Monday, May 17, 2010

Ekstrom's Solution

This post is part of my series on free will.

 Ekstrom's next step is to tackle where in the decision-making process the indeterminacy should arise. She describes the decision-making process as period of critical evaluation of various factors leading up to a preference - a settled decision about what to desire - or an intention - a settled decision about what to do.

If there were indeterminacy between the intention to act and the act itself, it would be a very odd thing indeed. For then we would sometimes find ourselves having decided to do something but then failing to do it. It seems to be the case that every time I intend to reach for my pen I succeed in doing so. And if I did fail sometimes, then it seems my failure wasn't a free action on my part, because I had intended to succeed. So indeterminacy between intention and action doesn't seem to provide free will of the sort we want.

Likewise, if the indeterminacy arises between my forming a judgment about what to do and the actual intention to perform the act, then I don't seem to be in control of the outcome.

So the indeterminacy must be pushed back even further, into the deliberation process itself.

But what is the self that is doing the deliberating? According to Ekstrom, the self (or agent) is an evaluating and choosing faculty by which the agent creates preferences and acceptances, together with the preferences and acceptances themselves.

Ekstrom's solution, then, is to locate the indeterminacy in the deliberative process by which the self - the evaluative faculty - causes the formation of an intention to act. In her words (Free Will, p.115), she endorses:

Type 3d Theory - An action is free only if it results, by a normal causal process, from a pertinent intention ... that is caused by the agent, where this latter term ... is reducible to event-causal terms.

I take "event-causal" to refer to normal neuro-physiological processes. Even though it is the agent that is doing the causing, this is not an "agent-causal account", because Ekstrom insists that this causation is normal physical causation, not some mysterious power that pertains to intelligent agents alone.

But it is crucial for Ekstrom that the type of causation that the agent/self engages in is indeterministic, as she has already rejected any sort of deterministic account.

Next time I will try to poke some holes in this account.

1 comment:

  1. I don't buy that the indeterminacy cannot be between the intention and the act. Every week I make up a shopping list and menu, fully intending to buy what I need to make the meals I am planning on. And usually I do. But sometimes, when I get to the store, I change my mind and decide to make something else instead of (or in addition to) what's on my menu. Up until the moment I actually act, there is an indeterminacy because I can always change my mind, which in this language I suppose would mean I have changed my preference. My point is, this isn't a linear process, going from one step to the next to the next, but rather is a more chaotic system, with feedback to previous steps, as it were (or perhaps, more accurately, I would say that we have ample opportunity, depending on the situation, to revisit our choices and change our minds). To use your example, I could reach for my pen, but at the last second decide I wanted my pencil instead. No?