Organon F

Volume 26, February 2019, Issue 1, Pages 141–168

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article | Special issue on Causality, Free Will, and Divine Action

Freedom, Power and Causation

Thomas Pink


Freedom or control of how we act is often and very naturally understood as a kind of power—a power to determine for ourselves how we act. Is freedom conceived as such a power possible, and what kind of power must it be? The paper argues that power takes many forms, of which ordinary causation is only one; and that if freedom is indeed a kind of power, it cannot be ordinary causation. Scepticism about the reality of freedom as a power can take two forms. One, found in Hume, now often referred to as the Mind argument, assumes incompatibilism, and concludes from incompatibilism that freedom cannot exist, as indistinguishable from chance. But another scepticism, found in Hobbes, does not assume incompatibilism, but assumes rather that the only possible form of power in nature is ordinary causation, concluding that freedom cannot for this reason exist as a form of power. This scepticism is more profound—it is in fact presupposed by Hume’s scepticism—and far more interesting, just because freedom cannot plausibly be modelled as ordinary causation.


Causation; chance; compatibilism; freedom; Hobbes; Hume; incompatibilism; law of nature; power; reason; scepticism; Suarez.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


Thomas Pink


King’s College London


Department of Philosophy, King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, United Kingdom


About this article


1 July 2018


29 November 2018

Published online

22 January 2019


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Pink, T. (2019). Freedom, Power and Causation. Organon F, 26(1), 141–168.


Pink, Thomas. 2019. "Freedom, Power and Causation." Organon F 26 (1): 141–168.


Pink, T. (2019). Freedom, Power and Causation. Organon F, 26(1), pp. 141–168.

Copyright information

© Thomas Pink

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