W. F. R. Hardie
William Francis Ross (Frank) Hardie was a Professor of Classics and Philosophy at Oxford University and President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, from 1950 to 1969. He was the son of Wiliam Ross Hardie, the Scottish classical scholar, a Professor of Humanity at Edinburgh University. Frank Hardie was the mentor and philosophy don for some of the most important leaders of the new ordinary language school of philosophy that formed at Oxford in the early 1950's, including H. Paul Grice. [Other may include Peter Strawson, Isaiah Berlin, Antony Flew - JL Speranza will know] Hardie's major work was his book Aristotle's Ethical Theory, and his writing on free will shows a strong Aristotelian influence. He clearly understands the need for alternative possibilities to choose from. His 1957 article "My Own Free Will" for Philosophy begins with a paradigm-case argument for the existence of free will, namely that there is a perfectly good use of the expression "of my own free will," so it is absurd to deny free will.
The words "free will" have uses in ordinary talk as in "free will offering" and, most commonly, in the expression "of my (your, etc.) own free will." We all know what states of affairs make this expression applicable, and its standard use is defined by this application. Yet philosophers discuss, or used to discuss, whether the will is free, libertarians saying that it is and determinists denying this. Are they, or were they, asking whether anyone ever acts of his own free will? If so, the question asked was absurd. For from the fact that "of his own free will" has a standard use, and therefore an application, it follows that it is trivial to assert, and absurd to deny, that men will freely, that the will is free.Only an analytic language philosopher could be so certain that language usage can settle such an ancient problem. Kant said language philosophers "think they have solved, with a petty word-jugglery, that difficult problem, at the solution of which centuries have laboured in vain, and which can therefore scarcely be found so completely on the surface." But Hardie goes on to make some sensible remarks about the need for alternative possibilities to provide a "free choice":
It is an old contention that to assert that all events have causes is not to deny that men are free agents; we think that there is an inconsistency only because we confuse causal necessity with external constraint, as though a man were acting under compulsion when he does something because he wishes to do it. Again confusion about the meaning of "possible" leads to the idea that universal causation would exclude the reality of choice. If what happens is causally determined, what does not happen could not possibly happen. But if a man has a free choice between alternatives, the alternative he rejects must have been possible. This temptation to think that freedom is inconsistent with universal determination is removed (it is said) when we see that to say that something is possible is to say that it is not excluded by some restricted set of factors known to the speaker. That we choose between possibilities open to us is not inconsistent with the principle that all events, including acts of choosing, have causes, just as the fact that it may or may not rain this afternoon does not imply uncaused showers. It is claimed that, if we follow carefully these and connected lines of thought, we can cure ourselves of any inclination towards an out-of-date indeterminism, and a no less out-of-date determinism, since the evanescence of indeterminism deprives determinism of its interest and its point.Is Hardie thinking of a combination of determinism (limited) and some indeterminism to provide the alternative possibilities? Maybe not. But his words are favorable to indeterminism, and this is unusual for philosophers in the late twentieth century.
My main object in this paper is to criticize some arguments which have been urged against indeterminism by contemporary philosophers. But I wish to begin by insisting on the plausibility of the view I reject, the view that the problem has been misconceived. I think that I can do this best by dwelling first on the standard use of the expression "of my (your, etc.) own free will."