Spontaneous Freedom, Draft of August 27, 2017


Please do not cite without permission; comments welcome!

ABSTRACT: Spontaneous freedom, the sort of freedom that people experience when they feel themselves to be “free spirits,” is central to ordinary talk about “freedom.” However, spontaneity is absent from most contemporary moral philosophers’ accounts of freedom, which are concerned primarily to identify the sort of freedom that is a prerequisite for moral responsibility. Spontaneous freedom is not just overlooked but precluded by theories that view freedom as consisting in deliberate, reflective, rational choice. I undertake a phenomenological study of spontaneous freedom. Drawing from a range of literary cases, I argue that spontaneous freedom is the experience of acting in a manner that is not fully determined by other agents or one’s own preexisting plans but at the same time in a manner that arises out of oneself. is sort of freedom, while intuitively a ractive and valuable, conflicts with commonly held theories of freedom of the sort required for moral responsibility.