terça-feira, 24 de janeiro de 2017


This paper was first published in the journal Ratio 5, vol. 19, 2006, pp. 1-23 under the titel "Free will and the soft constraints of reason.". Summaries, grafics and footnotes are lost in this version. Most of its content is reproduced in the paper "Livre arbítrio para compatibilistas", also published in the blog. A completely revised version of the paper was published in the book "Lines of Thought: Rethinking Philosophical Assumptions", by Cambridge Scholars Publishing).


                                                                                                    Claudio F. Costa

Contemporary compatibilist definitions of free will are usually of two kinds. To the first kind belong restatements of the classical commonsensical view originally sustained by philosophers like Hobbes, Locke and Hume. A good statement of such a view was made by Sidney Hook in the following words:
Men are free when their actions are determined by their own will, and not by the will of others, or by factors that lead us to say that their actions were involuntary. To the extent that conditions exist which prevent a man from acting as he wishes (e.g. ignorance, physical incapacity, constraint used upon his body and mind) he is unfree.
Definitions like this make freedom wholly compatible with determinism. A decision of will is free, not because it breaks the chains of strict causality, as libertarianists and sceptics believe, but because it is a voluntary one, namely, a decision rightly caused by not being opposed to or independent of the will. According to this account, a person who makes a confession under torture doesn’t do so of his own free will, since he is being forced (caused) to act in opposition to his own will; and a person who makes a confession because he wants to tell the truth is acting freely, not because he isn’t being caused (since the moral commandment is the cause), but because he is being rightly moved (caused) to act by influences in accordance with his will.
     A different kind of compatibilist definition of free will is given by the many so-called hierarchical definitions, whose original source of inspiration has been Harry Frankfurt’s famous paper about freedom of will and the concept of a person.  Understanding a second-order volition as a second-order desire to be moved to action by a certain first-order desire, Frankfurt considered two cases. First, the case in which the agent succeeds in making his second-order volition effective upon the first-order desire, thereby turning the last into his own will; second, the case in which the agent remains unable to achieve this aim. In the first case the agent is free, while in the second he is not. Unlike in Hook’s definition, Frankfurt can explain, for example, why we reject the ascription of free agency to a person who is unable to win his struggle against his first-order desire to smoke. It is because he isn’t able to make his second-order volition effective: he does not successfully will, what he wants to will.
     Another well-known hierarchical definition of free will was proposed by Gary Watson.  Disagreeing with Frankfurt’s contention that the agent identifies himself with a desire by having a higher-order volition upon it, Watson has come to see free agency as depending on the governance of the agent’s motivational system (his desires and emotions) by his valuation system (what he regards as worth pursuing). Where this governance is lost, as in cases of compulsive choosers and kleptomaniacs, freedom of will is lost. These cases, again, can’t be dealt with by means of the unsophisticated traditional forms of definition.
     Certainly, each of these definitions of free will illuminates some aspect of the problem. But none of them has proved to be resistant to all conceivable counterexamples. To show this, consider the case of a suicide bomber who detonates a bomb, killing himself and others. He is acting voluntarily and unconstrained, satisfying Hook’s definition. He has completely submitted his first-order scruples to his second-order fanatical convictions, satisfying Frankfurt’s condition in a paradigmatic way. And what he thinks to be his motivational system is in full agreement with his valuation system, as Watson’s definition demands. However, is he deciding and acting freely? Here our intuitions come apart. In one sense, he is acting freely, since he is doing what he wishes. But in a more demanding sense, assuming that he is driven by a really restrictive fanatical conviction, most of us would say that his freedom is being impaired in what he is thinking, deciding and doing. However, compatibilist definitions like those of Hook, Frankfurt and Watson are unable to cope with the last intuition.
     Although there are a variety of non-classical attempts to circumvent counterexamples like this, the most elaborated and sophisticated of them is Richard Double’s autonomy variable strategy , which consists in the introduction of a series of conditions for free choice. These conditions – the autonomy variables – are self-knowledge (self-consciousness) reasonability (critical evaluation), intelligence (skill), efficacy (control) and unity (agency). Applying this strategy to the counterexample of the suicide bomber, one could say that his decision to kill himself and others isn’t free, insofar as it lacks self-knowledge and (particularly) reasonability.
     Nevertheless, Double’s strategy has its own shortcomings. Consider the case of threats. When someone gives his wallet to a mugger, who is holding a pistol, it seems clear that one has the freedom of choice (of retaining both his wallet and his life) impaired. However, when the person gives his wallet self-consciously, reasonably, intelligently, etc. satisfying the variables, Double must contra-intuitively admit that his choice is free.  Moreover, one could object that Double is somewhat arbitrarily picking up some main conditions satisfied by the most complex forms of free agency and imposing them as a criterion, in order to dismiss the counterexamples as unable to satisfy this standard; but this strategy lets aside the simpler forms, what leads him to be suspiciously unclear about the extent to which each autonomy variable must be satisfied.  Finally, he does not explicitly consider who decides whether the conditions are being satisfied; at least for the suicide bomber and his fellow terrorists, to commit suicide may be seen just as the final output of a longstanding development of self-knowledge, reasonability, etc.
      In our view, a problem with the non-classical compatibilist definitions of free will, as well as with some libertarianists’ definitions, is that they are seen as attempts to define freedom by means of its positive properties, while freedom is a more general and essentially negative concept, designating absence of restriction.  In what follows, I hope to develop this compatibilist insight, which underlines the classical view, in a way that makes it potentially able to neutralize any conceivable counterexample.

