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Works in progress

Comments/discussions on the below are very welcome.

Draft papers

Choosing Freedom: An Original Position Argument Against Two Forms of Compatibilist Control (2020-10)

I develop two Rawlsian original position-style scenarios with which to assess three accounts of agential, freedom-level control. I suggest that by assuming these accounts have been shown internally coherent and had all major objections answered, the Rawlsian original position provides a novel way of assessing the value of the quality of the agency these accounts bestow. By exploring some possible trains of thought which reflect on these scenarios, I suggest that it is not implausible that many readers, including some committed compatibilists, might find themselves judging the incompatibilist, agent-causal control to be more desirable – more worth wanting – than either a compatibilist reasons-responsive account of control or a compatibilist hierarchical mesh account of control. Such compatibilists should, then, recognise an extra cost to the position they endorse: it is not the most valuable form of control. For compatibilist readers who do not share the intuitions I hope to elicit, the scenarios may nevertheless allow them a greater insight into why many incompatibilists find the agent-causal control valuable.

On General and Non-General Abilities (2020-06)

The distinction between general abilities on the one hand and particular, token, specific or all-in abilities on the other is of relevance to the topic of free will, and in at least two ways. First, theorists who take free will to require the ability to do otherwise must endorse some version of the distinction to make sense of cases of temporary incapacity. Second, reasons-responsive accounts of free will typically ground control in an agent’s general capacity for responding to reasons, making the nature of general capacities or abilities relevant to such accounts. Despite the relevance, it is rare to find a detailed exposition of what the distinction amounts to. In this paper I expand the thought, first put forward in Kittle (2015), that there are two kinds of general ability and two kinds of non-general ability. In Kittle (2015) I introduced the relevant distinctions only in order to show why Vihvelin’s new dispositionalist compatibilism fails; in this paper I develop the two distinctions for their own sake. The first distinction is between general and particular abilities. It concerns whether an ability ascription expresses the claim that the agent is in circumstances which make the exercise of the ability possible. The second distinction is between generic and specific abilities. This distinction is a matter of degree and concerns the kind of relative modality associated with the ability properties. Getting clear about these two distinctions promises to clarify several discussions around agential abilities.