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Durham University

Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Stephen Mumford

Mumford, Stephen & Anjum, Rani Lill (2015). Powers, Non-consent and Freedom. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91(1): 136-152.

Author(s) from Durham


There are a number of dispositionalist solutions to the free will problem based on freedom consisting in the agent's exercise of a power. But if a subject a is free when they exercise their power P, there is an objection to be overcome from the possibility of power implantation. A brainwasher, rather than directly manipulating a subject's movements, can instead implant in them a desire, to be understood as a disposition to act, and allow the subject to exercise such a power. It seems that, according to the dispositionalist theory of freedom, such an agent would still count as acting freely. There is a strong non-consent intuition that a is not free in such a case because they did not consent to having the power P—the desire in question. Filling out this intuition is not straightforward. But it can be done in terms of the exercise of P being regulated by higher-order powers of self-reflection. Such regulation is what allows an agent to either take ownership of a power or to reject it.