The fall from Eden: why libertarianism isn't justified by experience

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Libertarians claim that our experience of free choice is indeterministic. They think that, when we choose, our choice feels open in a way that would require indeterminism for the experience to be accurate. This claim then functions as a step in an argument in favour of libertarianism, the view that freedom requires indeterminism and we are free. Since, all else being equal, we should take experience at face value, libertarians argue, we should endorse libertarianism. Compatibilists, who think that freedom is consistent with determinism, respond to this argument in a number of ways, none of which is adequate. This paper defends a stronger compatibilist response. Compatibilists should concede, at least for argument's sake, that our experience of freedom is in a sense libertarian. Yet they should also insist that our experience is in another sense compatibilist. Thus, even if libertarian descriptions of experience are phenomenologically apt, there is still a sense in which the experience might be veridical, assuming determinism. This response undermines a central motivation for libertarianism, since it removes any presumption in favour of libertarianism based on experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319–334
Number of pages16
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • free will
  • libertarianism
  • agentive experience
  • phenomenal content
  • natural kinds
  • compatibilism


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