SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Reasons, Motivational Strength and Objective Probabilities of Actions
(Philosophy of Mind, )

A Libertarians about free will often maintain that our free, undetermined actions have objective probabilities of occurring (and of not occurring). According to this view, it makes sense to say that, one minute before I toasted my bread this morning, there was (say) a 0.8 probability that I would do that, and a 0.2 that I would not. But why posit such probabilities? One often-cited reason appears to rest on phenomenological considerations. When we face a choice, we often feel more inclined to choose some options over the others: each option has a certain "pull" on us, and the perceived intensity of some of these pulls may be greater than that of others. Some authors think that to account for this phenomenon we must associate probabilities to the options open to us: the more we feel inclined towards an option, the higher is the probability that we will choose it. In this paper, I will argue that, on the contrary, our agential experience does not support the ascription of probabilities to undetermined actions. To do so, I will examine an assumption that is commonly shared by the advocates of the probability thesis - namely, the assumption that our reasons to act come with different degrees of motivational strength. According to this idea (let us call it MSI: Motivational Strength Idea), it makes sense to say, for example, that some reasons of ours are stronger than others, or that a certain reason has less motivational strength than another. I will argue that MSI is phenomenologically unjustified. Moreover, I intend to show that MSI makes libertarianism vulnerable to a powerful objection typically raised by compatibilists, and that therefore libertarians had better reject MSI. I will conclude by claiming that, since libertarians can and should deny the idea that motivational reasons have varying degrees of strength, their commitment to the thesis that our undetermined actions have objective probabilities is less justified than usually thought.

Chair: Ada Smurzynska
Time: 10:40-11:10, 11 September 2021 (Saturday)
Location: SR 1.005
Remark: (Online Talk)

Daniele Conti 
(The University of Manchester, )



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