Did Epicurus discover the Free-Will Problem?

Susanne Bobzien
Oxford University
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.
Keywords Epicurus  Free Will  Swerve  Determinism  Moral responsibility  Freedom  Chance  Causation  Lucretius  Hellenistic philosophy
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Freedom of the Will in Plato and Augustine.Jonathan Hecht - 2014 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (2):196-216.
Stoics Against Stoics In Cudworth's A Treatise of Freewill.John Sellars - 2012 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (5):935-952.

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