Determinism

Edited by Jonah Nagashima (University of California, Riverside)
About this topic
Summary Determinism is a claim about the laws of nature. Events are determined if the laws of nature, together with the total set of facts prevailing at a moment in time, are sufficient to settle precisely what happens at the next and each subsequent moment of time. Determinism thus rules out chanciness in a central sense of that word. The free will debate has been centrally concerned with whether determinism is incompatible with freedom: many philosophers worry that if how agents act is always settled prior to their action (settled even prior to their birth) than we lack free will.
Key works The key works on the compatibility question are more or less coextensive with the key works on free will, since the first issue has been so central to the second. I shall not list those works here. Important papers that explore the nature of determinism itself as it pertains to free will includeBerofsky 1971; the two volumes of Honderich 1988 and Earman 2004.
Introductions Honderich 1973;Kane 2002
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  1. Frankfurt Cases and 'Could Have Done Otherwise'.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    In his seminal essay, Harry Frankfurt argued that our exercise of free will and allocation of moral responsibility do not depend on us being able to do other than we did. Leslie Allan defends this moral maxim from Frankfurt's attack. Applying his character-based counterfactual conditional analysis of free acts to Frankfurt's counterexamples, Allan unpacks the confusions that lie at the heart of Frankfurt's argument. The author also explores how his 4C compatibilist theory measures up against Frankfurt’s conclusions.
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  2. Free Will and Compatibilism.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    The author mounts a case against the libertarian and hard determinist's thesis that free will is impossible in a deterministic world. He charges incompatibilists with misconstruing ordinary 'free will' talk by overlaying common language with their own metaphysical presuppositions. Through a review of ordinary discourse and recent developments in jurisprudence and the sciences, he draws together the four key factors required for an act to be free. He then puts his 4C theory to work in giving a credible account of (...)
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  3. Determinism and Luck.Steven M. Duncan - manuscript
    In the course of writing a book on Free Will, I took the opportunity to read a good deal of contemporary literature on the Free Will problem. This paper is a survey and reflection on that reading, responding to the current trends and state of play concerning the existence of free will.
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  4. Freedom in a physical world – a partial taxonomy.Jude Arnout Durieux - manuscript
    If I take a free decision, how does this express itself physically? If God acts in this world, how does he do so? The answers to those two questions may be different or the same. Here we sketch a typology of possible answers, including Transcendent Compatibility. It turns out that in an open universe, freedom is the timewise mirror image of causality.
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  5. Constructive Dilemma Arguments for the Impossibility of Free Will.Kristin M. Mickelson - manuscript
    The traditional problem of free will and determinism is ostensibly about settling the relationship between free will and determinism. According to the standard narrative, this problem boils down to settling whether free will stands in a compatibility or incompatibility relation with determinism. Similarly, there is traditional debate over whether a compatibility or an incompatibility relationship holds between free will and indeterminism. Since indeterminism is simply the negation of determinism, anyone who holds that human free will is incompatible with both determinism (...)
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  6. Humean Laws, Humean-law Compatibilism, and the Consequence Argument.Kristin M. Mickelson - manuscript
    Traditional compatibilism is the view that free will is compatible with determinism. Humean-law compatibilism (a.k.a. weak-law compatibilism), is the view that free will is compatible with determinism, where determinism is defined in terms of a broadly Humean view of the laws of nature. A growing number of philosophers hold that Humean-law compatibilists are targeted by and have special resources to resist arguments for traditional incompatibilism, including the Consequence Argument (cf. Beebee and Mele 2002, Perry 2004, Hetherington 2006, Berofsky 2012, Mele (...)
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  7. Free Will of an Ontologically Open Mind.Jan Scheffel - manuscript
    The problem of free will has persistently resisted a solution throughout centuries. There is reason to believe that new elements need to be introduced into the analysis in order to make progress. In the present physicalist approach, these elements are emergence and information theory in relation to universal limits set by quantum physics. Furthermore the common, but vague, characterization of free will as "being able to act differently" is, in the spirit of Carnap, rephrased into an explicatum more suitable for (...)