1. A Rough Commonsensical Definition
Beginning with common sense: how do we use words like ‘free’ and ‘freedom’ in ordinary contexts? There are two complementary definitions of freedom of will with which even a child would agree and that can be found in any dictionary, by looking up the word ‘freedom’ : (a) persons are free when they are autonomous, self-determining, when they can choose or act in conformity with their own nature and will; (b) persons are free when they can choose or act in the absence of limitation or constraint. These two ordinary senses were in many ways explored in the classic compatibilist definitions of Hobbes , Locke , and Hume  and in their contemporary restatements, like that of Sidney Hook. About the relationship between (a) and (b), I wish to suggest that they are respectively a positive and a negative way to express the same thing, namely, that to be autonomous or self-determining, to choose or act according to one’s own will, is only an affirmative way of asserting the negative fact that one is choosing or acting without being limited or constrained. The only difference is that while (a) refers to the subject choosing in the absence of restriction, (b) refers to the freedom viewed as nothing more than the absence of restriction in this choice. Conjoining (a) and (b), we arrive at the commonsensical definition of free will as the absence of restriction (limitation, hindrance, privation, obstruction, blockade, opposition, constraint, coercion, induction, oppression, necessity . . . ) in the natural exercise of will, choices and actions. I’m not alone in conflating the two definitions; a philosopher like Hobbes, who wrote that ‘LIBERTY or FREEDOME, signifieth (properly) the absence of opposition’ , also conjoined (a) and (b) by defining a free man as ‘he, that in those things, which by his strength and wit he is able to do, is not hindred to doe what he has a will to’.
     Indeed, it is because of this essentially negative understanding of freedom that we say that the claustrophobic’s will is made free after psychological treatment because now he can decide and act in a less constrained way, that we say that the slave is made free because limitations and coercions on his actions are removed, and that – in an analogical way – we also say that the water in a river flows freely after bursting a dam, because it is now unimpeded or unconstrained. Although always causally determined in a necessary and sufficient way, these decisions, actions and events are called ‘free’ in order to indicate that their causal determination isn’t restrictive.
     However, what about our fanatical suicide bomber? Is he in some way restricted in his decisions, judgments and actions? The rough, intuitive definition I’ve considered here doesn’t allow any clear answer. However, I would like to suggest that the only reason for this is that our commonsensical compatibilist definition, is too brief. In order to answer philosophical objections, the commonsensical view requires philosophical elaboration, as I intend to provide in what follows.
2. Origins and Modalities of Restrictions
A first generic feature of restrictions on freedom is somewhat obvious. It concerns their most evidently identifiable origins, which can be external or internal to the agent as a physical and mental person. When someone chooses to jump to his death from a burning building, he is not doing this freely, since he is being externally constrained. From the other side, when someone is driven to steal a bottle of wine because he is an alcoholic, this is an internally originated constraint on his freedom of will. In this sense, someone is free when neither externally nor internally restricted in his decisions or actions.
     A less obvious point concerns the analysis of the concept of restriction, which I wish to use here in the most general sense, encompassing the sense of cognate terms. There are two basic modalities of restriction, which I will call limitation and constraint. They were distinguished by Richard Taylor with the help of the following example.  Suppose that I put my right closed hand on a table with my second finger extended. In this case, I can move my finger to the right or to the left; I can’t move it down, because of the table, and I can’t move it up, because of anatomical limitations. Letting aside these two non-reasonable alternatives, I can say that my finger is free to move to the right and to the left and that this is the range of valid alternatives available to me in this particular situation. Now, this freedom can be restricted in two ways: by limitation (blockade, hindrance), when a heavy object is put on the left side of my finger, so that I can move it only to the right side, and by constraint (coercion, force), when someone holds my finger and moves it against my will to the left side.
     This distinction between limitation and constraint is important because it can be applied to all levels of freedom, not only the physical one. Restriction of freedom by limitation or hindrance or obstruction or blocking occurs when, from a range of contextually reasonable alternatives for action, decision or judgment, one or more are ruled out. Thus, if I’m in a bookstore and I don’t have enough money, I’m restricted by a limitation in the sense that my usual possibilities of choice are ruled out. On the other hand, a restriction by constraint occurs when someone is forced or coerced or compelled or induced to choose one or more alternatives for action, decision or judgment. If I’m in the bookstore and I meet my unloved boss who considers himself a poet, and he is promoting his book, it might be that circumstances induce me to buy his book against my better judgment, giving me a feeling that my freedom is restricted by a kind of constraint. All restrictions of freedom belong to one (or both) of these two basic modalities. In short: to act or decide freely is to act or decide without being restricted by limitations or constraints externally or internally originated.
     The following schema summarizes the distinctions traced until now:

