Do we have free will? How could we have the psychological leeway to choose and act otherwise than we do? The sum of history and the laws of science, including psychology, deterministically imply all events, including each of our actions. Is nature’s iron determination of deliberation compatible with the will’s freedom? The philosophers who answer affirmatively, both classical and current, assume that either the ultimate scientific laws or the grand historical record—or both—are merely contingent. By proceeding to infer the contingency of lawfully determined actions, these compatibilists would secure the leeway presumably requisite for the will’s liberty. Akratic Compatibilism and All Too Human Psychology: Almost Enough Is Free Will Enough argues, however, that they may be dead wrong about the modality of nature’s laws and history’s plasticity. Might the laws be necessary, and history absolutely fixed? Nevertheless, J. Christopher Maloney posits, we would yet be free. For psychology ordains volitional conflict: sometimes we akratically will to be able to act otherwise than we irresistibly do. Being akratic by nature, we asymptotically resist even a necessitating psychology’s governance. That Sisyphean resistance against the laws of cognition almost achieves the will’s liberating leeway. Nevertheless, almost free is free enough for deliberators as weak-willed as we.
J. Christopher Maloney is professor emeritus of philosophy and cognitive science at the University of Arizona.
Chapter 1. Determinism and Compatibilism Redux
Chapter 2. The Logic of ‘Almost’
Chapter 3. Lessons, Charity, and Freedom’s Proliferation
Chapter 4. Akratic Compatibilism Indicted but Acquitted
J. Christopher Maloney has written a book that is at once probing and inventive, confronting the need to understand how best to comprehend the psychology of human decision-making and action, and the nature of the self-conscious mind. It is humble but daring, fluid yet scholarly, offering a lucid and penetrating analysis of the self-determining mind.
This is a highly original defense of a version of compatibilism. It is an extraordinary tour de force through a huge literature that is much broader than the analytic discussions of free will, and the connections Maloney forges between the narrower and broader contexts are illuminating. Highly recommended!