Freedom and Determinism

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 them from the initial conditions of the universe, and we are wrong to think that we exercise regulative control over action. The most common tactic for those who defend the compatibility of freedom and determinism is to deny that regulative control is a requirement of freedom. I will argue that, whether or not regulative control is a requirement of freedom, it is – surprisingly! - compatible with determinism. The discussion here replays themes of the first essay. Personal freedom is a complex concept, embedded in a tangle of criss-crossing personal, social, theological, psychological, and metaphysical debates, each placing its own requirement on the concept, and I make no attempt to address the general question of whether we are free. It is only the specific challenge presented by the Consequence Argument that I address, and that challenge is a clearly defined dynamical issue about the possibility of regulative control over action in a world governed by deterministic laws.
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