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  8. Emergent Will.Jan Scheffel - manuscript
    The enduring problem of free will has defied resolution across centuries. There is reason to believe that novel factors must be integrated into the analysis to make progress. Within the current physicalist framework, these factors encompass emergence and information theory, in the context of constraints imposed by physical limits on the representation of information. Furthermore the common, but vague, characterization of free will as 'being able to act differently' is rephrased into an explicatum more suitable for formal analysis. It is (...)
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  9. How necessary is the past? Reply to Campbell.Matthew H. Slater - manuscript
    Joe Campbell has identified an apparent flaw in van Inwagen’s Consequence Argument. It apparently derives a metaphysically necessary conclusion from what Campbell argues is a contingent premise: that the past is in some sense necessary. I criticise Campbell’s examples attempting to show that this is not the case (in the requisite sense) and suggest some directions along which an incompatibilist could reconstruct her argument so as to remain immune to Campbell’s worries.
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  10. The basis of indeterminism.Shan Gao - 2001
  11. Freedom and determinism.Author unknown - manuscript
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  12. On Explaining Temporally Asymmetric Experiences.David Braddon-Mitchell & Kristie Miller - forthcoming - Australasian Philosophical Review.
    Ismael aims for an understanding of the nature of an embedded perspective of agents in a world. If successful, this would explain a cluster of ways in which from an embedded perspective, we experience the world in an array of temporally asymmetric ways. Moreover, these are ways that have led many philosophers to rather metaphysically inflationary views about the nature of time, according to which time itself really is dynamical, and is characterized by the movement of an objectively (i.e., non-perspectival) (...)
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  13. Blackwell Companion to Free Will.Joe Campbell, Kristin Mickelson & V. Alan White (eds.) - forthcoming - Blackwell.
  14. Strong Determinism.Eddy Keming Chen - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
    A strongly deterministic theory of physics is one that permits exactly one possible history of the universe. In the words of Penrose (1989), "it is not just a matter of the future being determined by the past; the entire history of the universe is fixed, according to some precise mathematical scheme, for all time.” Such an extraordinary feature may appear unattainable in a world like ours. In this paper, I show that it can be achieved in a simple way and (...)
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  15. Relever le défi déterministe une défense à la fois.Simon Pierre Chevarie-Cossette - forthcoming - Chroniques Universitaires.
    In this leçon inaugurale (inaugural lecture) at the University of Neuchâtel, I explain how we can tackle the problem of determinism by asking whether it would give us a justification, an excuse, or an exemption. This strategy builds on Peter Strawson's in Freedom and Resentment, but completes it by (1) proposing a theory of excuses ; (2) proposing that lacking alternatives might give a weak justification--i.e. it might exclude wrongdoing. This forces us to make the best of two philosophical traditions, (...)
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  16. Natural Compatibilists Should Be Theological Compatibilists.Taylor Cyr - forthcoming - In Peter Furlong & Leigh Vicens (eds.), Theological Determinism: New Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 119-132.
    Natural compatibilists say that moral responsibility is compatible with natural (or causal) determinism, where natural events and laws of nature determine everything that happens. Theological compatibilists say that moral responsibility is compatible with theological determinism, where God (rather than natural events/laws) determines everything that happens. Some philosophers accept natural compatibilism but reject theological compatibilism, and, in this chapter, I argue that this combination of views is untenable I start with a discussion of why someone might be attracted to this combination (...)
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  17. Effects, Determinism, Neither Compatibilism nor Incompatibilism, Consciousness.Ted Honderich - forthcoming - Philosophical Explorations.
    Since the rise of the theory of determinism, philosophers have argued and declared that we are diminished by it. Bishop Bramhall against Thomas Hobbes in the 17th Century, Kant against Hume in the 18th, F. H. Bradley against John Stuart Mill in the 19th, Robert Kane and Robert Nozick against such as me in the 20th Century. There must be something in this relentless tradition. It cannot, it seems to me, be the falsehood of determinism. Is it, so to speak, (...)
