What are the premises he’s stating:

…determinism cannot be reconciled with [the fact that] it is sometimes up to me what I am going to do. For if it is ever really up to me whether to do this thing or that, then…each alternative course of action must be such that I can do it….in the sense that it is then and there within my power to do it. But this is never so, if determinism is true, for on the very formulation of that theory whatever happens at any time is the only thing that can then happen, given all that precedes it. It is simply a logical consequence of this that whatever I do at any time is the only thing I can then do, given the conditions that precede my doing it.

  • This is the kind of confused nonsense philosophers tend to fall for because they don't think their vocabulary through enough. The extent to which you are able to correlate the world around you with your internal desires is the extent to which the world must be deterministic. Your agency necessitates causal observation and causal action; without them nothing would be up to you.
    – Veedrac
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 20:25
  • Where did you get this from? Is it a quote? I have the feeling it is against a certain understanding of compatibilism, if anything. A bit more context would be helpful.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 21:37

2 Answers 2


He's stating that if we are capable of making decisions, determinism cannot be true, and that if determinism is true we are incapable of making decisions.

This is a clear link between determinism and free will - the two suppositions cannot exist together without contradicting each other.


One premise is a definition of determinism that would say this:

Determinism means that it is never really up to me whether to do this thing or that.

Another premise, supposedly obtained from empirical evidence, would be:

There exists situations where it really is up to me whether to do this thing or that.

This argument has a P & ~P form and so it is a contraction.

So, “if it is ever really up to me whether to do this thing or that” then that contradicts the previous definition of determinism because there exists a situation when it is up to me to do this thing or that.

Such a situation has nothing to do with any illusions I might be having of free will or illusions I might be having of determinism. So, it would include any form of compatibilism that used that definition of determinism.

Here is more about Richard Taylor in the Information Philosopher.

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