        MAIN ORIGINS of                               MODALITIES of
          RESTRICTION:                                   RESTRICTION:
                                                (hindrance, privation        (coercion, induction
                                                obstruction, blockade…    force, oppression…)

3. Ranges of Alternatives
Before further improving our compatibilist analysis of freedom, there is an important feature of our ordinary concept of freedom that must be made more explicit if we want to prevent misunderstanding, namely, that it always works as a contextually-bounded concept. In order to make this clear, we return to Taylor’s example of the hand on the table: I’m free to move my finger to the right or to the left side. But it would not make much sense to say that I’m not free to move my finger because I can’t move it down, since it is on the table, or that I’m not free in moving it because for anatomical reasons I can’t move it up. It would be unreasonable to think so, because these alternatives are not part of what was originally meant in this particular case; they don’t belong to the present deliberative praxis, to the ‘language game’ that is played. Context (through the application of rules for its identification) has the power to determine what alternatives are reasonable enough to be taken into consideration.
     Although Taylor’s example concerns only physical freedom, the point about contextual bounds can be naturally extended to all levels of freedom. When I say, for example, that I’m free this weekend, I include in my modest range of alternatives the possibility of going to the movies, of going to the beach, of going to a new restaurant . . . but not the possibility of flying to Paris to dine in the Tour D’argent. I’m not entitled to say: ‘Poor me; I’ve not the freedom of choice to dine in the Tour D’argent this weekend.’ To consider this as a limitation of my freedom of will, of decision, of action, would be unreasonable in the context of my present life. Nor can I say that I’m being forced to remain on the surface of the earth this weekend against my will, since to see this as a constraint would once more exceed the range of alternatives reasonable in my case. Certainly, I might unseriously complain that I’m not free this weekend because I can’t have dinner in the Tour D’argent, but in this case, I’m not using the concept of freedom in a literal sense. Nevertheless, such complaints can be reasonable in other contexts, in which the supposed limitation or constraint could really restrict the range of alternatives actually expected. If I were a millionaire residing in New York, I would be possibly entitled to say: ‘Poor me; Concorde flights were suspended and I lost the freedom to have dinner in the Tour D’argent this weekend’; and if I were a future cosmic globetrotter and the flights to the Moon were cancelled, I could reasonably complain that I have lost my freedom to choose to go to the Moon this weekend.
      Generalizing, we can say that the concrete context of judgments, decisions and actions, the deliberative praxis the agent is playing normally gives place to certain ranges of alternatives. These ranges of alternatives are larger or smaller sets of choices that are considered reasonable by the person evaluating the agent’s freedom, so that our already explained concept of restriction (limitation or constraint) can be correctly applied only to what belongs to a contextually reasonable range of alternatives.
     A further important point about the context-relative character of the concept of freedom is related to the fact that the evaluation of an agent’s freedom or absence of freedom is primarily made interpersonally, by what I wish to call a judging subject. This judging subject must be aware of the context of the agent’s action or decision and of the available alternatives – which doesn’t exclude the possibility of the agent being himself the judging subject attempting a reflexive evaluation of his own freedom. It is the judging subject who, in his evaluations of freedom, decides what must be the contextually reasonable range of alternatives.
     We can illustrate our remarks about ranges of alternatives with the following schema:
                                     restrictions                 choice   
     JUDGING              of freedom
                                                  contextually reasonable
                                                    range of alternatives
                                            conceivable range of alternatives… 
     The conceivable range of alternatives is simply without end, being of no relevance for our usual evaluations of freedom. This is why the fact that I can’t fly to Paris or to the Moon this weekend does not limit my freedom. What is of interest is the reasonable range of alternatives decided by the particular context of decision-making. Any choice is to be made within a reasonable range of alternatives, and the restrictions of freedom are always limitations and/or constraints within reasonable range of alternatives. These restrictions, one could say, always narrow the range of rational alternatives, diminishing the freedom in this way. Finally, the fact that a choice is made within a range of alternatives is no indication that this choice isn’t determined by necessary and sufficient causes, and an investigation of forms of this causal determination should belong to some theory of choice.
     Against these results, someone – maybe a libertarianist – could object: ‘The concept of freedom of will that you are analyzing in this detailed way is a trivial commonsensical concept. The concept we wish to investigate is a metaphysical one; we wish to investigate the boundless freedom endowed on the human subject, a freedom which is not contextually limited.’ To this objection, our answer is that a proper use of our concept of freedom is never independent of contextual limitations. Metaphysical or boundless freedom would require that the reasonable range of alternatives for our intentions, decisions and actions be identical with the infinite range of conceivable alternatives, which is untenable. The right metaphor for our situation is that of a bird that is restricted in its flight by the resistance of the air, though without this resistance it would not be able to fly at all. In the same way, we always need a limited range of alternatives to give a sense to the lack of restriction that is meant by freedom. Living in the land of milk and honey is the nearest thing to unrestricted freedom that we can imagine. But here, too, there must be some restriction. To believe that one could achieve boundless freedom, deciding, willing or acting beyond any contextually given range of rational alternatives, is like believing that a bird could fly without being supported by the air.
     Nevertheless, this appeal to the concept of boundless freedom isn’t totally devoid of reason. Although we can’t have such a concept of absolute freedom with an objective reference, we can construct a concept of freedom of will as a regulative idea in a Kantian sense, namely, as a notion without reference. Indeed, although devoid of any conceivable referential application, a regulative idea of boundless freedom would yet hold a regulative function, allowing us to compare decisions or actions as more or less free in accordance with their approximation to this ideal. Thus, if the possibility of having dinner in the Tour D’Argent this weekend belongs to my range of alternatives, my freedom of decision and action will be greater than the freedom I would have if my range of alternatives excluded this possibility. The concept of freedom that allows me to make this comparison is indeed an idea of boundless freedom that works only in a regulative way, without assuming the real existence of any object of application. I believe that some libertarianists confuse this regulative idea with our usual concept of freedom as effectively related to experience. This is why they insist that we must have a non-relative, ‘metaphysical’ concept of freedom of will, different from the ordinary compatibilist concept that we have analyzed so far.

