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Volume 51 • Number 1

January 2014



On Counterfactuals of Libertarian Freedom: Is There Anything I Would Have Done if I Could Have Done Otherwise?

by Paul C. Anders, Joshua C. Thurow, and Kenneth Hochstetter

In the contemporary literature concerning the existence of counterfactuals of libertarian freedom—statements with the form “agent S would freely do action A in circumstances C”—much attention has been given to the grounding objection in which it is argued, simply stated, that there exists no actual state of affairs that could ground the truth or falsehood of any particular counterfactual of freedom. Very little attention, comparatively, has been given to a different sort of problem—whether libertarian freedom is compatible with there being true counterfactuals of freedom. This latter problem seems much more serious. In this paper we present the problem using the standard Lewisian account of modality and consider a variety of responses to it. We conclude that neither the Lewisian account nor more recent approaches vindicates the theorist who holds both to a libertarian account of freedom and to there being true counterfactuals of freedom. Our conclusion is not that the concept of libertarian freedom is self-contradictory or incoherent. Nor are we arguing that (all, most, many) counterfactuals are not or cannot be true. Our focus is on the compatibility of these two widely accepted viewpoints.

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ISSN: 2152-1123