The freedom of intentional action and the concept of responsibility

Imlay, R. A (1966) The freedom of intentional action and the concept of responsibility. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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If there are any persistent problems of philosophy and I think It would have to be agreed that there are, then, the problem of deciding whether or not man has free-will must be one of them. Indeed, in the history of philosophy so many attempts have been made to show either that he has or that he has not got a free-will that one can easily enough understand the reluctance of some philosophers to deal with the problem at all. In spite of this, however, I intend to make one more contribution towards resolving this ancient and honorable problem. More specifically, I plan to defend the position that man does have free-will; and I interpret this plan in such a way that it commits me to defending the non-causal freedom of intentions and the decisions from which they often emerge. On the other hand, I shall be willing to agree that the relationship between an intention and an action is a causal one. But since I consider the essential element in any defence of the non-causal freedom of intentional action to be demonstration of the uncaused nature of the decision and the corresponding intention that lie behind the action, my task can equally well be interpreted as that of defending the non-causal freedom of Intentional action. And that is the principal way in which I shall interpret it. It must not be forgotten, however, that the attempt to establish man's free-will has seldom been Interpreted purely as an exercise in the subtleties of philosophical dialectic. On the contrary, the practical bearing of the problem is, as far as we are concerned, only too obvious; for, we shall argue, if the agent's actions are causally determined, it becomes impossible to make sense out of his consciousness of moral obligation. But this would entail the impossibility of making sense out of the notion of the agent as a responsible person which in our view is the basic use of the notion of responsibility. We shall, therefore, with the practical bearing of our problem still in mind, begin by expatiating on the notion of responsibility with special emphasis on what we take to be the basic use of the notion. And from there we shall argue back to our interpretation of the non-causal freedom of intentional action that renders this basic use of the notion of responsibility coherent. Incidentally, it will be noted that if we argue in this way the title of this essay will not be entirely appropriate. More specifically we should have entitled it The Concept of Responsibility and the Freedom of Intentional Action if the title was to reflect the order of the argument. The purely administrative problems that such a change of title would have involved, however, were sufficient to render it practically impossible. Thus, bureaucracy triumphs once more over dialectic. Unfortunately, as a modern day St. Paul might put it, the former provides no surer guarantee of salvation then the latter.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Philosophy
Date of Award: 1966
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1966-73778
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56

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