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  18. Freedom and Determinism.Jenann Ismael - forthcoming - Philosophical Explorations.
    Any person truly considering belief in a scientific world view has to confront the question of whether and in what sense, if she views herself as a natural system in a world governed by natural laws, she can continue to regard herself as free. The prima facie clash is usually expressed in terms of a conflict between freedom and determinism, captured in an argument known as the Consequence Argument. If the natural laws are deterministic, our behavior must be deducible by (...)
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  19. The Incompatibility of Universal, Determinate Divine Action with Human Free Will.Simon Kittle - forthcoming - In Peter Furlong & Leigh C. Vicens (eds.), Theological Determinism: New Perspectives. Cambridge. pp. 100-118.
    Is it consistent to maintain that human free will is incompatible with determinism in the natural world while also maintaining that it is compatible with divine universal causation? On the face of it, divine universal causation looks like a form of determinism. And the intuitions which lead to incompatibilism about free will and natural determinism also lead to incompatibilism about free will and divine determinism. Several thinkers have attempted to resist this conclusion. This essay critiques that view, with a special (...)
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  20. Experimental Philosophy of Free Will and the Comprehension of Determinism.Daniel Lim, Ryan Nichols & Joseph Wagoner - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-27.
    The experimental validity of research in the experimental philosophy of free will has been called into question. Several new, important studies (Murray et al. forthcoming; Nadelhoffer et al., Cognitive Science 44 (8): 1–28, 2020 ; Nadelhoffer et al., 2021; Rose et al., Cognitive Science 41 (2): 482–502, 2017 ) are interpreted as showing that the vignette-judgment model is defective because participants only exhibit a surface-level comprehension and not the deeper comprehension the model requires. Participants, it is argued, commit _bypassing_, _intrusion_, (...)
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  21. Doing Otherwise in a Deterministic World.Christian Loew - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    An influential version of the Consequence argument, the most famous argument for the incompatibility of free will and determinism, goes as follows: For an agent to be able to do otherwise, there has to be a possible world with the same laws and the same past as her actual world in which she does otherwise. However, if the actual world is deterministic, there is no such world. Hence, no agent in a deterministic world can ever do otherwise. In this paper, (...)
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  22. Ted Honderich, Philosopher: A Kind of Life.D. Macey - forthcoming - Radical Philosophy.
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  23. A nonreductive physicalist libertarian free will.Dwayne Moore - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Libertarian free will is, roughly, the view that the same agential states can cause different possible actions. Nonreductive physicalism is, roughly, the view that mental states cause actions to occur, while these actions also have sufficient physical causes. Though libertarian free will and nonreductive physicalism have overlapping subject matter, and while libertarian free will is currently trending at the same time as nonreductive physicalism is a dominant metaphysical posture, there are few sustained expositions of a nonreductive physicalist model of libertarian (...)
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  24. Self-knowledge and reflection in Schopenhauer’s view of agency.Sean T. Murphy - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    This paper examines the roles that self-knowledge and reflection play in Schopenhauer’s view of agency. Focusing in particular on the discussion of the acquired character, his cognitive theory of motivation, and the idea of intellectual freedom, I argue that we find two conceptions of rational agency in Schopenhauer. The ‘minimal’ conception sees rational agency primarily as a kind of reflective motivation, whereas the ‘maximal’ or ‘robust’ conception sees rational agency as involving a kind of reflective self-organization. Furthermore, I argue that (...)
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  25. Do people understand determinism? The tracking problem for measuring free will beliefs.Samuel Murray, Elise Dykhuis & Thomas Nadelhoffer - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy.
    Experimental work on free will typically relies on deterministic stimuli to elicit judgments of free will. We call this the Vignette-Judgment model. We outline a problem with research based on this model. It seems that people either fail to respond to the deterministic aspects of vignettes when making judgments or that their understanding of determinism differs from researcher expectations. We provide some empirical evidence for this claim. In the end, we argue that people seem to lack facility with the concept (...)