4. Three Levels of RestrictionUntil now, we have defined the agent’s freedom as the absence of internally or externally originated limitations or constraints belonging to contextually reasonable ranges of alternatives. Now, a last and more elucidative distinction must be introduced between three levels of restriction, which might be called physical, volitional and rational. These three distinct levels of restriction can be deduced from the causal theory of action, as will be shown.  According to this theory, rational actions begin with a process of rational deliberation, the formation of a reason for action, which is a combination of desires and beliefs (for example: Tom desires to inherit his uncle’s fortune and he believes that the quickest way of bringing this about is by killing him). This reason causes the emergence of what might be called a prior volition or prior intention, this emergence being called a decision (Tom decides to kill his uncle). The prior volition causes an active volition or trying or intention in action, whose emergence is also a decision (Tom tries to kill his uncle). And this active volition directly causes bodily movements (Tom fires a gun at his uncle), which possibly cause other effects (the uncle dies, Tom inherits his fortune . . . ). – Of course, actions might also lack the higher levels of rational deliberation and/or prior volitions, for example, when someone scratches his back or when a violinist follows the conductor.
     Now, our proposal is that the basic structure of a reasoned action is linked in its junctures (and even in the formation of its elements) with possible restriction of freedom of similar nature, which are intervening causes, possibly coming from one or more parallel causal chains. This we try to summarize in the following schema:

    (expected causal chain)        RESTRICTING FREEDOM:                               
                                                    (by limiting or constraining,
                                                     externally or internally, the
                                                     expected causal chain)

                 a) REASONS…                           (-)       BY REASONS…
                     (desires + beliefs)                               (desires + beliefs)
                     Decision 1                                        
            b) PRIOR VOLITIONS                    (-)       BY VOLITIONS                  
                     (or prior intentions)
                          Decision 2                                       
                 c) ACTIVE VOLITIONS             (-)        BY VOLITIONS
 volitio-         (or intentions in action,  
 nal                 or trying)                                      
 action                  (-)                                           
                 d) BODILY MOVEMENTS…     (-)        PHYSICAL
                 e) SUBSEQUENT CHAIN    (-)
                     OF EFFECTS

