The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 327-341

First online:

How to Think about the Problem of Free Will

  • Peter van InwagenAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame Email author 

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In this essay I present what is, I contend, the free-will problem properly thought through, or at least presented in a form in which it is possible to think about it without being constantly led astray by bad terminology and confused ideas. Bad terminology and confused ideas are not uncommon in current discussions of the problem. The worst such pieces of terminology are “libertarian free will” and “compatibilist free will.” The essay consists partly of a defense of the thesis that the use of these phrases by writers on the problem of free will can only generate conceptual confusion and partly of a formulation of the problem that does not make use of them. I contend that this formulation is neutral with respect to the historically important positions on free will (e.g., compatibilism and incompatibilism).


Compatibilism Compatibilist free will Determinism Free will Incompatibilism Libertarian free will Libertarianism