The open past

Philosophical Studies 79 (1):95 - 105 (1995)
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This paper is about the open future response to fatalistic arguments. I first present a typical fatalistic argument and then spell out the open future response as a response to that argument. Then I raise the question of how the open future response can be independently justified. I consider some possible ways in which the response might be defended, and I try to show that none of these is a plausible, non-question-begging defense. Next I formulate what I take to be the only plausible, nonquestion-begging defense of the open future response. This defense involves both (i) the claim that the laws of nature are indeterministic and (ii) a certain version of the correspondence theory of truth. Finally, I argue that there is a very surprising consequence of justifying the open future response by making the defense in question, namely, that the past is sometimes open. Fatalism is the view that whatever will happen in the future is inevitable, due to certain considerations about truth and time. Fatalism, in turn, is normally taken to imply that there is no such thing as genuine, human free will. Suppose that I am an anti-fatalist. Suppose I believe that Joe Montana is free to choose what he will have for lunch tomorrow, and suppose I take this case to be a paradigmatic example of one involving both evitability and human free will. Now suppose that I meet a fatalist, who presents the following argument.1..

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Ned Markosian
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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