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Free actions as a natural kind

  • Oisín Deery


Do we have free will? Understanding free will as the ability to act freely, and free actions as exercises of this ability, I maintain that the default answer to this question is “yes.” I maintain that free actions are a natural kind, by relying on the influential idea that kinds are homeostatic property clusters. The resulting position builds on the view that agents are a natural kind and yields an attractive alternative to recent revisionist accounts of free action. My view also overcomes difficulties confronted by previous views according to which free actions might be a natural kind. On my view, free actions exist and we often act freely, as long as we possess various features that are related in the right sorts of ways to each other and to the world. In turn, we acquire and retain the concept as long as most of us possess enough of those features.


Free will Action Natural kinds Moral responsibility Revisionism 



Versions of this paper were presented at the University of Arizona (January 2016), Florida State University (January 2017), Monash University (September 2017), the Central Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association (February 2018), the University of Melbourne (May 2018), and the 3rd International Conference on Natural Cognition at the University of Macau (November 2018). Thanks to audiences at those venues for helpful comments. I also thank Terry Horgan, Shaun Nichols, Michael McKenna, Eddy Nahmias, Alfred Mele, Tim Bayne, Gregg Caruso and several anonymous referees for their valuable suggestions. Finally, I thank the students in my seminar on reference and free will at Monash University (2018) for useful discussion.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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