Christian List

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Free will, determinism, and chance | go back to projects

I defend a view on free will that I call "compatibilist libertarianism" (or alternatively "free-will emergentism"). According to this view, free will requires three things:

(i) intentional agency,

(ii) the possibility of doing otherwise, and

(iii) an agent's causal control over his or her actions,

and, crucially, free will, understood in this way, is a real (albeit higher-level) phenomenon.

The view is libertarian insofar as it entails that free will requires indeterminism at the agential level; and it is compatibilist insofar as it asserts that agential-level indeterminism is compatible with physical-level determinism.

My book, titled "Why free will is real", will be published in 2019. See here for further information about the book. For an earlier background paper, click here.


Media coverage

For some coverage of my work on free will in the media or social media, see Scientific American, George Musser's blog, Philosophical Disquisitions (Part 1), (Part 2), and also (Part 1), (Part 2).

Highlighted papers

What's wrong with the consequence argument: In defence of compatibilist libertarianism

Emergent Chance (with M. Pivato), The Philosophical Review 124(1): 119-152, 2015

My brain made me do it: The exclusion argument against free will, and what’s wrong with it (with P. Menzies), in H. Beebee, C. Hitchcock, and H. Price (eds.), Making a Difference, Oxford (Oxford University), 2017

Two Intuitions about Free Will: Alternative Possibilities and Intentional Endorsement (with W. Rabinowicz), Philosophical Perspectives 28: 155-172, 2014

Free Will, Determinism, and the Possibility of Doing Otherwise, Nous 48(1): 156-178, 2014

Free will in a deterministic world (public lecture at the LSE)

Lecture podcast, December 2012


Science, especially the idea that everything in the universe is physically determined, is often thought to challenge the notion that we, humans, have free will and are capable of choosing our own actions. The aim of this lecture is to argue that there is room for free will in a world governed by the laws of physics.


Last modified January 2019

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