Did Epicurus discover the Free-Will Problem?

Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 19:287-337 (2000)
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Abstract

ABSTRACT: I argue that there is no evidence that Epicurus dealt with the kind of free-will problem he is traditionally associated with; i.e. that he discussed free choice or moral responsibility grounded on free choice, or that the "swerve" was involved in decision processes. Rather, for Epicurus, actions are fully determined by the agent's mental disposition at the outset of the action. Moral responsibility presupposes not free choice but that the person is unforced and causally responsible for the action. This requires the agent's ability to influence causally, on the basis of their beliefs, the development of their behavioral dispositions. The "swerve" was intended to explain the non-necessity of agency without undermining Epicurus' atomistic explanation of the order in the universe, viz. by making the mental dispositions of adults non-necessary.

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Susanne Bobzien
Oxford University

Citations of this work

Ancient Theories of Freedom and Determinism.Tim O'Keefe - 2020 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:00-00.
Changing Our Minds: Democritus on What is Up to Us.Monte Johnson - 2014 - In Pierre Destrée, R. Salles & Marco Antonio De Zingano (eds.), Up to Us: Studies on Causality and Responsibility in Ancient Philosophy. Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag. pp. 1-18.
Is Free Will Scepticism Self-Defeating?Simon-Pierre Chevarie-Cossette - 2019 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 15 (2):55-78.
Stoics Against Stoics In Cudworth's A Treatise of Freewill.John Sellars - 2012 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (5):935-952.
Epicurus.David Konstan - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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