Rational agents face choices, even when taking seriously the possibility of determinism. Rational agents also follow the advice of Causal Decision Theory (CDT). Although many take these claims to be well-motivated, there is growing pressure to reject one of them, as CDT seems to go badly wrong in some deterministic cases. We argue that deterministic cases do not undermine a counterfactual model of rational deliberation, which is characteristic of CDT. Rather, they force us to distinguish between counterfactuals that are (...) relevant and ones that are irrelevant for the purposes of deliberation. We incorporate this distinction into decision theory to develop ‘Selective Causal Decision Theory’, which delivers the correct recommendations in deterministic cases while respecting the key motivations behind CDT. (shrink)
Perhaps no one has written more extensively, more deeply, and more insightfully about determinism and freedom than Ted Honderich. His influence and legacy with regard to the problem of free will—or the determinism problem, as he prefers to frame it—looms large. In these comments I would like to focus on three main aspects of Honderich ’s work: his defense of determinism and its consequences for origination and moral responsibility; his concern that the truth of determinism threatens (...) and restricts, but does not eliminate, our life-hopes; and his attack on the traditional justifications for punishment. In many ways, I see my own defense of free will skepticism as the natural successor to Honderich ’s work. There are, however, some small differences between us. My goal in this paper is to clarify our areas of agreement and disagreement and to acknowledge my enormous debt to Ted. If I can also move him toward my own more optimistic brand of free will skepticism that would be great too. (shrink)
After a brief but necessary characterization of the notion of determinism, I discuss and critically evaluate four views on the relationship between determinism and free will by taking into account both (i) what matters most to us in terms of a free will worth-wanting and (ii) which capacities can be legitimately attributed to human beings without contradicting what we currently know from natural sciences. The main point of the paper is to argue that the libertarian faces a dilemma: (...) on the one hand, the possibility of ?doing otherwise? ? a necessary condition of a free will according to the libertarian ? requires indeterminism or chance, but any kind of indeterminism has the undesirable consequence of separating our actions from our character and our past. On the other hand, if our character has to be fully expressed by our actions, determinism becomes necessary and we seem to be metaphysically unfree. I conclude by showing that the dispute between compatibilists and libertarians possesses an important but hitherto very neglected pragmatic component as well, dependent on two different ethical attitudes toward a meaningful life. (shrink)
I argue that free will and determinism are compatible, even when we take free will to require the ability to do otherwise and even when we interpret that ability modally, as the possibility of doing otherwise, and not just conditionally or dispositionally. My argument draws on a distinction between physical and agential possibility. Although in a deterministic world only one future sequence of events is physically possible for each state of the world, the more coarsely defined state of an (...) agent and his or her environment can be consistent with more than one such sequence, and thus different actions can be “agentially possible”. The agential perspective is supported by our best theories of human behaviour, and so we should take it at face value when we refer to what an agent can and cannot do. On the picture I defend, free will is not a physical phenomenon, but a higher-level one on a par with other higher-level phenomena such as agency and intentionality. (shrink)
It is often called “the problem of free will and determinism,” as if the only thing that might challenge free will is determinism and as if determinism is obviously a problem. The traditional debates about free will have proceeded accordingly. Typically, incompatibilists about free will and determinism suggest that their position is intuitive or commonsensical, such that compatibilists have the burden of showing how, despite appearances, the problem of determinism is not really a problem. Compatibilists, (...) in turn, tend to proceed as if showing that determinism is not a problem thereby shows that we have free will, as if determinism is the only thing that might threaten free will. In this chapter, I reject both of these elements of the traditional debate; the question of whether we have free will should neither begin nor end with the so-called problem of determinism. I present and discuss evidence from a variety of studies that suggests that incompatibilism is not particularly intuitive. Most people do not have to be talked out of incompatibilism but rather talked into it. This provides some reasons—though certainly not decisive reasons—to think that compatibilism is true. I conclude by pointing out that, even if compatibilism were true, it would not dissolve the problem of free will, because there are problems other than determinism that need to be confronted—namely, challenges to free will suggested by current and “future science,” including neuroscience and psychology. The threats to free will suggested by these sciences are distinct from the traditional threat of determinism, and they are the ones that “ordinary persons” find intuitively threatening to free will. In fact, I will argue that the reason incompatibilism about free will and determinism appears to be intuitive is that determinism is often and easily misunderstood to involve these distinct threats to free will—threats that suggest that our rational, conscious mental activity is bypassed in the process of our making decisions and coming to act. (shrink)
The studies we report indicate that it is possible to manipulate explicit ascriptions of consciousness by manipulating whether an agent’s behavior is deterministically caused. In addition, we explore whether this impact of determinism on consciousness is direct, or mediated by notions linked to agency – notions like moral responsibility, free will, deliberate choice, and sensitivity to moral reasons. We provide evidence of mediation. This result extends work on attributions of consciousness and their connection to attributions of agency by Adam (...) Arico, Brian Fiala, and Shaun Nichols (Arico et al. 2011, Fiala et al. 2014) and supports it against recent criticisms (e.g., Sytsma 2014). (shrink)
In this paper we aim to disentangle the thesis that the future is open from theses that often get associated or even conflated with it. In particular, we argue that the open future thesis is compatible with both the unrestricted principle of bivalence and determinism with respect to the laws of nature. We also argue that whether or not the future (and indeed the past) is open has no consequences as to the existence of (past and) future ontology.
