Freedom Without Choice?

  • Gottfried Seebaß
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 118)


The paper addresses a fundamental issue in clarifying the concept of autonomy, namely its relation to the concept of freedom, and argues for an analysis within a libertarian framework. Starting with a brief clarification of the concept of freedom in general, based mainly on the idea of being unhindered, this general idea is explored further by discussing two main dimensions: 1) freedom as openness to alternatives (possibility criterion) and 2) freedom in the sense of an available option being “natural” or “essential” to the agent in question (criterion of naturalness). In subsequently discussing the title-giving question directly, it is asked whether invoking only the second dimension while disregarding the first—generally done by compatibilists—can provide us with plausible cases of freedom without choice. In analyzing various relevant cases of personal freedom, covering freedom of action as well as freedom of will, the answer is then mostly negative. Apart from cases like theoretical rationality or language, all cases of personal freedom mattering most for personal autonomy rely on the first criterion as well, i.e. the agent has to be able to choose between different alternatives. Only then can we understand ourselves as free and autonomous persons.


Intentional Action Autonomous Person Personal Choice Positive Instance Practical Rationality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Benjamins, H.S. 1994. Eingeordnete Freiheit, Freiheit und Vorsehung bei Origenes. Leiden: E.J. Brill.Google Scholar
  2. Berlin, I. 1978. From hope and fear set free. In Concepts and categories, 173–198. London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bratman, M. 1987. Intention, plans, and practical reason. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. de Molina, L. 1988. In One divine foreknowledge, ed. A.J. Freddoso. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Descartes, R. 1999. The philosophical writings of Descartes, vols. I−III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Frankfurt, H. 1988. The importance of what we care about. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Frankfurt, H. 1999. Necessity, volition, and love. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Fromm, E. 1941. Escape from freedom. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
  9. Gaskin, R. 1993. Conditionals of freedom and middle knowledge. The Philosophical Quarterly 43: 412–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hegel, G.W.F. 1976. Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts. Repr. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  11. Hobbes, Th. 1966. The English works, vols. III−V, ed. W. Molesworth. Repr. Aalen.Google Scholar
  12. Huxley, A. 1936. Eyeless in Gaza. London: Chatto & Windus.Google Scholar
  13. Kant, I. 1902ff. Gesammelte Schriften (Akademie-Ausgabe), Bde. IV−V. Berlin: Reimer.Google Scholar
  14. Kenny, A. 1972. Descartes on the will. In Cartesian studies, ed. R.J. Butler, 1–31. Oxford: B. Blackwell.Google Scholar
  15. MacKay, D.M. 1967. Freedom of action in a mechanistic universe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. McCallum, G.C. 1967. Negative and positive freedom. Philosophical Review 76: 312–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Moore, G.E. 1965. Ethics. Repr. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Planck, M. 1965. Vorträge und Erinnerungen. Repr. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.Google Scholar
  19. Roughley, N. 2008. Wanting and intending. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  20. Rousseau, J.-J. 1977. Politische Schriften, Bd. 1. Paderborn: Schöningh.Google Scholar
  21. Rousseau, J.-J. 1990. Diskurs über die Ungleichheit / Discours sur l’inégalité. Paderborn: Schöningh.Google Scholar
  22. Rowe, W. 1964. Augustine on foreknowledge and free will. The Review of Metaphysics 18: 356–363.Google Scholar
  23. Sartre, J.-P. 1962. Das Sein und das Nichts. Hamburg: Rowohlt.Google Scholar
  24. Sartre, J.-P. 1986. Ist der Existenzialismus ein Humanismus? In Drei Essays, 7–51. Frankfurt/Berlin.Google Scholar
  25. Schälike, J. 2010. Spielräume und Spuren des Willens. Paderborn: Mentis.Google Scholar
  26. Schopenhauer, A. 1977. Preisschrift über die Freiheit des Willens, Bd. VI, 41–142. Repr. in: Zürcher Ausgabe: Diogenes.Google Scholar
  27. Seebaß, G. 1993. Wollen. Frankfurt: V. Klostermann.Google Scholar
  28. Seebaß, G. 1997. When is an action free? In Contemporary action theory, vol. I, ed. G. Holmström-Hintikka and R. Tuomela, 233–250. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  29. Seebaß, G. 2005. Akrasie. In: Enzyklopädie Philosophie und Wissenschaftstheorie, Bd. I, 59–63. Stuttgart: Metzler.Google Scholar
  30. Seebaß, G. 2006. Handlung und Freiheit. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.Google Scholar
  31. Seebaß, G. 2007. Willensfreiheit und Determinismus, Bd. I, Die Bedeutung des Willensfreiheits­problems. Berlin: Akademie.Google Scholar
  32. Snell, C.W. 1789. Ueber Determinismus und moralische Freiheit. Offenbach: Weiss und Brede.Google Scholar
  33. Tugendhat, E. 1992. Philosophische Aufsätze. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  34. Watson, G. 2004. Agency and answerability. Oxford: Clarendon.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Widerker, D. 2006. Libertarianism and the philosophical significance of Frankfurt scenarios. The Journal of Philosophy 103: 163–187.Google Scholar
  36. Williams, B. 1995. Moral incapacity. In Making sense of humanity, 46–55. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Zagzebski, L.T. 1991. The dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany

Personalised recommendations