A Digression

Hobbes’s observation about freedom’s relationship to unresolved deliberation might even be made to work as a biconditional, if placed against the background of a specific interpretation of “deliberation.” Say that Hobbes’s version of deliberation begins when the appetites are first aroused and ends (inclusive) with the final physical movement necessary to performance of an action. Under this interpretation, the wall-painting agent is still technically deliberating about painting her wall all the way up through the final brushstroke. Her action is free the entire time, simply because saying that she is free is the same as saying she is still deliberating.

This principle is difficult to apply, however, to the case of the would-be tennis player. It implies that he is still deliberating about playing tennis when he gets up and walks over to the locked door. He is free to play tennis, because he has not stopped deliberating, and since he has not stopped deliberating, there can be no impediment to his action. When he notes the locked door, playing tennis becomes impossible, and his deliberation ends—with the willing to remain in the room. Was he at any point unfree to play tennis? Hobbes might attempt to solve this riddle by responding in the negative: before being stymied by the locked door, the agent is free, and afterward, he is engaged in no action that would be fit to call either free or unfree. This potential solution, unfortunately, raises as many questions as it answers.  Is there no point at which he lacks liberty to play tennis? Is the locked door ever an impediment to his playing tennis? Is each individual bodily movement a separate willing on this agent’s part? Claiming that freedom and concurrent deliberation biconditionally imply each other, then, would be at the very least a challenging stance for Hobbes to defend.

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