Four studies explored people's judgments about whether particular types of behavior are compatible with determinism. Participants read a passage describing a deterministic universe, in which everything that happens is fully caused by whatever happened before it. They then assessed the degree to which different behaviors were possible in such a universe. Other participants evaluated the extent to which each of these behaviors had various features. We assessed the extent to which these features predicted judgments about whether the behaviors were (...) possible in a deterministic universe. Experiments 1 and 2 found that people's judgments about whether a behavior was compatible with determinism were not predicted by their judgments about whether that behavior relies on physical processes in the brain and body, is uniquely human, is unpredictable, or involves reasoning. Experiment 3, however, found that a distinction between what we call “active” and “passive” behaviors can explain people's judgments. Experiment 4 extended these findings, showing that we can measure this distinction in several ways and that it is robustly predicted by two different cues. Taken together, these results suggest that people carve up mentally guided behavior into two distinct types—understanding one type to be compatible with determinism, but another type to be fundamentally incompatible with determinism. (shrink)
In this paper I shall define a thesis I shall call ' determinism ', and argue that it is incompatible with the thesis that we are able to act otherwise than we do. Other theses, some of them very different from what I shall call ' determinism ', have at least an equal right to this name, and, therefore, I do not claim to show that every thesis that could be called ' determinism ' without historical impropriety (...) is incompatible with free will. I shall, however, assume without argument that what I call ' determinism ' is legitimately so called. In Part I, I shall explain what I mean by ' determinism '. In Part II, I shall make some remarks about 'can'. In Part III, I shall argue that free will and determinism are incompatible. In Part IV, I shall examine some possible objections to the argument of Part III. I shall not attempt to establish the truth or falsity of determinism, or the existence or nonexistence of free will. (shrink)
A previously unrecognised argument against deterministic chance is introduced. The argument rests on the twin ideas that determined outcomes are settled, while chancy outcomes are unsettled, thus making cases of determined but chancy outcomes impossible. Closer attention to tacit assumptions about settledness makes available some principled lines of resistance to the argument for compatibilists about chance and determinism. Yet the costs of maintaining compatibilism may be higher with respect to this argument than with respect to existing incompatibilist arguments.
Bobzien presents the definitive study of one of the most interesting intellectual legacies of the ancient Greeks: the Stoic theory of causal determinism. She explains what it was, how the Stoics justified it, and how it relates to their views on possibility, action, freedom, moral responsibility, moral character, fatalism, logical determinism and many other topics. She demonstrates the considerable philosophical richness and power that these ideas retain today.
This essay begins by dividing the traditional problem of free will and determinism into a “correlation” problem and an “explanation” problem. I then focus on the explanation problem, and argue that a standard form of abductive (i.e. inference to the best-explanation) reasoning may be useful in solving it. To demonstrate the fruitfulness of the abductive approach, I apply it to three standard accounts of free will. While each account implies the same solution to the correlation problem, each implies a (...) unique solution to the explanation problem. For example, all libertarian-friendly accounts of free will imply that it is impossible to act freely when determinism is true. However, only a narrow subset of libertarians have the theoretical resources to defend the incompatibilist claim that deterministic laws (qua being deterministic) undermine free will, while other libertarians must reject this incompatibilist view. -/- [Version: Nov. 12, 2018]. (shrink)
In this article we study the question of free will from an interdisciplinary angle, drawing on philosophy, neurobiology and physics. We start by reviewing relevant neurobiological findings on the functioning of the brain, notably as presented in (Koch 2009); we assess these against the physics of (in)determinism. These biophysics findings seem to indicate that neuronal processes are not quantum but classical in nature. We conclude from this that there is little support for the existence of an immaterial ‘mind’, capable (...) of ruling over matter independently of the causal past. But what, then, can free will be ? We propose a compatibilist account that resonates well with neurobiology and physics, and that highlights that free will comes in degrees – degrees which vary with the conscious grasp the ‘free’ agent has over his actions. Finally, we analyze the well-known Libet experiment on free will through the lens of our model. We submit this interdisciplinary investigation as a typical case of naturalized philosophy: in our theorizing we privilege assumptions that find evidence in science, but our conceptual work also suggests new avenues for research in a few scientific disciplines. (shrink)
A critical review of Charles Goodman's view about Buddhism and free will to the effect that Buddhism is hard determinist, basically because he thinks Buddhist causation is definitively deterministic, and he thinks determinism is definitively incompatible with free will, but especially because he thinks Buddhism is equally definitively clear on the non-existence of a self, from which he concludes there cannot be an autonomous self.
