Frankford and Campbell’s View of Free Will


Free will is the ability of one to choose a course of action with his/her own control. It is the ability of people to control their action with out any external influence from another party. Those who believe in free will take various positions about this very broad subject. These positions include compatibilism (determinism) a position which holds that all events including all actions performed by humans are predictable. The next position is incompatibilism which is of two kinds; libertarianism and skepticism. Libertarianism is also of two type’s namely probabilistic causation and agent causation. C. A. Campbell accepts the agent causation position while Harry Frankfurt is a compatibilist.

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Frankfurt as a compatibilist believes that a satisfactory account of what free will should be able to state why animals don’t have the free and why freedom of will is desirable. Frankfurt draws the difference between animals and humans by use of the distinction between first order and second order. First order desire is seen one wants to do an action and the desire determines the person’s action. Both animals and humans have first order and second order desire. Second order desire. Second order desire is typified by the statement, ‘someone wants to act’, where the act is the desire. Frankfurt identifies two types of second order desires. Only humans have second order desires.

According to him freedom of will is the ability of persons to have all that they desire or want and if a person owns both the freedom of action and freedom of will then he has all the possible freedom to desire. According to determinism our actions are not up to us. We do actions as a consequence of the laws of nature and therefore we are not able to control our actions. however Frankfurt disputes this s and says that so long as a persons will conforms top his or her SOVs then the person can be said to in control that ;particular act issued from his or her will.

Campbell believes that the kind of freedom accorded by free will is the freedom that is necessary. It is the kind of freedom that allows others or gives others the ability to blame or praise the agents morally. The agent generates the idea and goes ahead to do or affect it. Heredity and the environment in which a person is brought up or stays has a great bearing on who a person becomes or who a person is, a fact that Campbell doesn’t dispute but acknowledges. He further believes that these shouldn’t affect free will. To exercise freedom in will people should be able to resist the influence of heredity and environment while acting. To Campbell what constitutes a persons character is independent of ones control and therefore a persons attributes can’t determine any actions that emanate from free will. As such it is clearly notable that Campbell rejects the idea of compatibilism by basing his arguments on consequence thus ‘Consequence Argument’. This means that the person had another course of action he or she would have taken out of free will but decided top do what he or she did out of the same free will i.e. the person would have acted otherwise.

To be able to act otherwise means that the person would have the ability to act differently depending o the position or condition of the person and the world at that particular moment. To Campbell this is yet another valid reasopnm to reject compatibilism. Campbell further says that free will exists only when one has a chance to choose to do what he or she believes is the best thing morally or what he or she feels the great desire to do. He supports the belief in free will by using our experience to show that we sometimes exercise it.

Objections and challenges have been raised on these positions. The supporters of the positions however have argued of the objections in support of these positions. For instance critics of the determinism position feel that determinism is threat to freedom. With determinism we are not responsible for our actions. Every action we do is just a consequence of the law of nature as events have shaped us over time. Therefore if the actions have resulted from the consequences of the law of nurture as shaped by the remote past the we are no tin control of our actions and thus the actions we do are not out of our will. Determinism thus does not show how ones action can be as a result of freedom of will. Frankfurt however down plays this challenge by saying that it is not correct to tom state or conclude that one hasn’t any control over an action it wisent a product of natural laws built rather one is in control over an act resulting from free will if the will conforms top the his or her SOV’s.

There also several arguments raised against the agent causation for instance the prediction objection in which those objecting state that if agent causation was true it wouldn’t be easy to predict the people’s behavior with high degree of reliability.

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But since wean predict people behavior with high degree of certainty agent causation is not, true. However Campbell down play this by reiterating that agent causation is not at odds with the view that people’s behavior is often a product of ones characteristic desires and believes. Campbell response is adequate and convincing. A person characteristic and believes will certainly determine what one will do in a particular circumstance which therefore means that we can use a persons characteristics and believes to determine predict their behavior.

By having a keen look at the two positions, I find I find causative agent view to be more realistic and applicable. Agents can be in control of their action. Agent can have free will and do according to their will without external influence. Determinism leaves us with no ability of our own to exercise choice since everything seems to be predetermined for us. We thus cant exercise a choice of our own since our action s are already stipulated for us and we mealy do what we do as a formality or rather because that is what, nature dictates that we should. in this case we do not have a free will. Therefore free will remains a thought. Agent causation shows clearly that we can be able to predict someone actions because by looking at what someone is likely to behave. Peoples’ actions are a product of their characteristics and beliefs rather than their environment and heredity.


Freedom of action and freedom of will are much desired by humans. There are various things that may undermine free will; such may include luck of responsiveness, coercion and also manipulation. Coercion and manipulation undermine free will by making agent not responsive. Free will is concerned with various issues of metaphysics, religion, action theory, and human philosophy and ethics. The numerous view on this topic indicate the great interest that people have about free will irrespective of whether it exists or not.

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