     In this schema, the arrows indicate causation, which, when restrictive, are followed by a ‘(-)’. There are clearly distinguishable moments in which causation might occur in the generation of a rational action, which are: (1) the moment between the process of deliberation and the formation of prior volitions or intentions (or active volitions, when there is no prior volition); (2-a) the moment between prior volitions and active volitions; (2-b) the moment between active volitions and the resulting bodily movements and their effects. This fact theoretically suggests that these causal relations can also be causally restricted on at least the following three distinct levels: (1) at the level of reasons, by (limiting or constraining) reasons interfering between the associative building of reasons and the resulting emergence of (prior or active) volitions; (2-a) at the level of volitions, by (impeditive or compelling) prior volitions interfering between the holding of prior volitions and the emergence of active volitions; (2-b) at the level of active volitions, by (impeditive or coercive) active volitions interfering between active volitions and bodily movements. Furthermore, there might be interfering physical restrictions (by blockade or force) at the distinct level (3) of bodily movements and also at the level of the subsequent extra-corporeal chain of effects, which are responsible for constraints in the physical liberty . . .
     In what follows, we will make this hypothesis plausible by means of a kind of cartographic study of free-agency, exemplifying these three levels of restriction of freedom in their connections with their external and internal origins and limiting and constraining modalities (for a synoptic view, see the schema in section 8).

5. First Level of Restriction: Physical
Physical restrictions, occurring against bodily movements, are easily identifiable. They are physical or corporal restrictions within a likewise physical range of alternatives related to the bodily movements, and they can be obstacles and constraints, which can be externally or internally originated.
     Examples of external physical limitations are those of the man locked in a cell or chained to a wall. They are limited in their physical freedom. Examples of internal physical limitation of physical freedom are those of a paraplegic unable to walk and of a castaway on the high seas who is too weak to help a drowning comrade. On the other hand, it is also easy to find examples of external physical constraints on physical freedom, like those of a prisoner forced to drink water out of a latrine and of a football referee who, after a game, is forced by the enraged rooters to swallow his whistle. Finally, an example of internal physical constraint is that of the compulsive motions in the pathology called St. Vitus dance, movements that are made against the will of the patient. (A more curious example would be the syndrome of the alien-hand, in which the hand often makes constraining actions beyond the control of the patient, like the attempt to strangle him during sleep). In these cases, the constraint is physical because it isn’t felt as a psychological coercion that belongs in some way to the person. Finally, it is important to realize that these restrictions on physical freedom are, typically, restrictions on freedom of action, also called liberty, not on what we usually call freedom of will.

6. Second Level of Restriction: Volitional
Because physical restrictions have to do with freedom of action rather than with freedom of will, more important for us are motivational and rational restrictions on our decisions and judgments. I wish to call ‘volitional restrictions’ the intervening desires or feelings restricting the ranges of alternatives existing between our previous volitions and our active volitions or between the active volitions and the bodily movements. Here again we find limitations or constraints with internal or external origins. Examples of internal volitional limitations of freedom of will are those of a person suffering from anorexia, who has a revulsion against eating, or of the soldier who isn’t capable of shooting an enemy because of an overwhelming moral revulsion. On the other hand, an example of internal volitional constraint is that of the alcoholic who is forced by his addiction to steal a bottle of alcohol from the kitchen of the hospital where he is interned.
     Volitional restrictions can also be externally originated. An example of external volitional limitation is that of a small child who does not leave the playground behind his house because his overly anxious mother has prohibited him to do this. His fear to displease his mother may be stronger than any other cause, playing against the formation of his active volitions. On the other hand, when a child is forced by fear to apologize, it may be primarily the will of others against his own that compels this action: an externally originated volitional constraint.  Nevertheless, external origins don’t need to be volitional, since there is no need for origin and causal restriction to coincide. In fact, this is often the case when the most identifiable origin is the cause of the causal restriction, and not the restriction itself. Thus, when a person is forced to throw himself from a building on fire, the most evidently identifiable origin of this action is something external (the burning flames), which – through the pain of burning – produces an uncontrollable volitional reaction against the agent’s active will of not doing it. And when the mugger says, ‘The wallet or your life’, the usual option for both is denied, producing loss of freedom; here too, though the origin is external (the threat with a pistol), the constraint is volitional, since it acts through the fear of pain and physical injuries.
     The expression ‘freedom of will’, which has a broader application in philosophy, should, when used in a more literal sense, be restricted to the absence of volitional restrictions on a person’s wishes and decisions. Frankfurt’s view could find its place here, by describing free will in its narrow sense, as the domination of first-order desires falling under ‘second order volitions’ upon internally constraining first order desires.

