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I consider Peter van Inwagen's AN ESSAY ON FREE WILL to be the best book on the topic of free will, which is written by a single author. The book has six chapters, which are entitled:
1. The problems and how we shall approach them.
3. Three arguments for incompatibilism.
4. Three arguments for compatibilism.
5. What our not having free will would mean.
6. The traditional problem.
Van Inwagen sets out to answer two main questions in this book. First, the compatibility question, which is the question of whether free will is compatible or incompatible with determinism. Second, the traditional question, which is the question of whether we have free will.
Chapter 2, on fatalism, analyzes arguments that tries to show, on purely logical grounds, that we have no free will. Van Inwagen argues, however, that they commit modal fallacies subtle and not so subtle and hence that such attempts to establish fatalism (and the nonexistence of free will) on purely logical grounds fail.
In Chapter 3 he presents three arguments for incompatibility of free will--and he is happy to consider them as being three versions of the one argument for incompatibilism--and determinism. The most famous of the three is the third argument, which he dubbed 'the consequence argument' (CA). CA is an attempt to formalize the following intuitive argument:
"If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us" (p. 56).
Van Inwagen believes that the three arguments for incompatibilism that he presents are all good arguments (at least more reasonable than their denials) and, hence, by the end of chapter 3 he thinks he is justified in answering the compatibility question in the negative.
In chapter 4 he presents three arguments for compatibilism: the paradigm case argument, the conditional analysis of 'can', and an argument that he calls 'the Mind argument' (MA) (so named because versions of it have appeared frequently in the philosophy journal MIND). Briefly, MA states that free will is not compatible with indeterminism, since free willed actions are rational and under the agent's control, whereas the injection of indeterminism (anywhere in the deliberation-volition-action sequence) would either destroy or greatly lessen such control and/or rationality.
He believes that the most promising of the three is MA--more precisely, a 'third strand' of MA--which, interestingly, utilizes an inferential principle that is also found in CA (called Beta). Van Inwagen grants the validity of MA and is lead to deny one of its premises as false, although he confesses that he doesn't know *how* it can be false. He thinks that he is justified in holding on to the conclusion arrived at in chapter 3 because he argues that compatibilism is even more mysterious than incompatibilism--Van Inwagen thus ops for the lesser of two mysteries.
Chapter 4 concludes with an argument that positing 'agent causation' will not help the incompatibilist to lessen the mystery that is posed by MA. Van Inwagen is thus something of a 'simple indeterminist' regarding free will.
In chapter 5 he presents an argument to the effect that one could not deliberate if one truly and consistently believed that one has no free will. He charges that those who claim to deliberate but deny free will are guilty of a 'practical contradiction' of sorts. This argument has also received a lot of discussion in the subsequent literature, and it is considered (even by fellow libertarians) to be a mistake (cf. Randolph Clarke, LIBERTARIAN ACCOUNTS OF FREE WILL, p. 112).
Finally, in chapter 6 he presents an argument for an affirmative answer to the traditional question: that free will exists because moral responsibility exists, and free will is a necessary condition for ascribing moral responsibility to people. In my opinion, this part of the book is perhaps the weakest, in that Van Inwagen spends far too little time defending moral realism against various skeptical attacks. I grant that he is not a specialist in ethics, but since he raised the issue--and since the issue is so crucial to the success of his overall project--I think that he should have been more careful here.
The sixth chapter also contains some fascinating arguments about whether the truth of determinism can be established either rationally (e.g. through the principle of sufficient reason) or empirically (scientifically). He answers both in the negative.
Thus, his overall conclusion is that (i) incompatibilism is true (his answer to the compatibility question) and that (ii) free will exists (his answer to the traditional question). Since the above conjunction entails the truth of libertarianism, Van Inwagen believes that he has shown that view to be true.
In conclusion, anyone who wants to orient themselves to the issues and arguments of contemporary philosophical literature on free will should read this book. First published in 1983, it remains extremely influential in shaping the contours of the free will debate ever since.