Date of Award

Spring 1996

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

William H. Brenner

Committee Member

Lawrence Hatab

Committee Member

William B. Jones

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H85 M37


This thesis is an exposition and clarification of two lectures on freedom of the will delivered by Ludwig Wittgenstein in 1939. Wittgenstein asks whether it makes sense to say that the "decision of a person was not free because it was determined by natural laws." I offer a brief explanation and defense of Wittgenstein's method of linguistic analysis, then proceed in its spirit. Associated with the words 'determined' and 'free' are certain pictures which, if misapplied, may lead us to misjudge their function. Among these are the picture of natural laws as "rails" that compel events, and that the meaning of a word is an object to which it corresponds. Confusion also arises if we overlook grammatical distinctions between forms of explanation, or the asymmetry of meaning between the first and third-person use of psychological terms. Ultimately, I support and develop Wittgenstein's position that attributions of free will are made not in accordance with an abstract conception or theory but from within a multiplicity of human practices and expectations.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).