7. Third Level of Restriction: Rational
The third level of restriction is based on the fact that the process of reasoning might also suffer the restrictive influence of intervening causal reasons. For our aim here, this is of greater interest, since the majority of our counterexamples against the compatibilist view are found on this level. In what follows, I will make clear that the same origins and modalities of restriction hold at the level of reasons. Concerning modalities, it is easy to show that reasons can restrict in two ways: they can act like obstacles, limiting deliberation and the decisions constituting the previous volitions that would lead to actions, and they can also positively constrain us to judge, decide and subsequently act in alternative ways. Concerning the more evidently identifiable origins, I will show that restrictive reasons can be either internally or externally originated: they are internally originated when growing from the agent’s faculties of reasoning alone, and they are externally originated when established by others and then accepted and used by the agent.
     An example of internally originated limiting reason is that of a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who (wishing to remain healthy) refuses to eat, since he found (wrong) reasons to believe that the food given to him is poisoned; these (wrong) reasons conflict with his reasons to eat, limiting his range of alternatives. An example of internally originated constraining reason is that of a schizophrenic who shoots someone because he has heard voices that convinced him that the person was an agent of the devil, the same being true of the racist criminal who decides to murder as many black people as possible. Although they are the sole authors of their preferences and able to give rational justifications for their decisions, they are less free, since we reject their constraining reasons in favor of opposed reasons that we find much stronger.
     In the examples above the restrictive reasons are internal, since they originated in the agent himself. However, restrictive reasons can have an external origin too, such as the reasoning of another agent, group or community of agents. An example of external limitation by a reason – since this reason is generated within some social context – is that of someone who avoids signing a contract on Friday the 13th because he believes that this would bring bad luck. Though he wouldn’t agree, most people would consider this a cultural superstition imposing some external limitation on his freedom of choice. A similar case is that of someone who avoids drinking wine at a party because a religious commandment forbids him to drink alcohol. Non-religious people, or people of other religions, could see here a limitation on freedom imposed by reasons originated within a community of believers. Suppose now that his religion commands him to fast in order to purify his soul; in this case, non-religious people would not say that he is limited, but rather that he is constrained in his freedom by external religious reasons. More serious cases of constraint by externally originated reasons are those of the terrorist who, moved by wrong reasons, feels himself justified in killing innocent people or, to give an extreme example, the case of the members of Jim Jones’ sect, who were commanded – for external constraining reasons imposed by their leader – to commit collective suicide.
     At this point, we are already able to analyze the counterexample of the fanatical suicide bomber initially given, explaining why we have conflicting intuitions about it. When we consider only his physical freedom (the absence of physical restrictions) or his freedom of will in the strict sense of the word (the absence of volitional restrictions), the suicide bomber is obviously free. But when we consider his freedom of reasoning, we see that in him the usual reasons for action have been replaced by limiting and constraining reasons, which compel him to take his radical decisions and actions. His judgment (liberum arbitrium) is impaired, and therefore his subsequent decisions and actions, which permits us to say that in a full sense of the word (that of liberum arbitrium voluntatis) he isn’t free.
     It is noteworthy to remember that here as well we have some linguistic confirmation: the Latin expression liberum arbitrium, which can be translated as freedom of decision or of judgment, points to this kind of restriction of freedom: the restriction imposed by reasons. In fact, this restriction applies not only to practical, but even to theoretical reason. It can be a restriction on the level of practical reasons, the restriction impairing our concluding decisions about ‘what is to be done,’ as in the already considered examples; but it can also be a restriction on the level of theoretical reasons, impairing our concluding judgments about ‘what is the case.’ A narrow-minded art-critic, for example, might be someone whose judgment of artworks is limited or constrained by prejudices originating wrong evaluative reasons, in a way that plays a restrictive role with regard to his intellectual freedom. Restrictions can narrow the range of practical and even theoretical ranges of reasonable alternatives.
     There are several important points to be considered if we want to understand restrictive reasons. First, unlike physical and volitional restrictions, the person who acts is usually not aware that he is being limited or constrained by reasons. In the case of internal restrictive reasons, often the agent alone believes himself to be acting freely. Those who judge that a person is being restricted by his reasons are usually other people, with their own supposedly stronger opposing reasons, which they believe make the reasons claimed by the person unreasonable. When the rational restriction has an external origin, it is often not only the agent who is unaware that his range of alternatives is being restricted, but also all those persons who accept the reasons for his action or decision (for example, the members of his social group, his religion, his ideological fraction, his cultural community, etc.). This being so, restrictions on a person’s freedom of rational decision or judgment are usually identified from outside by persons who don’t share the same reasons, since the fellow fanatic, like the fellow sect member, etc. would not admit that his freedom is being impaired. This is why in such cases is essential to identify the judging subject, namely, the person who is evaluating the degree of freedom of a given agent.
     One might think that these considerations would lead us to a relativistic view of freedom on the level of reasoning. The argument would then be: The independent evaluator considers the decisions of the members of a certain group as less free because in the context he accepts a broader range of alternatives in the exercise of freedom of will as rational. But the members of the group have a similar right to say that such decisions are as free as they should be, since they have their own reasons to accept a smaller range of alternatives as more reasonable.
     Nonetheless, I don’t believe that this kind of consideration would lead us to relativism. Though there may be strong emotional resistance, it is conceivable that in a critical dialogical context, reasons can be put one against the other and compared in a relatively neutral way. Jürgen Habermas calls such a dialogical context an ideal speech-situation (ideale Sprachsituation). In this context reasons could be juxtaposed and comparatively evaluated by supposedly non-compromised, truth-committed, similarly skilled and well-informed judges, acting without constraints going beyond the soft constraints of the best reasons.  In this case, the reasons given by the members of the radical sect can be rejected as, say, incompatible with our scientific image of the world, and the reasons given by the politically fanatical terrorist might be overridden by considerations of basic human values, or we hope so.
     Finally, Watson’s view seems to find its place on this third level, by focusing on cases concerning the governance of less rational volitions by volitions resulting from more reasonable reasons.

