Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Paul Hurley

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© 2015 Maggie E Miller


This thesis aims to provide a coherent account of free will and practical grounds to prefer it. Its goal is to develop a pragmatic understanding of agency by which to hold individuals morally accountable. The paper begins with a critique of P.F. Strawson, whose seminal paper “Freedom and Resentment” bypasses the question of free will altogether in its claims about morality. Subsequently, it proceeds to a defense of incompatibilism that traces an argument through the existing literature. From this position, it claims that neither Strawson nor traditional compatibilists can provide an account of morality that is reliable or well enough defined to play the role required of it.

Instead of being left with hard determinism, however, Kant opens the door to a metaphysics that exists outside of our epistemological limits. Rather then derive an account based on this metaphysics, the necessary characteristics of a free will are derived from an account of morality and proven to be possible using Kantian epistemology. The paper concludes by positing three distinct reasons to prefer a free will framework to a deterministic framework, provided our inability to answer the question empirically. These draw on Pascal’s Wager, William James’ “The Will to Believe,” and inference to the best explanation.

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