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  26. Free will and determinism. Edited by vlggo Mortensen and Robert C. Sorensen. Philadelphia: Coronet, 1987. 213 pages and notes. $28.50 (paper). Tackling the subject of free will and determinism is like trying to fight a Tar baby: No matter where you throw the first punch, you find. [REVIEW]Kenneth Vaux - forthcoming - Zygon.
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  27. The Question of Determinism.Greg Whistance-Smith & Dr Nathan Kowalsky - forthcoming - Philosophy.
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  28. Determinismus Kausalität Freiheit - Wissenschaftstheoretische Überlegungen zur Willensfreiheitsdebatte.Hüttemann Andreas - 2024 - Frankfurt: Klostermann.
    Let us assume that human behavior is subject to laws of nature. These are either deterministic or indeterministic. Prima facie in both cases our behavior appears to be excused. For it seems as if, in the case of deterministic laws, we cannot behave differently than we actually do. In the case of indeterministic laws, it seems as if we are not the originators of this behavior, because how we behave depends on chance. There is a tension between the scientific characterization (...)
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  29. Carnap on determinism and free will.Richard Creath - 2024 - In Alan W. Richardson & Adam Tamas Tuboly (eds.), Interpreting Carnap: Critical Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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  30. Compatibilism as Non-Ideal Theory: A Manifesto.Robert H. Wallace - 2024 - In David Shoemaker, Santiago Amaya & Manuel Vargas (eds.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility Volume 8: Non-Ideal Agency and Responsibility. Oxford University Press.
    This paper articulates and responds to a challenge to contemporary compatibilist views of free will. Despite the popularity and appeal of compatibilist theories, many are left with lingering doubts about compatibilism. This paper explains this doubt in terms of the absurdity challenge: because a compatibilist accepts that they do not have causal access to all the actual sufficient causal sources of their own agency, the compatibilist can find their own agency absurd. By taking a cue from political philosophy, this paper (...)
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  31. Resolving teleology's false dilemma.Gunnar Babcock & Dan McShea - 2023 - Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 139 (4):415-432.
    This paper argues that the account of teleology previously proposed by the authors is consistent with the physical determinism that is implicit across many of the sciences. We suggest that much of the current aversion to teleological thinking found in the sciences is rooted in debates that can be traced back to ancient natural science, which pitted mechanistic and deterministic theories against teleological ones. These debates saw a deterministic world as one where freedom and agency is impossible. And, because teleological (...)
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  32. Time and Eternity.James H. Cumming - 2023 - Dogma: Revue de Philosophie Et de Sciences Humaines 22:58-67.
    This article is the FIFTH of several excerpts from my book The Nondual Mind: Vedānta, Kashmiri Pratyabhijñā Shaivism, and Spinoza (the full book is posted on this site). “I liked James H. Cumming’s The Nondual Mind a lot. It is beautifully written, thoughtful, and very clear.” (Prof. Yitzhak Y. Melamed, Charlotte Bloomberg Professor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University) “James H. Cumming’s scholarly interpretation of Spinoza’s works, persuasively showing how 17th century European ideas that ushered in the Enlightenment find a precursor (...)
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  33. Dennett’s Prime-Mammal Objection to the Consequence Argument.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2023 - Theoria 89 (4):467-470.
    The Consequence Argument is the classic argument for the incompatibility of determinism and our ability to do otherwise. Daniel C. Dennett objects that the Consequence Argument suffers from the same error as a clearly unconvincing argument that there are no mammals. In this paper, I argue that these arguments do not suffer from the same error. The argument that there are no mammals is unconvincing as it takes the form of a sorites, whereas the Consequence Argument does not. Accordingly, Dennett's (...)
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  34. Rethinking Time and Determinism: What Happens to Determinism When You Take Relativity Seriously.Jenann Ismael - 2023 - In Remy Lestienne & Paul A. Harris (eds.), Time and Science, Volume 1: The Metaphysics of Time and Its Evolution. World Scientific Publishing. pp. 147-172.
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  35. A puzzle about moral responsibility.Fabio Lampert & John William Waldrop - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (8):2291-2307.
