The experience of free agency

Oisín Deery*, Eddy Nahmias

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


If normal free-agency experiences require libertarian conditions on free agency to be satisfied in order for these experiences to be accurate, and if compatibilists cannot explain away such experiences, then it might be that we are under systematic illusion at almost every moment of our waking lives. The limited empirical evidence on this question cuts both ways. In some experiments, participants report libertarian experiences (Deery, Bedke, and Nichols 2013), while in others they report compatibilist experiences (Nahmias et al. 2004). To the extent that people report libertarian experiences for at least some choices, compatibilists incur an explanatory burden: they must explain libertarian reports about free-agency experiences. They must explain away the appearance of libertarian content in these experiences rather than simply deny that there even is such an appearance. We survey two compatibilist attempts to shoulder this burden, due to Oisin Deery (2015a, 2015b, 2021a) and Terence Horgan (2015, 2022).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA companion to free will
EditorsJoseph Campbell, Kristin M. Mickelson, V. Alan White
Place of PublicationHoboken, USA
PublisherWiley-Blackwell, Wiley
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781119210177, 9781119210153, 9781119210160
ISBN (Print)9781119210139
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameBlackwell Companions to Philosophy
PublisherWiley Blackwell


  • Agentive experience
  • Compatibilism
  • Free will
  • Libertarianism
  • Phenomenology


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