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Grading will: A non-binary approach to agency

PhD Project of Mark Wulff Carstensen

Every day we make decisions about our future. We decide to get up earlier, or to quit smoking, or to eat healthier. Almost as often do we fail to follow through with these decisions. We stay in bed, we snack a smoke from a friend and we order junk food instead of cooking the healthy stuff we already bought and brought home from the market. Sometimes our decisions don’t just concern our actions, but also ourselves as people: we decide to be less angry and change our attitude, or we decide to be the kind of person that makes different choices altogether, than we have been previously. But despite how different our decisions may be, one thing remains true, we only sometimes successfully follow through on them, and sometimes we fail. What makes the difference?

This project examines how contemporary models of human decision making and action control influence our understanding of the human will. Are we free to follow through on some kinds of decisions but not others? Are we the slaves of factors outside of our control? And if not, what then conditions our ability to counteract them? And does whatever freedom is afforded mankind satisfy what everyday people usually means by free will?

The aim of the project is twofold: 1) to evaluate whether contemporary models relating to voluntary action problematize or confirm free will. And 2) to develop a graded notion of will and specify the conditions for increased self-control and our potential to self-determine: what makes us better at deciding and at following through with those decisions.