The debate over whether free will and determinism are compatible is controversial, and produces wide scholarly discussion. This paper argues that recent studies in experimental philosophy suggest that people are in fact “natural compatibilists”. To support this claim, it surveys the experimental literature bearing directly or indirectly upon this issue, before pointing to three possible limitations of this claim. However, notwithstanding these limitations, the investigation concludes that the existing empirical evidence seems to support the view that most people have (...) compatibilist intuitions. (shrink)
Mark David Webster ABSTRACT: Using qualitative methods, the author sought to better understand how philosophical assumptions about technology affect the thinking, and influence the decision making, of educational technology leaders in their professional practice. One of the research questions focused on examining whether assumptions of technological determinism were present in thinking and influenced the decisions that leaders make. The core category that emerged from data analysis, Keep up with technology (or be left behind), was interpreted to be a manifestation (...) of the technological imperative, an assumption associated with the philosophical perspective of technological determinism. The article presents a literature review and critique of philosophical issues surrounding technological determinism. Data analysis led to the conclusion that technology leaders working in K-12 education place weighted priority on the technological imperative, and there is philosophical tension between Keep up with technology (or be left behind), and a concurrently held perspective based on the logic of the instrumental view of technology. The findings suggest that different accounts of technological determinism, including Bimber’s three accounts of normative, nomological, and unintended consequences, are significant in the thinking of participants. School technology leaders placed priority on embracing technological change, sometimes adopting technology for its own sake. (shrink)
This essay reconstructs the sophisticated views on free will and determinism of the nineteenth-century Hindu mystic Sri Ramakrishna and brings them into dialogue with the views of three western philosophers—namely, the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Lord Kames and the contemporary analytic philosophers Saul Smilansky and Derk Pereboom. Sri Ramakrishna affirms hard theological determinism, the incompatibilist view that God determines everything we do and think. At the same time, however, he claims that God, in His infinite wisdom, has endowed ordinary (...) unenlightened people with the illusion of free will for the sake of their moral and spiritual welfare. Kames, I suggest, defends a theological determinist position remarkably similar to Sri Ramakrishna’s. However, I argue that Sri Ramakrishna’s mystical orientation puts him in a better position than Kames to explain why a loving God would implant in us the illusion of free will in the first place. I then show how certain aspects of the views of Smilansky and Pereboom resonate with those of Sri Ramakrishna. (shrink)
The recent discovery of an indeterministic system in classical mechanics, the Norton dome, has shown that answering the question whether classical mechanics is deterministic can be a complicated matter. In this paper I show that indeterministic systems similar to the Norton dome were already known in the nineteenth century: I discuss four nineteenth century authors who wrote about such systems, namely Poisson, Duhamel, Boussinesq and Bertrand. However, I argue that their discussion of such systems was very different from the contemporary (...) discussion about the Norton dome, because physicists in the nineteenth century conceived of determinism in essentially different ways: whereas in the contemporary literature on determinism in classical physics, determinism is usually taken to be a property of the equations of physics, in the nineteenth century determinism was primarily taken to be a presupposition of theories in physics, and as such it was not necessarily affected by the possible existence of systems such as the Norton dome. (shrink)
Determinism is established in quantum mechanics by tracing the probabilities in the Born rules back to the absolute (overall) phase constants of the wave functions and recognizing these phase constants as pseudorandom numbers. The reduction process (collapse) is independent of measurement. It occurs when two wavepackets overlap in ordinary space and satisfy a certain criterion, which depends on the phase constants of both wavepackets. Reduction means contraction of the wavepackets to the place of overlap. The measurement apparatus fans out (...) the incoming wavepacket into spatially separated eigenpackets of the chosen observable. When one of these eigenpackets together with a wavepacket located in the apparatus satisfy the criterion, the reduction associates the place of contraction with an eigenvalue of the observable. The theory is nonlocal and contextual. Keywords:. (shrink)
