Philosophical Studies

, Volume 174, Issue 10, pp 2479–2488 | Cite as

Free will, bound and unbound: reflections on Shaun Nichols’ bound

  • Robert KaneEmail author


Nichols’ Bound presents interesting new angles on traditional debates about free will and moral responsibility, relating them to the latest empirical research in psychology, social sciences and experimental philosophy. In experimental philosophy, he cites numerous recent studies showing that there are strong incompatibilist strands in folk intuitions about free will and responsibility, taking issue with other recent studies claiming that folk intuitions are predominantly compatibilist. But he also argues that incompatibilist folk intuitions are based on faulty reasoning and cannot be realized. We are left with a choice between an eliminativism about free will and moral responsibility (free will skepticism) or revising ordinary beliefs and practices in a compatibilist direction. Though Nichols sees problems with both these positions, he ultimately opts for the latter. Despite agreeing with Nichols on many points, I argue in this paper that he takes the libertarian view of free will off the table too precipitously, leaving us with too narrow a choice of options. I argue that we can make sense of an incompatibilist view of free will and responsibility without reducing it to mere chance or mystery and that it remains an open scientific question whether we can have such a free will.


Free will Moral responsibility Incompatibilism Reactive attitudes Folk intuitions Determinism 


  1. Balaguer, M. (2010). Free will as an open scientific problem. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Caruso, G. D. (2012). Free will and consciousness: A determinist account of the illusion of free will. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  3. Kane, R. (1985). Free will and values. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  4. Kane, R. (1986). Principles of reason. Erkenntnis, 24(2), 115–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Kane, R. (1996). The significance of free will. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Kane, R. (1999). Responsibility, luck, and chance: Reflections on free will and indeterminism. Journal of Philosophy, 96, 217–240.Google Scholar
  7. Kane, R. (2002). Some neglected pathways in the free will labyrinth. In R. Kane (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of free will (pp. 406–437). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Kane, R. (2005). A contemporary introduction to free will. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Kane, R. (2011). Rethinking free will: New Perspectives on an ancient problem. In R. Kane (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of free will (2nd Ed) (pp. 381–404). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Nahmias, E. (2011). Intuitions about free will: Determinism and bypassing. In R. Kane (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of free will (2nd Ed) (pp. 555–576). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Nahmias, E., Morris, S., Nadelhoffer, T., & Turner, J. (2005). Surveying freedom: Folk instuitions about free will and moral responsibility. Philosophical Psychology, 18, 561–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Nichols, S. (2015). Bound: Essays on free will and responsibility. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Pereboom, D. (2001). Living without free will. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Sommers, T. (2012). Relative justice: Cultural diversity, free will and moral responsibility. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Strawson, P. F. (1962). Freedom and resentment. Proceedings of the British Academy, 48, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Strawson, G. (1986). Freedom and belief. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  17. Waller, B. (1990). Freedom without responsibility. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Watson, G. (1987). Responsibility and the limits of evil: Variations on a strawsonian theme. In F. Schoeman (Ed.), Responsibility, character and emotions: New essays in moral psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations