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  • Freedom and Self-Creation: Anselmian Libertarianism by Katherin A. Rogers
  • Eileen Sweeney
Freedom and Self-Creation: Anselmian Libertarianism. By Katherin A. Rogers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. 248. $74.00 (cloth). ISBN: 978-0-19-874397-2.

Katherin Rogers is no stranger to the topic of Anselm and his account of free choice. Her previous book Anselm on Freedom (Oxford University Press, 2008) was dedicated to an exposition of Anselm’s account of the will. While the earlier book did bring Anselm’s view into dialogue with some contemporary arguments and positions, its main focus was Anselm as an historical figure and understanding his views. The present book takes an “Anselmian” position, one grounded in Anselm’s original arguments but that is Rogers’s own, stated in contemporary terms and in response to contemporary debates. She calls it “Anselmian” so as to make explicit its historical roots, its presuppositions, and its entailments. Importantly, Rogers wants to recognize and use, rather than sweep under the rug, “Anselm’s own theist perspective” (3). This is important because it makes explicit the way Anselm’s views are connected to his theism. Rogers points out that all the positions on free will—libertarian, compatibilist, and determinist—have their own grounding intuitions and presuppositions, analogous to Anselm’s theism, and that those need to be outed so that the discussion is as complete as possible. “Intuitions” grounding those views “may be,” as she puts it, “significantly colored by their background worldview” (6). This is true not just for Anselm and other theists but also for thinkers like Daniel Dennett, who frames the questions of whether and what sort of free will we have around the question, “Why do we want free will?” A theist and an Epicurean will answer that question differently. The point is that as philosophers puzzle over narrowly drawn questions, they are motivated by but not transparent about the intuitions that drive them toward defending or critiquing a position on a more minor issue. Further, Rogers argues that since so many arguments about free choice use the conceit of a “controller,” it is simply clearer and easier to use the notion of an omnipotent, omniscient God performing this function [End Page 614] rather than an imagined figure, and thus to make the point incompatibilists like to make more effectively. (Rogers does not argue that elaborate sci-fi creations about mad-scientist controllers are distractions from the issue we actually care about, but she might have.) Rogers also makes the important point that contemporary discussions tend to blur the distinction between “Should we hold you responsible?” and “Are you responsible?” If there is no way your responsibility can be truly assessed, then the questions become elided. Bringing in God as “an ideal observer” can help distinguish these questions: while we may not be able to know, God could. It is important as a way of pointing out (though Rogers does not quite put it this way) that what we really want to know is, are we responsible? And I take it she wants to try to answer that question instead of just moving to the pragmatic question.

The book is divided into two basic parts: chapters 1 through 4 explain the basic elements of the Anselmian view, and chapters 5 through 8 defend the Anselmian view from contemporary objections to libertarianism. Rogers defends the Anselmian view against the objections Alfred Mele makes against “internalism,” views that “[focus] on the structure of the immediate choice” (33). She argues that the Anselmian view succeeds against this kind of criticism better than Robert Kane’s version of libertarianism. She takes on Harry Frankfurt’s compatibilism, which attempts to show that we can be responsible even without being able (ultimately) to choose otherwise. She devotes two chapters to what she calls the “luck” problem of libertarianism. If the agent’s choice is undetermined when he might have chosen otherwise and nothing in his past or character dictates that choice, then it seems the choice is a matter of luck. David Hume makes this sort of argument, though Rogers responds to Mele, Peter van Inwagen, and those who have made and criticized libertarian...


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pp. 614-617
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