    We present a new puzzle about logical truth, necessity, and moral responsibility. We defend one solution to the puzzle. A corollary of our preferred solution is that prominent arguments for the incompatibility of determinism and moral responsibility are invalid.
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  36. Mechanical Choices: A Compatibilist Libertarian Response.Christian List - 2023 - Criminal Law and Philosophy:1-23.
    Michael S. Moore defends the ideas of free will and responsibility, especially in relation to criminal law, against several challenges from neuroscience. I agree with Moore that morality and the law presuppose a commonsense understanding of humans as rational agents, who make choices and act for reasons, and that to defend moral and legal responsibility, we must show that this commonsense understanding remains viable. Unlike Moore, however, I do not think that classical compatibilism, which is based on a conditional understanding (...)
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  37. Agential Possibilities.Christian List - 2023 - Possibility Studies and Society.
    We ordinarily think that we human beings have agency: we have control over our choices and make a difference to our environments. Yet it is not obvious how agency can fit into a physical world that is governed by exceptionless laws of nature. In particular, it is unclear how agency is possible if those laws are deterministic and the universe functions like a mechanical clockwork. In this short paper, I first explain the apparent conflict between agency and physical determinism (referring (...)
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  38. (In)compatibilism.Kristin M. Mickelson - 2023 - In Joe Campbell, Kristin M. Mickelson & V. Alan White (eds.), Wiley-Blackwell: A Companion to Free Will. Wiley. pp. 58-83.
    The terms ‘compatibilism’ and ‘incompatibilism’ were introduced in the mid-20th century to name conflicting views about the logical relationship between the thesis of determinism and the thesis that someone has free will. These technical terms were originally introduced within a specific research paradigm, the classical analytic paradigm. This paradigm is now in its final stages of degeneration and few free-will theorists still work within it (i.e. using its methods, granting its substantive background assumptions, etc.). This chapter discusses how the ambiguity (...)
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  39. Nietzsche and the Myth of Free Will: What Your Belief About Free Will Says About You.Donovan Miyasaki - 2023 - Iai News, Institute for Art and Ideas.
    The idea that free will is an illusion is rife. Everyone from neuroscientists to philosophers, podcasters to mystics, is arguing that the idea we are truly in control of our decisions and actions is nothing more than a persistent illusion. Others are not so sure, the feeling we control our lives cannot be outdone by argument alone – experience is a source of knowledge too. Donovan Miyasaki argues that more important than whether we have free will or not, is why (...)
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  40. Intuitions About Free Will and the Failure to Comprehend Determinism.Thomas Nadelhoffer, Samuel Murray & Elise Dykhuis - 2023 - Erkenntnis 88 (6):2515-2536.
    Theories of free will are often measured against how well they capture everyday intuitions about free will. But what are these everyday intuitions, and what theoretical commitments do they express? Empirical methods have delivered mixed messages. In response, some free will theorists have developed error theories to undermine the credentials of countervailing intuitions. These efforts are predicated on the idea that people might misunderstand determinism in any of several ways. This paper sheds light on the comprehension problem. We first discuss (...)
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  41. Determinism, Divine Will, and Free Will: Spinoza, Leibniz, and Maimonides.Jacques J. Rozenberg - 2023 - Australian Journal of Jewish Studies:57-81.
    The question of Spinozist determinism and necessitarianism have been extensively studied by commentators, while the relationship between the notions of divine will and free will still requires elaborate studies. Our article seeks to contribute to such research, by clarifying the analyses of these questions by authors that Spinoza has confronted: Maimonides, as well as other Jewish philosophers, and Leibniz who criticized Spinozist determinism. We will study the consequences of these analyses on two examples that Spinoza gave to refute free will, (...)
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  42. Determination from Above.Kenneth Silver - 2023 - Philosophical Issues 33 (1):237-251.
    There are many historical concerns about freedom that have come to be deemphasized in the free will literature itself—for instance, worries around the tyranny of government or the alienation of capitalism. It is hard to see how the current free will literature respects these, or indeed how they could even find expression. This paper seeks to show how these and other concerns can be reintegrated into the debate by appealing to a levels ontology. Recently, Christian List and others have considered (...)
