Carving a Life from Legacy: Free Will and Manipulation in Greg Egan’s “Reasons to Be Cheerful”

Carving a Life from Legacy: Free Will and Manipulation in Greg Egan’s “Reasons to Be Cheerful”

Taylor W. Cyr

University of California, Riverside

Keywords: Free Will, Personhood, Manipulation, Structuralism, Frankfurt, Greg Egan, Asimov


Many find it intuitive that having been manipulated undermines a person’s free will. Some have objected to accounts of free will like Harry Frankfurt’s (according to which free will depends only on an agent’s psychological structure at the time of action) by arguing that it is possible for manipulated agents, who are intuitively unfree, to satisfy Frankfurt’s allegedly sufficient conditions for freedom. Drawing resources from Greg Egan’s “Reasons to Be Cheerful” as well as from stories of psychologically sophisticated artificial intelligence (such as Isaac Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man”), I rebut this objection to “structuralist” accounts of free will, arguing that the very possibility of free will for persons like us requires that we admit that a person can be free even when lacking control over the character from which she acts. I conclude with some implications for the freedom and personhood of artificial intelligences.

Published: 2018-06-03

Issue: Vol 1 (2018): All Persons Great and Small: The Notion of Personhood in SF

Section: Yearly Theme

Copyright (c) 2018 Taylor W. Cyr

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