: In a short and much-neglected passage in the second Critique, Kant discusses the threat posed to human freedom by theological determinism. In this paper we present an interpretation of Kant’s conception of and response to this threat. Regarding his conception, we argue that he addresses two versions of the threat: either God causes appearances directly or he does so indirectly by causing things in themselves which in turn cause appearances. Kant’s response to the first version is that God (...) cannot cause appearances directly because they depend essentially on the passive sensibility of finite beings. Kant’s response to the second version is that human beings are endowed with transcendental freedom, which blocks the causal transitivity that is presupposed by this version. We also contrast his position on this topic with Leibniz’s and Spinoza’s. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Adorno's metacritique of freedom in Negative Dialectics and related texts remains fruitful today. I begin with some background on Adorno's conception of ‘metacritique’ and on Kant's conception of freedom, as I understand it. Next, I discuss Adorno's analysis of the experiential content of Kantian freedom, according to which Kant has reified the particular social experience of the early modern bourgeoisie in his conception of unconditioned freedom. Adorno argues against this conception of freedom and suggests (...) that freedom is always conditioned by our embodiment and by our social and historical situation. Finally, I turn to Adorno's criticism of Kant's discussion of freedom and determinism in the Critique of Pure Reason and argue that while his philosophical argument against Kant fails, his metacritical argument remains suggestive. Scepticism about freedom arises when the standpoint of theoretical reason encroaches upon the standpoint of practical reason and assimilates persons to things. (shrink)
At the heart of the Stoic theory of modality is a strict commitment to bivalence, even for future contingents. A commitment to both future truth and contingency has often been thought paradoxical. This paper argues that the Stoic retreat from necessity is successful. it maintains that the Stoics recognized three distinct senses of necessity and possibility: logical, metaphysical and providential. Logical necessity consists of truths that are knowable a priori. Metaphysical necessity consists of truths that are knowable a posteriori, a (...) world order according to certain metaphysical principles and natures that god crafts within the constraints of matter. Finally, what is providentially necessary is what occurs according to the chain of fate, but only once it is in process or past. -/- The method of the paper is a close reading of Diogenes Laertius 7.75, adducing broad textual evidence along the way, to show that the Stoic theory of modality embraces Philonian possibility, both that which is capable of being true as a matter of logical consistency, and that which is possible according to the bare fitness of the entity. What differentiates the Stoics from Philo is their additional commitment to possibility as opportunity, resisting the collapse of determinism into necessity. (shrink)
It has been argued that in a deterministic universe, no one has any reason to do anything. Since we ought to do what we have most reason to do, no one ought to do anything either. Firstly, it is argued that an agent cannot have reason to do anything unless she can do otherwise; secondly, that the relevant ‘can’ is incompatibilist. In this paper, I argue that even if the first step of the argument for reason incompatibilism succeeds, the second (...) one does not. It is argued that reasons require alternative possibilities, because reasons are action-guiding. A supposed reason to do the impossible, or to do what was inevitable anyway, could not fill this function. I discuss different interpretations of the claim that reasons are action-guiding, and show that according to one interpretation it is sufficient that the agent believes that she has several alternative options. According to other interpretations, the agent must really have alternative options, but only in a compatibilist sense. I suggest that an interpretation of action-guidance according to which reasons can only guide actions when we have several options open to us in an incompatibilist sense cannot be found. We should therefore assume that reasons and obligations are compatible with determinism. (shrink)
Many philosophers think not only that we are free to act otherwise than we do, but also that we experience being free in this way. Terry Horgan argues that such experience is compatibilist: it is accurate even if determinism is true. According to Horgan, when people judge their experience as incompatibilist, they misinterpret it. While Horgan's position is attractive, it incurs significant theoretical costs. I sketch an alternative way to be a compatibilist about experiences of free agency that avoids (...) these costs. In brief, I assume that experiences of freedom have a sort of phenomenal content that is inaccurate if determinism is true, just as many incompatibilists claim. Still, I argue that these experiences also have another sort of phenomenal content that is normally accurate, even assuming determinism. (shrink)
This article focuses on three themes concerning determinism and indeterminism. The first theme is observational equivalence between deterministic and indeterministic models. Here I discuss several results about observational equivalence and present an argument on how to choose between deterministic and indeterministic models involving indirect evidence. The second theme is whether Newtonian physics is indeterministic. I argue that the answer depends on what one takes Newtonian mechanics to be, and I highlight how contemporary debates on this issue differ from those (...) in the nineteenth century. The third major theme is how the method of arbitrary functions can be used to make sense of deterministic probabilities. I discuss various ways of interpreting the initial probability distributions and argue that they are best understood as physical, biological etc. quantities characterising the particular situation at hand. Also, I emphasise that the method of arbitrary functions deserves more attention than it has received so far. (shrink)
