by an Aristotelian.) Aristotle (c. mid 4th century BC) Nicomachean Ethics, trans. J.A.K.Thomson, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1953.(Combines compatibilist points with the view that we can be in some sense ultimately responsible for how we are. See book III, chapter V.)

Augustine (AD 388-395) De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, trans. R. P. Russell, in L. Schopp, R. J. Deferrari et al.

(eds) Fathers of the Church, Catholic University of America Press, 1968, vol. 59. (Attempts, hesitantly and controversially, to show that free will is compatible with divine grace.)

Campbell, C. A. (1967) ’In Defence of Free Will’, in In Defence of Free Will, London: Allen &

Unwin.(Famous statement of the libertarian position that finds scope for exercise of free will especially in situations of moral conflict.)

Chisholm, R. (1964) ’Human Freedom and the Self’, in G.Watson (ed.) Free Will, Oxford: Oxford University

Press, 1982.(Libertarian who argues that free agency involves a distinct kind of causation called ’agent-causation’.)

Cicero (43-late 50s BC) On fate, trans. and commentary R.W. Sharples, Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1991

with Latin text.(Critique, by an Academic, of Stoic and Epicurean views on determinism; sole source for the outstanding defence of incompatibilism by Carneades, the second-century BC Academic philosopher.) Dennett, D. (1984) Elbow Room, Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Vivid defence of compatibilism.)

Double, R. (1993) The Non-Reality of Free Will, New York: Oxford University Press.(Thorough, full-length

study whose title is self-explanatory.) Fischer, J.M. (1994) The Metaphysics of Free Will, Oxford: Blackwell.(Tightly argued study of the ramifications of compatibilism.)

Frankfurt, H. (1988) The Importance of What We Care About, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

essays 1-5.(Essay 1 is an influential challenge to the view that free will requires the ability to do other than one does. Essays 3 and 5 develop the view referred to in §1 of this entry.)

Hobart, R.E. (1934) ‘Free Will as Involving Determinism and Inconceivable without It’, Mind 43.(Influential

rehearsal of a Humean compatibilist position.)

Hobbes, T. (1651) Leviathan, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.(Uncompromising

necessitarian’ compatibilism.)

Honderich, T. (1988) The Consequences of Determinism, Oxford: Clarendon Press.(Determinist who

argues against both compatibilism and incompatibilism and considers three responses to determinism: dismay, intransigence and affirmation.)

Hume, D. (1748) Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975,

§VIII.(Famous statement of the case for compatibilism, following Hobbes and Locke.)

Kane, R. (1996) The Significance of Free Will, New York: Oxford University Press.(Contains a careful

statement of the ‘free willist’, libertarian case, and a general survey of the debate.)

Kant, I. (1781) The Critique of Pure Reason, trans. N. Kemp Smith, London: Macmillan, 1933.(Kant

grounds human freedom in a ‘noumenal’ self not subject to the laws of causality, and holds that it requires that one be responsible for one’s character: he believes that we cannot understand how freedom is possible, although we can know that it exists.)

Kant, I. (1785) Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, in Practical Philosophy, trans. M.J. Gregor,

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.(Kant grounds human freedom in a ‘noumenal’ self not subject to the laws of causality, and holds that it requires that one be responsible for one’s character: he believes that wwe cannot understand how freedom is possible, although we can know that it exists.)

Kant, I. (1788) The Critique of Practical Reason, trans. L.W. Beck, Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill,

1956.(Kant grounds human freedom in a ‘noumenal’ self not subject to the laws of causality, and holds that it requires that one be responsible for one’s character: he believes that we cannot understand how freedom is possible, although we can know that it exists.)

Kant, I. (1793) Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, in Religion and Rational Theology, trans. A.W.

Wood, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.(Kant grounds human freedom in a ‘noumenal’ self not subject to the laws of causality, and holds that it requires that one be responsible for one’s character: he believes that we cannot understand how freedom is possible, although we can know that it exists.)

Kant, I. (1993) Opus Postumum, trans. E. Förster and M. Rosen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Leibniz, G. (1686) Discourse on Metaphysics, trans. R. Martin, D. Niall and S. Brown, Manchester:

Manchester University Press, 1988.(Adapts the astrological tag ‘the stars incline but do not necessitate’ in an account of how free will is compatible with the fact that there is always a reason why we act as we do.)

Leibniz, G. (1704-5) New Essays on Human Understanding, trans. P. Remnant and J. Bennett, Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1981.(Adapts the astrological tag ‘the stars incline but do not

necessitate’ in an account of how free will is compatible with the fact that there is always a reason why we act as we do; see Book II, Chapter 21.)

Locke, J. (1690) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.(Brief

statement of compatibilist position.)

Long, A.A. and Sedley, D.N. (1987), The Hellenistic Philosophers,

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2 volumes.(The contributions of the incompatibilist Epicureans and Academics and of the – perhaps – compatibilist Stoics are documented in sections 20, 38, 55, 62 and 70.)

Lucretius (c. 90-c.50 BC) On the nature of things, trans. W.H.D. Rouse, revised M.F. Smith, Cambridge,

MA: Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1975 with Latin text.(II 216-93 is a classic Epicurean incompatibilist argument for physical indeterminism as a necessary condition of free will, and contains the earliest occurrence of the expression ’free will’.)

Mele, A. (1995) Autonomous Agents, New York: Oxford University Press.(Subtle defence of a form of

libertarianism.) Nietzsche, F.W. (1886) Beyond Good and Evil, trans. W. Kaufman, New York: Random House, 1966.(Disbeliever in free will who recommends ‘love of fate’.) O’Connor, T. (1995) Agents, Causes and Events, New York: Oxford University Press.(Useful collection of essays on the prospects for indeterministic accounts of free will.)

Sartre, J.-P. (1948) Existentialism and Humanism, London: Methuen. (’Existentialist’ defence of human

beings’ radical and self-instituted freedom of choice.)

Spinoza, B. de (1677) Ethics, in The Collected Works of Spinoza, trans. E. Curley, Princeton, NJ: Princeton

University Press, 1985. (Determinist who argues that to be free is to be conscious of the

necessities that compel one.)

Strawson, G. (1986) Freedom and Belief, Oxford: Clarendon Press. (Puts the case for disbelief in free will

and discusses the ’cognitive phenomenology’ of belief in free will.)

Strawson, G. (1962) ’Freedom and Resentment’, in Freedom and Resentment, London: Methuen,

1974.(Develops the view mentioned in §4 of this entry, suggesting that the traditional debate about free will may be rendered unnecessary by proper attention to facts about human psychology.)

Van Inwagen, P. (1983) An Essay on Free Will, Oxford: Clarendon Press.(Contains an exhaustive

statement of the objection to compatibilism.)

Wolf, S. (1990) Freedom Within Reason, New York: Oxford University Press.(Develops the view that the dom necessary for responsibility involves the ability to act in accordance with one’s values and to form or revise one’s values in accordance with what ’right reason’ recommends.)


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