Causes, contingency and freedom: a reply to Anscombe, Mumford and Anjum

Forthcoming in Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia, Vol. 77, N°4, Causalidade: Abordagens Contemporâneas / Causality: Contemporary Approaches


This paper takes Anscombe, Mumford and Anjum as key interlocutors for an exploration of the causality involved in our understanding of free will. Anscombe tried to disentangle causality from necessary determination in order to make room for free will, and a first section points to the historical and theological background of this entanglement. However, what is also crucially at stake is the relation between time and causality whereby this paper advocates a shift from a diachronic to a synchronic conception. This synchronic conception of the contingency of free will is then argued to be superior to Mumford and Anjum’s dispositional modality in providing the libertarian desiderata of alternative possibilities and ultimate authorship, and gives us a picture of a permanent causal tug-of-war in the present. The final section then points out that this puts persons and their contingent decisions partly in the role of being an explanans for, rather than an explanandum of, any current contingent state of affairs.

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