This paper revisits the classical case of determinism and free will. This explication argues for compatibilism while accounting for what has been most often dismissed in the classic philosophical literature: knowledge. Although philosophy is engrossed with epistemology, it seems that we have overlooked the relevance of knowledge when speaking of free will and determinism. When analyzing the nature of knowledge, in adequate depth, we ultimately find an illustration of what we know as free will. Simultaneously, this illustration also (...) renders hard determinism untenable. It is concluded that knowledge relates to free will as follows: -/- 1. Having knowledge and not having knowledge are not equivalent statements. 2. That is to say, there is a difference between having knowledge and not having knowledge. 3. A difference in knowledge can occur in an agent from moment to moment. 4. A difference in knowledge for an agent can only be manifested if and only if such an agent has the capacity to acquire or lose such knowledge; to move from not having to having or vice versa. 5. We have the capacity to acquire knowledge. 6. Knowledge allows things to occur to you. 7. That which does occur to you to choose, you can be free to choose. 8. You can be free to choose. 9. Therefore, you can have free will. -/- . (shrink)
In the current philosophical literature, determinism is rarely defined explicitly. This paper attempts to show that there are in fact many forms of determinism, most of which are familiar, and that these can be differentiated according to their particular components. Recognizing the composite character of determinism is thus central to demarcating its various forms.
Incompatibilism, the view that free will and determinism are incompatible, subsists on two widely accepted, but deeply confused, theses concerning possibility and causation: (1) in a deterministic universe, one can never truthfully utter the sentence "I could have done otherwise," and (2) in such universes, one can never really take credit for having caused an event, since in fact all events have been predetermined by conditions during the universe's birth. Throughout the free will.
In his paper, "Free Choice, Incommensurable Goods and the Self-Refutation of Determinism,"' Joseph Boyle seeks to show how the argument for the self-refutation of determinism - first articulated over twenty-five years ago - is an argument whose force depends on (first) a proper understanding of just what free choice is, and (secondly) a proper understanding of how free choice is a principle of moral responsibility. According to Boyle, a person can make a genuinely free choice only if he (...) is presented with alternative options that are incommensurable in their goodness or desirability. If the goodness or desirability of alternative options could be commensurated, or compared in accordance with some common standard, then it would be possible in principle for a person to determine which of the two options offered more, and which offered less, of the same sort of good represented by the two options. But if this sort of commensuration or comparison were possible, according to Boyle, then there would really be no need to choose. Rather, the only task that would have to be performed in order to determine the person's selection among alternative options would be the task clarifying or calculating which of the alternative options offered most fully what it is that makes both options desirable in the first place. Once the clarification or calculation is done, there would be no need-and in fact, no possibility--of really choosing: the calculation alone would settle which option is the best option, and thus which option is to be selected. Now if genuinely free choice requires that the choosing person be presented with options that are incommensurable in goodness or desirability, then it also seems to be the case that genuine choice-and the moral responsibility that goes along with it-requires that the person be presented with alternative possibilities from which to choose. And yet some compatibilist thinkers have held that moral responsibility does not really require the presence of alternative possibilities. In particular, Harry G. Frankfurt has sought to show (by means of counter-example) that a person can be a moral agent and morally responsible, even if the person did not, in fact, have any alternative possibilities available to him (that is, even if the person could not have done otherwise). Frankfurt's counter-example offers a direct challenge to the sort of incompatibilism that Boyle seeks to defend; and so Boyle is quite right to address Frankfurt head-on. For if Frankfurt is right, then it is erroneous to hold "the principle of alternative possibilities" (the principle that a person can be morally responsible for what he has done, only if he had alternative possibilities, or only if he could have done otherwise). But if it is erroneous to hold the principle of alternative possibilities, then it also seems erroneous to hold the more robust position that Boyle wishes to defend: namely, the position that moral responsibility requires not only alternative possibilities, but also alternative possibilities representing options that are incommensurable in their goodness. (shrink)
