I wish to begin this set of defences and explanations by considering what may be called the 'Caprice' criticism. This lethal weapon of assault is in such high favour among Determinists that if (as I believe) our armour is invulnerable against it, it will be desirable to make this clear at the earliest possible opportunity.
The essence of the Caprice criticism can be stated quite shortly and simply. 'The Libertarian alleges,' we are told, 'a type of willing whose peculiarity is that it is not, or not completely, determined by the character of the agent (in relation to his circumstances). But in what sense is an act which does not issue from the character of the agent the agent's own act? Surely it cannot be understood as his act at all. It must rather be ascribed to the intervention of some external agency. But to be at the mercy of this foreign power, to have a "freedom" in which we have no possibility of knowing what act will issue from us next, is not to have freedom at all. It is to be in the direst bondage. It substitutes for control exercised by the self's own inherent nature, control exercised ab extra. This is the extremest form of slavery. And so far from validating moral responsibility - the professed aim of the Libertarian's misguided efforts- - it clearly destroys the notion of responsibility altogether. For how can the self be held accountable for that which, ex hypothesi, does not issue from its own nature? And finally, apart altogether from its utter inability to serve the cause of morality, the doctrine is manifestly untenable as a statement of psychological fact. Observation of the conduct of persons leaves us unable to doubt that there is a continuity binding together the several acts of each which is quite incompatible with the hypothesis that "at any moment anything may happen." '
Now, though there are many variants of this criticism, all (it seems to me) split upon the same rock. They all depend for their force upon the assumption of a dilemma which does not in fact exist. Either you have intelligible continuity of act with character, they urge, or you have what, so far as the agent is concerned, is mere 'chance.' Since the Libertarian will not accept intelligible continuity, he must accept mere chance - with all its attendant absurdities. The critic, that is (for this is the basis of the dilemma which he proposes), professes himself totally unable to attach a meaning to the supposition that an act which is not intelligibly continuous with one's character may yet be one's own act, determined by the self. Now the proper reply to this is just that the critic can attach meaning to the supposition in question: and moreover that he does attach meaning to it (whether he is aware of the fact or not) every time that he performs an effortful act of will. For it is impossible to perform such an act without being certain that, in the first place, it is something more than just the natural response to the circumstances of one's character (as so far formed) - since the awareness of effort is at the same time an awareness that the act is against the 'line of least resistance,' which is as much as to say that it just does not follow directly from his formed character - and without being equally certain that, in the second place, the act is one's own act, determined by one's very self.
In short, the dilemma proposed by the critic is a false dilemma. We are not compelled to think of 'chance' as the sole alternative to complete causal continuity between character and act. We can attach a meaning to an act which is not causally continuous with our character and is yet our own act if we look for the meaning in the right place, viz. in the actual experience of willing. I say that this is 'the right place,' not merely because we do in fact find here what we are in search of, but because it is logically the one place where it should be sought. If there is in the self the creative activity which is at issue between Libertarianism and Determinism, then the only way in which we could apprehend it would be by direct experience. It would be absurd, therefore, if the critic were to treat as ground for suspicion the assertion that the 'meaning' which escapes his dilemma is only to be grasped in direct experience. That is just precisely what is to be expected if the Libertarian doctrine is the true one.
From the same point of view we can reply to the Determinisms oft-repeated criticism that the 'free act' of the Libertarian is essentially 'unintelligible.' Of course it is unintelligible if'intelligible' means capable of being planted in a continuous causal sequence. The act would not be 'free' if it were intelligible in this sense, and therefore to demand 'intelligibility' here is simply to presuppose that the Libertarian's case is wrong. But, equally of course, it is not unintelligible if 'intelligible' means capable of being significantly appreciated. The critic himself can enjoy significant appreciation of it if only he will emancipate himself for a moment from metaphysical prepossessions and permit an unclouded imagination to reproduce a single effortful act of will.