Causation and Freedom

The concept of causation usually plays an important role in the formulation of the problem of freedom and determinism. Despite this fact, and aside from the debate over whether the mysterious relation of “agent-causation”  is possible, the literature on that problem very rarely engages in metaphysical debates about the nature of causation or attempts to draw on the metaphysics of causation per se. For example, philosophers do not tend to think that the question of whether causation (ordinary, “event-causation”; henceforth, just causation) is reducible to counterfactual dependence, or the instantiation of some regularity, or a primitive relation not reducible to other more basic metaphysical concepts, has any bearing on the question of whether freedom is compatible with determinism.1  Similarly, philosophers do not tend to think that more specific issues in the metaphysics of causation such as the question about the nature of the causal relata, or whether absence causation is possible, or whether causation is transitive, are relevant to this debate. Here I will argue that some debates in the metaphysics of causation actually have a significant bearing on that debate. My main focus will be a popular view in that debate: the alternative-possibilities  view of freedom and responsibility.

Published in: Journal of Philosophy
2012 109:11 Pages 629-51