Most of the free will debate operates under the assumption that classic determinism and indeterminism are the only metaphysical options available. Through an analysis of Dennett’s view of free will as gradually evolving this article attempts to point to emergentist, interactivist and temporal metaphysical options, which have been left largely unexplored by contemporary theorists. Whereas, Dennett himself holds that “the kind of free will worth wanting” is compatible with classic determinism, I propose that his models of determinism (...) fit poorly with his evolutionary theory and naturalist commitments. In particular, his so-called “intuition pumps” seem to rely on the assumption that reality will have a compositional bottom layer where appearance and reality coincide. I argue that instead of positing this and other “unexplained explainers” we should allow for the heretical possibility that there might not be any absolute bottom, smallest substances or universal laws, but relational interactions all the way down. Through the details of Dennett’s own account of the importance of horizontal transmission in evolution and the causal efficacy of epistemically limited but complex layered “selves,” it is argued that our autonomy is linked to the ability to affect reality by controlling appearances. (shrink)
Scott Sehon recently argued that the standard notion of determinism employed in the Consequence Argument makes it so that, if our world turns out to be deterministic, then an interventionist God is logically impossible. He further argues that because of this, we should revise our notion of determinism. In this paper I show that Sehon’s argument for the claim that the truth of determinism, in this sense, would make an interventionist God logically impossible ultimately fails. I then (...) offer and respond to a weaker version of the argument for the claim that we should revise our notion of determinism. (shrink)
In this paper I examine the foundations of Laplace's famous statement of determinism in 1814, and argue that rather than derived from his mechanics, this statement is based on general philosophical principles, namely the principle of sufficient reason and the law of continuity. It is usually supposed that Laplace's statement is based on the fact that each system in classical mechanics has an equation of motion which has a unique solution. But Laplace never proved this result, and in fact (...) he could not have proven it, since it depends on a theorem about uniqueness of solutions to differential equations that was only developed later on. I show that the idea that is at the basis of Laplace's determinism was in fact widespread in enlightenment France, and is ultimately based on a re-interpretation of Leibnizian metaphysics, specifically the principle of sufficient reason and the law of continuity. Since the law of continuity also lies at the basis of the application of differential calculus in physics, one can say that Laplace's determinism and the idea that systems in physics can be described by differential equations with unique solutions have a common foundation. (shrink)
This paper considers the empirical evidence that we currently have for various kinds of determinism that might be relevant to the thesis that human beings possess libertarian free will. Libertarianism requires a very strong version of indeterminism, so it can be refuted not just by universal determinism, but by some much weaker theses as well. However, it is argued that at present, we have no good reason to believe even these weak deterministic views and, hence, no good reason—at (...) least from this quarter—to doubt that we are libertarian free. In particular, the paper responds to various arguments for neural and psychological determinism, arguments based on the work of people like Honderich, Tegmark, Libet, Velmans, Wegner, and Festinger. (shrink)
In this fully revised and up-to-date edition of Ted Honderich's modern classic, he offers a concise and lively introduction to free will and the problem of determinism, advancing the debate on this key area of moral philosophy. Honderich sets out a determinist philosophy of mind, in response to the question, "Is there a really clear, consistent and complete version of determinism?" and asks instead if there is such a clear version of free will. He goes on to address (...) the question of whether determinism is true and finally asks, "What can we conclude about our lives if determinism is true?". (shrink)
At a first glance, and even at a second one, it seems that if time is linear the threat of determinism is more severe than if time is branching, since in the latter case the future is open in a way it is not in the former one where, so to speak, there exists only one branch – one future. In this paper, I want to give a 'third glance' at this claim. I acknowledge that such a claim is (...) intuitive (this is the first glance) and that it is also meaningfully and interestingly defended in recent literature where branching time is either said to imply indeterminism or at least to be compatible with it. To try to make my third glance as precise and as fleshed out as possible, I shall first concentrate on what 'branching' is or could be, and I shall discuss various versions and interpretations of this view. I shall then (more quickly) turn my attention to what determinism is or could be, and I will distinguish three (well-known) kinds of it – focusing mainly on 'metaphysical determinism'. Having these tools in hand, I will then ask (and answer) the question whether branching time helps with avoiding determinism or not. As we shall see, it is incorrect to think that under the branching hypothesis the threat of determinism is any smaller – rather, I will argue that if one has reasons to think that determinism is true, branching will not help, and that the issue of branching versus linear time is then actually neutral with respect to the question whether determinism or indeterminism is true. (shrink)
