Acta Cogitata: An Undergraduate Journal in Philosophy


The so-called bottom-up threat to free will assumes a bottom-up metaphysics: the view that atoms (or whatever the most basic and fundamental element of material substances is) at the microphysical level dictate the behavior and ontology of material substances at higher macrophysical levels of composition. More specifically, bottom-up metaphysics maintain that all macrophysical states of affairs supervene on their constituent microphysical properties, such that any macrophysical change requires a change at the microphysical level. This metaphysical picture implies that human persons—and consequently, human actions—supervene on what their constituent atoms do or are like. In Objects and Persons, Trenton Merricks argues that a human person having the capacity for downward (mental-physical) causation is both necessary and sufficient for that person to have a choice about what her atoms do or are like, and moreover, that downward causation blocks the bottom-up threat to free will. In “Can Downward Causation Save Free Will?” Justin Capes argues that Merricks’s response to the bottom-up threat is unsuccessful. In this paper, I will (i) explain the bottom-up threat and Merricks’s response to it, (ii) explain Capes’s criticisms of Merricks’s response, (iii) argue that Capes’s criticisms are unsuccessful in rebutting Merricks’s response, and (iv) suggest an alternative way to object to Merricks’s response.

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