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", was published in 2019 (look inside). See here for further information about the book. For an earlier background paper, click here.


Media and social media coverage

For interviews about my book, see here (Nautilus), here (Scientific American Blog), here (Philosophy Bites), here (Science Salon), here (New Books Network), and here (Om filosofers liv och tankar).

For a series of blog posts, see here (Brains Blog).

For a short informal article, see here (Boston Review).

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

Highlighted papers

Free will: real or illusion? (A debate with G. D. Caruso and C. J. Clark) The Philosopher 108(1), 2020

What's wrong with the consequence argument: In defence of compatibilist libertarianism, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 119(3): 253-274, 2019

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

Public lectures 

Lecture podcast, "Free will in a deterministic world?", LSE, 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.

Lecture video, "Free will in a physical world", University of Turin, November 2018 This is a recording of the 2018 Logic, Language, and Cognition Lecture at the University of Turin.

Last modified April 2020

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