Manuel’s last post generated a brief exchange about whether free will can be localized. This exchange motivated me to post a quote from John Fischer, which I find puzzling. Here’s the quote (from Four Views on Free Will, but I think John has made the same point elsewhere):
It can be one thing to articulate a meaning or concept, and quite another to specify the nature or “real essence” of something. The meaning of the term, “water,” and the ordinary concept, “water,” presumably do not contain anything about “H2O.” But arguably the nature or real essence of water is H2O. Similarly, the ordinary meaning of the term “can,” and the ordinary concept of “freedom,” may not contain anything about the possibility of extending the actual past, holding the natural laws fixed; but arguably the nature or real essence of our freedom includes these features.
I have for many years been puzzled at how some philosophers find the Consequence Argument (in some form or another) absolutely and uncontroversially sound, whereas others dismiss it entirely [...] One possible explanation of this puzzling phenomenon is that some philosophers are thoroughly focused on the issues about meaning and concepts, whereas others are attuned to the nature of or real essence of freedom.
Now I understand the distinction between concepts and essences when it comes to natural kinds, like “water”. But I don’t understand it when it comes to something like freedom, which is neither a natural kind like “water” or a historical kind like “species”. How do we go about investigating the essence of “freedom”? We might claim that the concept “freedom” picks out a certain class of actions, and then investigate the nature of those actions. But applying this Kripke-Putnam style move will require us first to settle the extension of the concept “freedom”, and once we have done that the controversy is over. (Or so it seems to me). That is, the philosophical issues will have been resolved, and it will be time to hand the matter on to the scientists.
What am I missing?