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A Measure of Freedom$
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Ian Carter

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198294535

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198294530.001.0001

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Individual Freedom: Actions

Individual Freedom: Actions

(p.169) 7 Individual Freedom: Actions
A Measure of Freedom

Ian Carter (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Defending a non-value-based and therefore purely empirical conception of overall freedom must involve showing how available actions can, at least in theory, be individuated and counted. The problems encountered here include the fact that actions can have an indefinite number of descriptions, that they can be subjected to indefinite spatio-temporal division, and that they give rise to indefinitely long causal chains of events. Solutions to these problems can be found through an application of Donald Davidson’s notion of actions as particulars, and by thinking of act-tokens as located in particular units within a space-time grid. Once possible actions have been adequately individuated, a formula for the measurement of freedom can be constructed, adapting a formula originally proposed by Hillel Steiner and taking into account the compossibility of particular actions and the probability of their being unconstrained. Careful attention to the structure of sets of available actions helps to mitigate some of the supposed counterintuitive implications of this analysis. Furthermore, subscribing to this empirical approach to the measurement of overall freedom does not necessarily imply subscribing to an empiricist or physicalist conception of action.

Keywords:   actions, act-tokens, causal chains, compossibility, Donald Davidson, events, physicalist, probability, spatio-temporal division, Hillel Steiner

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