Education and Free Will critically assesses and makes use of Spinoza’s insights on human freedom to construe an account of education that is compatible with causal determinism without sacrificing the educational goal of increasing students’ autonomy and self-determination. Offering a thorough investigation into the philosophical position of causal determinism, Dahlbeck discusses Spinoza’s view of self-determination and presents his own suggestions for an education for autonomy from a causal determinist point of view. -/- The book begins by outlining the (...) free will problem in education, before expanding on a philosophical understanding of autonomy and how it is seen as an educational ideal. It considers Spinoza’s determinism and discusses his denial of moral responsibility. Later chapters consider the relationship between causal determinism and autonomy, the educational implications of understanding free will and how free will can be utilised as a valuable fiction in education. -/- This book will be of great interest to academics and postgraduate students in the field of education, especially those with an interest in moral education and philosophy of education. It will also be of interest to those in the fields of philosophy and psychology and specifically those focusing on the free will problem, on Spinoza studies, and on the relation between moral psychology and external influence. (shrink)
I argue that the Buddha did not discuss the free will and determinism problem because he only considered issues relating to overcoming suffering and his teaching about this did not raise the problem. As represented in the Nikāyas, the heart of his teaching was an empirically based account of the causes of suffering and how to modify these to end suffering. It was primarily a practical teaching about how to achieve this goal, more a craft knowledge than a philosophical (...) theory of causality. Similarly, the no-self teaching was more about living selflessly than about developing a theoretical analysis of agency. (shrink)
Bell’s Theorem from Physics 36:1–28 (1964) and the (Strong) Free Will Theorem of Conway and Kochen from Notices AMS 56:226–232 (2009) both exclude deterministic hidden variable theories (or, in modern parlance, ‘ontological models’) that are compatible with some small fragment of quantum mechanics, admit ‘free’ settings of the archetypal Alice and Bob experiment, and satisfy a locality condition akin to parameter independence. We clarify the relationship between these theorems by giving reformulations of both that exactly pinpoint their resemblance and their (...) differences. Our reformulation imposes determinism in what we see as the only consistent way, in which the ‘ontological state’ initially determines both the settings and the outcome of the experiment. The usual status of the settings as ‘free’ parameters is subsequently recovered from independence assumptions on the pertinent (random) variables. Our reformulation also clarifies the role of the settings in Bell’s later generalization of his theorem to stochastic hidden variable theories. (shrink)
This article illustrates in which sense genetic determinism is still part of the contemporary interactionist consensus in medicine. Three dimensions of this consensus are discussed: kinds of causes, a continuum of traits ranging from monogenetic diseases to car accidents, and different kinds of determination due to different norms of reaction. On this basis, this article explicates in which sense the interactionist consensus presupposes the innate?acquired distinction. After a descriptive Part 1, Part 2 reviews why the innate?acquired distinction is under (...) attack in contemporary philosophy of biology. Three arguments are then presented to provide a limited and pragmatic defense of the distinction: an epistemic, a conceptual, and a historical argument. If interpreted in a certain manner, and if the pragmatic goals of prevention and treatment (ideally specifying what medicine and health care is all about) are taken into account, then the innate?acquired distinction can be a useful epistemic tool. It can help, first, to understand that genetic determination does not mean fatalism, and, second, to maintain a system of checks and balances in the continuing nature?nurture debates. (shrink)
This article begins with some brief reflexions on the definition of determinism (II), on the notion of the subject of experience (III), and on the relation between conscious experience and brain events (IV). The main discussion (V?XIII) focuses on the traditional view, endorsed by Honderich in his book A Theory of Determinism, that the truth of determinism poses some special threat to our ordinary conception of ourselves as morally responsible free agents (and also to our ?life?hopes'). It (...) is argued that this is half right: the truth of determinism does indeed threaten certain vital parts of our ordinary conception of ourselves as morally responsible free agents. The trouble is that the falsity of determinism does not diminish the threat in any useful way. The old, natural, and recurrent mistake is to think that we would really be better off, so far as free will and moral responsibility (and our ?life?hopes') were concerned, if determinism were false. It is argued that there is no important sense in which this is true, and that the question of whether determinism is true or false is therefore of no real importance, so far as the free will debate is concerned. (shrink)
In his classic paper, The Principle of Alternate Possibilities, Harry Frankfurt presented counterexamples to the principle named in his title: A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. He went on to argue that the falsity of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) implied that the debate between the compatibilists and the incompatibilists (as regards determinism and the ability to do otherwise) did not have the significance that both parties had (...) attributed to it -- since moral responsibility could exist even if no one was able to do otherwise. I have argued that even if PAP is false, there are other principles that imply that moral responsibility entails the ability to do otherwise, and that these principles are immune to Frankfurt-style counterexamples. Frankfurt has attempted to show that my arguments for this conclusion fail. This paper is a rejoinder to that reply; I argue that he has failed to show this. (shrink)