8. Pulling the Threads Together
Now we can make some general comments. A point to be remembered is that the nature of restrictions must match the nature of what is being restricted: a restriction on action will affect a physical range of alternatives; a volitional restriction will affect a range of motives for action; a rational restriction will affect a range of reasons for decisions or judgments. A further point is that the levels of restrictions are interdependent: restrictions on the volitional level, coming earlier in the causal chain, compromise the freedom of action too, while restrictions on the level of reasoning compromise both of them, and restrictions on the level of action compromise none of them causally, though they are able to restrict the range of choices to be considered rational.
     We can summarize what we have said about modalities, origins and levels of restriction of freedom in a more complete schema:

             Modalities of
                Restriction:           Limitation                     Constraint
                      Origins:   external     internal       external      internal
Levels of        
RATIONAL                     (restriction on           (restriction on freedom
                                          freedom of                of judgment)
                                          decision or of
VOLITIONAL                 will in its broad         (restriction on freedom
                                          sense)                        of will properly)
PHYSICAL                      (restriction on freedom of action or liberty)
     Possessing these distinctions, we can state a sufficiently elaborated multi-level compatibilist definition of the freedom exercised by an agent a (including his free will), and freedom of the agent a himself, both relative to a judging subject s (where possibly s = a) respectively as follows:

(a) Definition of agential freedom: An action or decision or judgment of an agent a is free from theperspective of a judging subject s iff a is neither externally nor internally limited or constrained on the corporal, volitional and rational levels, within a contextually determined range of alternatives.

(b) Definition of a free agent: An agent a is free from the perspective of a judging subject s iff a is neither externally nor internally limited nor constrained in his actions, decisions and judgments respectively on the corporal, volitional and rational levels, within contextually determined ranges of alternatives.

Our suggestion is that definitions like these would be able to exhaust what we essentially mean by free will and free agency.
     A possible objection would emerge from the consideration that we have two kinds of freedom: positive and negative. As defined by Isaiah Berlin, they are respectively ‘the freedom which consists in being one’s own master and the freedom which consists in not being prevented from choosing as I do by other men’.  So, one could suggest that our definition allows us to explain negative freedom, not the positive one. However, our categories also invite us to see Berlin’s distinction as resulting from the failure to understand that autonomy amounts here to the same as lack of constraint. The distinction seems to make sense because with the words ‘negative freedom’ – not being prevented from choosing – we are in fact referring to a lack of  restriction by limitation, while with ‘positive freedom’ – being one’s own master – we might be in fact referring to the lack of restriction by constraints or coercion. This shows that both kinds of freedom are, at bottom, negative.

