Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Department 1

Civil War Era Studies

Department 2



If certain national cultures seem to own certain great problems of the mind, then freedom of the will seems to be the American problem. This is not just because of the sheet stupifying bulk of what Americans have written on this problem over the past 300 years, from Benjamin Franklin to Daniel Dennett, from Quaker prophetesses in Vermont to prairie lawyers in Illinois. In the most fundamental sense, freedom of the will has been an American possession because it forms a cognate philosophical discourse to that most fundamental of all American ideas, that if political and civil liberty. To speak of liberty in the public sphere is, necessarily, to make a judgment about the capacity of people for choice in the most highly personal sense as well; the extent of those capacities for choice is, in philosophical terms, what a discussion of freedom of the will is all about. [excerpt]

Required Publisher's Statement

Original version is available from the publisher at: