2.35 Freedom and Free Will

Category: Social and Political/Ethics

Keywords: freedom, freely, autonomous, free, autonomy, libertarian, interference, responsibility, coercion, liberty, responsible, determinism, agency, control, voluntary

Number of Articles: 274
Percentage of Total: 0.9%
Rank: 57th

Weighted Number of Articles: 240.8
Percentage of Total: 0.7%
Rank: 70th

Mean Publication Year: 1972.6
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1973.5
Median Publication Year: 1974
Modal Publication Year: 1959

Topic with Most Overlap: Ordinary Language (0.0618)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Frankfurt Cases (0.0352)
Topic with Least Overlap: Radical Translation (0.00036)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Temporal Paradoxes (0.00031)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the freedom and free willtopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 1894 when 2.2% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 1922 when 0.0% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.35 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.86: Freedom and free will.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Freedom and Free Willtopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 0.6%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 0.6%. Ethics - 2.2%. Philosophical Review - 0.6%. Analysis - 0.7%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 2.5%. Journal of Philosophy - 0.7%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 0.9%. Philosophy of Science - 0.2%. Noûs - 0.6%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 0.8%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 0.3%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 1894 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 2.0% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 1922 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.0% of the articles.

Figure 2.87: Freedom and free will articles in each journal.

Table 2.75: Characteristic articles of the freedom and free will topic.
Table 2.76: Highly cited articles in the freedom and free will topic.


One of the big fears I had doing this project was that the model would get confused between different uses of the one word. We’ve already seen the model get confused by terminological changes that don’t reflect philosophical changes. But that’s not a deep problem; it’s possible to just manually add the generated topics back together. But common terminology for the same idea is harder to deal with.

And it’s what is presented here. This topic includes work on political freedom and work on free will. It doesn’t help that both fields spend a lot of time talking about libertarian views. And it really doesn’t help that some people, perhaps not that many but enough to confuse the model, think there are deep connections between the fields. Fortunately there turns out to be a way to handle this problem. I’ll go over this when I get to sets and grue, but the short version is that building a two-topic LDA out of the articles in this topic lets me more or less split apart the articles on political freedom from the articles on free will.

I’ve classified the free will papers as ethics, although I think a lot of the people working on the topic would have thought of themselves as doing metaphysics. Certainly when I was a student we covered free will in intro metaphysics classes, not intro ethics classes. But it seems to me this is clearly about ethics, and the recent trend toward looking much more closely at the nature of responsibility, especially in light of empirical discoveries about the mind and brain, makes this classification much more natural.

Note that this is very much not the last of free will. There will be an entire topic devoted to Frankfurt cases. And some of the work on responsibility comes up in the several ethics topics. So don’t take these graphs as any kind of measure of how much coverage free will gets.