C. A. Campbell
C. A. (Charles Arthur) Campbell's inaugural address at Glasgow University in 1938, In Defence of Free Will, attempted to restore sensible discussion to a problem he regarded as unparalleled in the history of metaphysics.
Since Bertrand Russell, Moritz Schlick, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosophy had turned to logical positivism (or logical empiricism) and linguistic analysis. Free will had been declared a pseudo-problem (by Schlick) that could not be solved, only dis-solved, by careful attention to the use of language. Logical positivists delighted in framing such problems in terms that revealed impossibilities, contradictions, paradoxes, or category mistakes. Free will was declared "unintelligible," a term previously reserved for the concept of absolute chance. Campbell argued that a free choice must involve an "effort" of the will. He said only choices made from "duty" were really uncaused. Choices based on desires were caused by those desires. This is the Kantian view and what we call the ethical fallacy. Kant said that we are free only when our actions are good. When our actions are bad, he said, we are slaves to our passions. Campbell was negative about involving quantum indeterminacy in free will:
"I am not myself...disposed to rest any part of the case against universal determinism upon these recent dramatic developments of physical science."A dozen years later, a specific aspect of the free will problem that continues to concern even libertarians today was addressed by Campbell in his essay Is Free Will A Pseudo-Problem?. Campbell showed that Schlick's analysis of the problem was severely limited - to questions of external compulsion and the usefulness of punishment for "educative reasons." But Campbell took up a more difficult question - "Could one have done otherwise?" or the modern, "Could one do otherwise in exactly the same circumstances?"
In his Ethics, G. E. Moore in 1912 had argued it could only mean "could have done otherwise, if one had chosen to do otherwise." But since one had not so chosen, and since one's choices are entirely determined by the causal chain, one could not have so chosen.
In 1948 P. H. Nowell-Smith had raised this question again, asking what libertarians thought it could mean. The second half of Campbell's 1951 article attacked Moore's hypothetical construction of meaning for "could have done otherwise only if one had chosen otherwise."
See our historical review of "could have done otherwise" from the time of Bramhall and Hobbes to the present.
Articles by C. A. CampbellIn Defence of Free Will Is Free Will A Pseudo-Problem?
For ScholarsAdd Campbell's Reply to J.J.C.Smart article.