Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Terminology Tuesday: Compatibilism

Compatibilism: In philosophy of action, the view that causal determinism is logically compatible with free will. The compatibilist who accepts both determinism and free will is called a soft determinist. Compatibilism usually defines free will as an action that is caused by the individual’s own desires or wishes, rather than being coerced by some external power. The alternative possibilities that seem necessary for genuine free will are interpreted by compatibilists as hypothetical in character. For example, the individual who freely gave money to a charity could have refrained from giving money if the individual had wished to do so or if the situation had been different. Critics of compatibilism argue that genuine freedom requires an individual to have more than one possibility that is actually possible at the time of choosing, not merely possibilities that would be open if certain facts that do not obtain were to obtain.1

1. C.Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 25.


  1. bossmanham February 28, 2012

    Of course this only moves the issue back one step, because the libertarian can freely admit that they think that people's wishes and desires move them to act in certain ways, yet they develop their own wishes and desires. But what is it that determines one's wishes and desires? On determinism, it is outside of their control, and therefore compatibilism fails as an alternative to determinism and incompatibilism is shown to be true.

  2. _Nate February 28, 2012

    I would like to learn more about compatibilism, can anyone recommend a book?

  3. speierworks February 29, 2012

    I would recommend J.P. Moreland and Scott Rae's "Body and Soul." They talk about Compatibilism as well as Libertarian free will a good deal.

  4. PhaseVelocity February 29, 2012

    You should read Freedom Evolves from Daniel Dennett if you want a good book on compatibilism.

  5. Ex N1hilo February 29, 2012

    "The Bondage of the Will" by Martin Luther
    "The Freedom of the Will" by Jonathan Edwards

  6. _Nate March 1, 2012

    Thanks for the recommendations all, I think that covers a sufficiently wide spectrum of opinions 😉