Thomas Pink: Free Will
On Tuesday last week, I visited Kyobo Bookstore at Ewha University to pick up a copy of the textbook for my Research Writing class and happened to notice a book section devoted to Oxford's Very Short Introduction series, so I browsed and selected three booklets -- one on the crusades, one on terrorism, and one on free will.
The one on freedom of the will is by Dr. Thomas Pink, who seems to be an expert. His academic site at King's College London states that "[t]he two past moral philosophers from whom Pink has learnt most are probably David Hume and Francisco Suarez" -- two very different thinkers, I might note. If I recall, Hume denies free will, whereas the earlier thinker, Suárez, follows Luis de Molina in defending it. However, I'm no expert on either Hume, Suarez, or Molina.
But Dr. Pink, who defends free will, occasionally expresses himself in ambiguous ways:
Our freedom, we must remember, is a freedom of action -- a freedom to do things or to refrain from doing them. (Pink, Free Will: A Very Short Introduction, 5)I wouldn't put the point quite like that, for action can be quite limited by circumstances beyond our control. Earlier on the same page, Pink states the point more to my liking:
Freedom of action may even depend on freedom specifically of decision-making -- on a freedom of will. (Pink, Free Will: A Very Short Introduction, 5)To my way of thinking, we may freely decide on a course of action that is then forcibly prevented in some manner. Our inability to follow through would not mean that our will was unfree but merely that our actions were constrained.
Possibly, Dr. Pink is simply using the term "action" in a loose way that mirrors our everyday use, in which something that we decide and something that we do are both 'actions', for we speak both of acts of the will and acts that we carry out, but there is surely a distinction between a mental act and a physical act, as Dr. Pink himself implies in his reference to "freedom . . . of decision-making" and "[f]reedom of action," and I suspect that he will have some things to say about this difference.
Perhaps, then, I'll be reporting on my reading of this very short text, which goes only up to 132 pages . . . though I may also be reporting from Holbrook Jackson or Herman Melville in ways that might restrict my freedom.