Freedom as Satisfaction? A Critique of Frankfurt's Hierarchical Theory of Freedom
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This article is a critical assessment of Harry Frankfurt's hierarchical
theory of freedom. It spells out and distinguishes several different and
irreconcilable conceptions of freedom present in Frankfurt's work. I
argue that Frankfurt is ambiguous in his early formulation as to what
conception of freedom of the will the hierarchical theory builds on,
an avoidability or a satisfaction conception. This ambiguity causes
problems in his later attempts to respond to the objections of wantonness
of second-order desires and of infi nite regress. With his more recent idea
of freedom as being satisfi ed with harmony in one's entire volitional
system, Frankfurt may solve the infi nite regress objection but he does
so at the cost of ending up with a description of freedom, which comes
very close to being identical to his own description of the wanton.
Frankfurt's account leaves open the question of whether the satisfactory
harmony is caused by the inability to do otherwise, or is independent
of it. To answer this question, Frankfurt's hierarchical theory needs to
be complemented with a number of "autonomy variables" (Double).
Satisfaction may be a necessary condition of freedom, but it is not
suffi cient. We also need to know how the person came to be satisfi ed.
If being satisfi ed is merely something that happens to one, it fails to
be an adequate description of a free person - and it also contradicts
some of Frankfurt's own earlier insights.
|Sats: Nordic Journal of Philosophy
|Number of pages
|Published - 2004
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