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  43. Franz Brentano ante el ocaso de la metafísica: su concepción de la providencia divina.David Torrijos Castrillejo - 2023 - Carthaginensia 39:511-536.
    The German philosopher Franz Brentano develops his personal thinking by harmonising his favourite sources: Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and Leibniz. However, he also goes beyond them, introducing a determinism foreign to Thomas Aquinas and eliminating divine punishments from the future life, thus departing from the Christian position also held by Leibniz. Aristotle is credited with Brentano’s Leibnizian ideas: his God is the author of the best of all possible worlds and, within a deterministic paradigm, leads all souls to immortal happiness.
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  44. A problem for counterfactual sufficiency.John William Waldrop - 2023 - Analysis 83 (3):527-535.
    The consequence argument purports to show that determinism is true only if no one has free will. Judgments about whether the argument is sound depend on how one understands locutions of the form 'p and no one can render p false'. The main interpretation on offer appeals to counterfactual sufficiency: s can render p false just in case there is something s can do such that, were s to do it, p would be false; otherwise, s cannot render p false. (...)
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  45. Law-Abiding Causal Decision Theory.Timothy Luke Williamson & Alexander Sandgren - 2023 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 74 (4):899-920.
    In this paper we discuss how Causal Decision Theory should be modified to handle a class of problematic cases involving deterministic laws. Causal Decision Theory, as it stands, is problematically biased against your endorsing deterministic propositions (for example it tells you to deny Newtonian physics, regardless of how confident you are of its truth). Our response is that this is not a problem for Causal Decision Theory per se, but arises because of the standard method for assessing the truth of (...)
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  46. Answering More of the Same: A Reply to Nahm.Keith Augustine - 2022 - Journal of Scientific Exploration 36 (4):794-808.
    Michael Nahm's preceding commentary accuses me of seven misrepresentations. One of these is an acknowledged good-faith error about a peripheral detail, while the remaining six are demonstrably accurate descriptions of Nahm's statements. At the same time, Nahm verifiably misrepresents me frequently and intentionally over issues that he takes to be consequential, which is a much more serious offense. All authors should call out when an interlocutor get their points wrong, but only when they can definitively back up the charge. Where (...)
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  47. Lawful Persistence.David Builes & Trevor Teitel - 2022 - Philosophical Perspectives 36 (1):5-30.
    The central aim of this paper is to use a particular view about how the laws of nature govern the evolution of our universe in order to develop and evaluate the two main competing options in the metaphysics of persistence, namely endurantism and perdurantism. We begin by motivating the view that our laws of nature dictate not only qualitative facts about the future, but also which objects will instantiate which qualitative properties. We then show that both traditional doctrines in the (...)
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  48. A Companion to Free Will.Joseph Keim Campbell, Kristin M. Mickelson & V. Alan White (eds.) - 2022 - Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
    The concept of free will is fraught with controversy, as readers of this volume likely know. Philosophers disagree about what free will is, whether we have it, what mitigates or destroys it, and what it's good for. Indeed, philosophers even disagree about how to fix the referent of the term 'free will' for purposes of describing and exploring these disagreements. What one person considers a reasonably neutral working definition of 'free will' is often considered question-begging or otherwise misguided by another. (...)
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  49. Precis of Rejecting Retributivism: Free Will, Punishment, and Criminal Justice.Gregg D. Caruso - 2022 - Journal of Legal Philosophy 2 (46):120-125.
  50. Moral Responsibility Reconsidered.Gregg D. Caruso & Derk Pereboom - 2022 - Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Derk Pereboom.
    This Element examines the concept of moral responsibility as it is used in contemporary philosophical debates and explores the justifiability of the moral practices associated with it, including moral praise/blame, retributive punishment, and the reactive attitudes of resentment and indignation. After identifying and discussing several different varieties of responsibility-including causal responsibility, take-charge responsibility, role responsibility, liability responsibility, and the kinds of responsibility associated with attributability, answerability, and accountability-it distinguishes between basic and non-basic desert conceptions of moral responsibility and considers a (...)
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