Laws of Nature and Free Will

Dissertation, Durham University (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This thesis investigates the conceptual relationship between laws of nature and free will. In order to clarify the discussion, I begin by distinguishing several questions with respect to the nature of a law: i) do the laws of nature cover everything that happens? ii) are they deterministic? iii) can there be exceptions to universal and deterministic laws? iv) do the laws of nature govern everything in the world? In order to answer these questions I look at three widely endorsed accounts of laws: "Humean" regularity accounts, laws as relations among universals, and the dispositional essentialist account. I argue that there is nothing in the very nature of a law - in any of the accounts surveyed - that implies a positive answer to questions (i) and (ii). I show that this has important consequences for the free will problem. I then turn to the compatibility of free will and determinism. I focus on the Humean view and the dispositional essentialist account of laws. And the bulk of this discussion concerns the consequence argument, especially the question of whether the laws of nature are "up to us". I show that, on the dispositional conception of laws, there is no sense in which the laws of nature are up to us, contrary to the Humean view. However, this does not mean that there is no room for free will on the dispositional account. I argue that free will requires the laws of nature to be limited in scope, rather than being indeterministic. I conclude by showing that this allows one to resist the claim that indeterminism rules out free will.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 84,049

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The Argument from Laws of Nature Reassessed.Richard Swinburne - 2004 - In M. Ruse & W. Dembski (eds.), Debating Design: From Darwin to Dna. Cambridge University Press.
God and Dispositional Essentialism: An Account of the Laws of Nature.Dani Adams - 2018 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (2):293-316.
Humean compatibilism.Helen Beebee & Alfred Mele - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):201-223.
Can Dispositional Essences Ground the Laws of Nature?Richard Corry - 2011 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (2):263-275.
Are Conservation Laws Metaphysically Necessary?Johanna Wolff - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (5):898-906.
The Non-Governing Conception of Laws of Nature.Helen Beebee - 2000 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (3):571-594.
Lange’s Challenge: Accounting for Meta-laws.Zanja Yudell - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (2):347-369.
Are we free to obey the laws?Randolph Clarke - 2010 - American Philosophical Quarterly 47 (4):389-401.
Free will and the mind–body problem.Bernard Berofsky - 2010 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (1):1 – 19.


Added to PP

81 (#169,118)

6 months
3 (#248,477)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Pedro Merlussi
Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
How the laws of physics lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
An Essay on Free Will.Peter Van Inwagen - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.

View all 173 references / Add more references