The fact that there exist in nature thoroughly deterministic systems whose future behavior cannot be predicted, no matter how advanced or fined-tune our cognitive and technical abilities turn out to be, has been well established over the last decades or so, essentially in the light of two different theoretical frameworks, namely chaos theory and (some deterministic interpretation of) quantum mechanics. The prime objective of this paper is to show that there actually exists an alternative strategy to ground the divorce between (...)determinism and predictability, a way that is older than—and conceptually independent from—chaos theory and quantum mechanics, and which has not received much attention in the recent philosophical literature about determinism. This forgotten strategy—embedded in the doctrine called “emergent evolutionism”—is nonetheless far from being a mere historical curiosity that should only draw the attention of philosophers out of their concern for comprehensiveness. It has been indeed recently revived in the works of respected scientists. (shrink)
In his Philosophical Inquiry concerning Human Liberty (1717), the English deist Anthony Collins proposed a complete determinist account of the human mind and action, partly inspired by his mentor Locke, but also by elements from Bayle, Leibniz and other Continental sources. It is a determinism which does not neglect the question of the specific status of the mind but rather seeks to provide a causal account of mental activity and volition in particular; it is a ‘volitional determinism’. Some (...) decades later, Diderot articulates a very similar determinism, which seeks to recognize the existence of “causes proper to man” (as he says in the Réfutation d’Helvétius). The difference with Collins is that now biological factors are being taken into account. Obviously both the ‘volitional’ and the ‘biological’ forms of determinism are noteworthy inasmuch as they change our picture of the nature of determinism itself, but my interest here is to compare these two determinist arguments, both of which are broadly Spinozist in nature – and as such belong to what Jonathan Israel called in his recent book “the radical Enlightenment,” i.e. a kind of underground Enlightenment constituted by Spinozism – and to see how Collins’ specifically psychological vision and Diderot’s specifically biological vision correspond to their two separate national contexts: determinism in France in the mid-1750s was a much more medico-biological affair than English determinism, which appears to be on a ‘path’ leading to Mill and associationist psychology. (shrink)
In this paper I consider the view, held by some Thomistic thinkers, that divine determinism is compatible with human freedom, even though natural determinism is not. After examining the purported differences between divine and natural determinism, I discuss the Consequence Argument, which has been put forward to establish the incompatibility of natural determinism and human freedom. The Consequence Argument, I note, hinges on the premise that an action ultimately determined by factors outside of the actor’s control (...) is not free. Since, I argue, divine determinism also entails that human actions are ultimately determined by factors outside of the actors’ control, I suggest that a parallel argument to the Consequence Argument can be constructed for the incompatibility of divine determinism and human freedom. I conclude that those who reject natural compatibilism on the basis of the Consequence Argument should also reject divine compatibilism. (shrink)
The basis of stoic determinism (a) : everything has a cause -- The basis of stoic determinism (b) : causation is necessitating -- The threat of external determination -- Reflection and responsibility -- The three compatibilist theories of Chrysippus -- Epictetus on responsibility for unreflective action.
Łukasiewicz has often been criticized for his motive for inventing his three-valued logic, namely the avoidance of determinism. First of all, I want to show that almost all of the critcism along this line was wrong. Second I will indicate that he made mistakes, however, in constructing his system, because he had other motives at the same time. Finally I will propose some modification of his system and its interpretation which can attain his original purpose in some sense.
The paper considers the claim that quantum theories with a deterministic dynamics of objects in ordinary space-time, such as Bohmian mechanics, contradict the assumption that the measurement settings can be freely chosen in the EPR experiment. That assumption is one of the premises of Bell’s theorem. I first argue that only a premise to the effect that what determines the choice of the measurement settings is independent of what determines the past state of the measured system is needed for the (...) derivation of Bell’s theorem. Determinism as such does not undermine that independence . Only entanglement could do so. However, generic entanglement without collapse on the level of the universal wave-function can go together with effective wave-functions for subsystems of the universe, as in Bohmian mechanics. The paper argues that such effective wave-functions are sufficient for the mentioned independence premise to hold. (shrink)