9. Application of the Definition to Some Difficult Cases
The definitions given above allow us to neutralize many, if not all supposed counter-examples to compatibilist accounts of freedom of will, including those of covert non-constraining manipulation.  I will consider some of them.
     1. Consider the case of a woman who, induced by the social milieu in which she lives, spends a great share of her money on superfluous purchases. However, some time later she comes to the conclusion that social pressures have impaired her freedom, a judgment that many of us would consider justified. This subtle case of non-constraining coercion doesn’t satisfy definitions of free will like those of Hook, Frankfurt and Watson: the woman spends her money voluntarily, her primary wishes are in accordance with her higher-order volitions, and her motivational system is in consonance with her valuation system at the time of her decisions and actions. Nevertheless, the case doesn’t satisfy our multi-level definition of free will. Although from her own point of view at the time of her actions she wasn’t restricted, when she later – as a judging subject of herself – sees her past actions as limited in their freedom, she sees herself as an agent who was restricted in her reasons and volitions, since by being influenced by bogus reasons and inauthentic desires, she was led to overlook the wider range of reasonable alternatives available to her.
     2. Imagine now that a person opens a window as a result of post-hypnotic suggestion.  When we ask him why he did this, he gives a bogus explanation, perhaps that he needs some fresh air. Our intuition says that in a sense he is free, but that in some important sense his behaviour isn’t the result of a free decision of the will. Here also our more elaborated form of commonsensical definition of free will can help to explain the conflicting intuitions. When we consider only his action, his decision and the reason he gives, we think that he is free, since we see no restriction. But when we consider the whole context of reasons causing his decision and action, his normal behaviour, derived from his true wishes and beliefs, has been altered by constraining external reasons that remain unconscious. Consequently, a full consideration of reasons shows that the person is only partially free.
     3. Another case is that of psychoanalytical treatment.  Successful psychoanalytical therapy, by making the patient aware of his unconscious desires and thoughts, is said to increase his freedom. Our definition can explain why. The repression of thoughts has restrictive effects, limiting the patient’s alternatives of thought and behaviour and, more obviously, constraining him to neurotic thoughts and behaviour as alternative ways of liberating affective intensities associated with repressed thoughts. By making repressed unconscious thoughts conscious, psychoanalysis should help the patient to build more complex and less restrictive ranges of decisional and behavioral alternatives, enabling him to deliberate and choose in ways comparable to those available to a healthy person under similar circumstances.
     4. One can also consider Frankfurt’s cases, such as that of the person A, who quits smoking, in contrast to the person B, who continues to smoke against his will. Why do we say that A has more freedom? Here again, our definition of free will allows us to give an uncontestable answer. We see that B in some measure remains motivationally constrained by his desire to smoke, like A; but A’s decision of not smoking, resulting from better reasons (whether monitored by second order attitudes or not), is stronger than his desire to smoke, producing an unconstrained free action.
     5. Suppose now that without his knowledge, a person has implanted in his brain a device by means of which a nefarious neurosurgeon is able to control his wishes and decisions, so that this person does things that he would not do under normal circumstances.  This thought-experiment has conceptual limits in the criteria of personal identity, since when the changes are too great, either the subject is transformed into a marionette and ceases to be a person, or the subject is transformed into a completely different person. Thought of in such ways, this counterexample misses its target, for if there is no person, we can’t apply the concept of freedom, since we can apply this concept properly only to agents, and if a person becomes another person, we can’t say that the person has lost his freedom, since for this the person must remain the same. Nonetheless, one can suppose that only some of the agent’s desires, thoughts, decisions and actions are influenced by the nefarious neurosurgeon, so that the person remains essentially the same, except for some strange episodic decisions and actions. Intuitively we see that some freedom is lost. But our definition shows why: it is because the range of rational alternatives available to the agent is sometimes impaired or constrained by occasional external interference at some level (see case 2). To see the limits of this thought-experiment, suppose now that the neurosurgeon were able to increase the person’s range of alternatives, perhaps by activating new neuronal pathways, which would be able to widen his capacity of deliberation and decision. In this case, being the person able to discriminate more alternatives, he gains an increased range of alternatives, and we would say that the neurosurgeon, like the Oriental sage, has increased the agent’s freedom (see case 3).
     I don’t wish to bore you by discussing all conceivable counterexamples. My point is that the notion of restriction permeates all our uses of the concept of freedom, and my conclusion is that by investigating in some detail the higher modalities of agential restriction we are able to refine the rough commonsensical view of free will in a way that makes unnecessary an appeal to a libertarianist alternative. Of course, libertarianists would still disagree. Maybe they would say with Robert Kane that what is at stake is not ordinary freedom as an absence of restriction, but freedom as ‘the power of agents to be the ultimate creators (or originators) and sustainers of their own ends and purposes’.  To this we would reply with the suggestion that our capacity of repeatedly and systematically realizing actions, decisions and judgments within contextually reasonable ranges of alternatives without physical, volitional or rational, internal or external limitations or constraints, amounts to the same as our power to be the ultimate creators and sustainers of our own ends and purposes in any intelligible sense of this statement.

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