, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 107–116 | Cite as

Reductionism, Agency and Free Will

  • Maria Joana Rigato
Original Paper


In the context of the free will debate, both compatibilists and event-causal libertarians consider that the agent’s mental states and events are what directly causes her decision to act. However, according to the ‘disappearing agent’ objection, if the agent is nothing over and above her physical and mental components, which ultimately bring about her decision, and that decision remains undetermined up to the moment when it is made, then it is a chancy and uncontrolled event. According to agent-causalism, this sort of problem can be overcome if one realizes that the agent herself, as an irreducible substance, is the true originator of her actions. I’ll present arguments that favor this view. Event-causalists have countered that if the agent identifies with some of the inner states that play the self-determining causal role in bringing about the action, then it is as though the action was directly caused by herself. I’ll object that this is not a distinctive aspect of free agency. Agent-causalism has been criticized from most naturalistically inclined fronts, and it must address risks of implausibility, contradiction and unintelligibility. Even though I’ll acknowledge these challenges, I’ll still argue that libertarian free will cannot be defended by any reductionist alternative, and that agent-causalism does not conflict with contemporary science but only with some of its unproven assumptions.


Agent-causalism Event-causalism Reductionism Free will Libertarianism Substance-causation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Philosophy of Sciences of the University of LisbonUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal

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