Probability and indeterminism have always been core philosophical themes. This paper aims to contribute to understanding probability and indeterminism in biology. To provide the background for the paper, it will first be argued that an omniscient being would not need the probabilities of evolutionary theory to make predictions about biological processes. However, despite this, one can still be a realist about evolutionary theory, and then the probabilities in evolutionary theory refer to real features of the world. This prompts (...) the question of how to interpret biological probabilities which correspond to real features of the world but are in principle dispensable for predictive purposes. This paper will suggest three possible interpretations. The first interpretation is a propensity interpretation of kinds of systems. It will be argued that backward probabilities in biology do not present a problem for this propensity interpretation. The second interpretation is the frequency interpretation. Third, I will suggest Humean chances are a new interpretation of probability in evolutionary theory. Finally, this paper discusses Sansom’s argument that biological processes are indeterministic because probabilities in evolutionary theory refer to real features of the world. It will be argued that Sansom’s argument is not conclusive, and that the question whether biological processes are deterministic or indeterministic is still with us. (shrink)
The problem of indeterminism in quantum mechanics usually being considered as a generalization determinism of classical mechanics and physics for the case of discrete (quantum) changes is interpreted as an only mathematical problem referring to the relation of a set of independent choices to a well-ordered series therefore regulated by the equivalence of the axiom of choice and the well-ordering “theorem”. The former corresponds to quantum indeterminism, and the latter, to classical determinism. No other premises (besides the above (...) only mathematical equivalence) are necessary to explain how the probabilistic causation of quantum mechanics refers to the unambiguous determinism of classical physics. The same equivalence underlies the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics. It merged the well-ordered components of the vectors of Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics and the non-ordered members of the wave functions of Schrödinger’s undulatory mechanics. The mathematical condition of that merging is just the equivalence of the axiom of choice and the well-ordering theorem implying in turn Max Born’s probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics. Particularly, energy conservation is justified differently than classical physics. It is due to the equivalence at issue rather than to the principle of least action. One may involve two forms of energy conservation corresponding whether to the smooth changes of classical physics or to the discrete changes of quantum mechanics. Further both kinds of changes can be equated to each other under the unified energy conservation as well as the conditions for the violation of energy conservation to be investigated therefore directing to a certain generalization of energy conservation. (shrink)
The paper presents philosophical views which have been propagated in the first decade of the 20 th -century by Austrian experimental physicist Franz-Serafin Exner. According to Exner all apparently deterministic laws are only a kind of the macroscopic limit of the indeterministic random events and processes in nature. The paper attempts to show whether Exner’s ideas have influenced the views on randomness and probability developed by renowned Polish physicist Marian Smoluchowski who belonged to informal circle of Exner’s students and assistants.
The theory of agency has been put forward to avoid the charge that uncaused actions are capricious. I argue that the introduction of agency does not remove the capriciousness that uncaused actions are said to have, because free actions, even with agency, still must possess those characteristics that the indeterminist’s uncaused actions possess: having no sufficient condition, and being able to be different even if all prior happenings and circumstances were the same. Moreover, an appeal to goals and purposes, though (...) blunting the charge of capriciousness, does not show how agency removes capriciousness, for the indeterminist can make the same appeal without mentioning agency. What I say does not refute the theory of agency, but only the claim that agency removes capriciousness from uncaused actions. (shrink)
This paper argues for a claim made by Maria Carla Galavotti that the use of indeterministic causality involves one in Simpson's paradox. It is shown specifically that a consideration of Hesslow's well-known counter-example leads to Simpson's paradox.
Indeterminism of quantum mechanics is considered as an immediate corollary from the theorems about absence of hidden variables in it, and first of all, the Kochen – Specker theorem. The base postulate of quantum mechanics formulated by Niels Bohr that it studies the system of an investigated microscopic quantum entity and the macroscopic apparatus described by the smooth equations of classical mechanics by the readings of the latter implies as a necessary condition of quantum mechanics the absence of hidden (...) variables, and thus, quantum indeterminism. Consequently, the objectivity of quantum mechanics and even its possibility and ability to study its objects as they are by themselves imply quantum indeterminism. The so-called free-will theorems in quantum mechanics elucidate that the “valuable commodity” of free will is not a privilege of the experimenters and human beings, but it is shared by anything in the physical universe once the experimenter is granted to possess free will. The analogical idea, that e.g. an electron might possess free will to “decide” what to do, scandalized Einstein forced him to exclaim (in a letter to Max Born in 2016) that he would be а shoemaker or croupier rather than a physicist if this was true. Anyway, many experiments confirmed the absence of hidden variables and thus quantum indeterminism in virtue of the objectivity and completeness of quantum mechanics. Once quantum mechanics is complete and thus an objective science, one can ask what this would mean in relation to classical physics and its objectivity. In fact, it divides disjunctively what possesses free will from what does not. Properly, all physical objects belong to the latter area according to it, and their “behavior” is necessary and deterministic. All possible decisions, on the contrary, are concentrated in the experimenters (or human beings at all), i.e. in the former domain not intersecting the latter. One may say that the cost of the determinism and unambiguous laws of classical physics, is the indeterminism and free will of the experimenters and researchers (human beings) therefore necessarily being out of the scope and objectivity of classical physics. This is meant as the “deterministic subjectivity of classical physics” opposed to the “indeterminist objectivity of quantum mechanics”. (shrink)
In recent years, as the enterprise of speculative metaphysics has attained a newfound measure of respectability, incompatibilist philosophers who are inclined to think that freedom of action is not only possible, but actual, have re-emerged to take on the formidable task of providing a satisfactory indeterministic account of the connections among an agent's freedom to do otherwise, her reasons, and her control over her act. In this paper, I want to examine three of these proposals, all of which give novel (...) twists to familiar themes. I will argue that despite the considerable ingenuity these philosophers evince, their attempts do not succeed. A common criticism of these theories will be that they fail to give a satisfactory account of what I term "agent-control," a certain feature of actions whose presence I take to be a central requirement for any workable model of responsible agency. I believe that the general notion I try to capture under this label is implicit in much of the voluminous discussion of the problem of free will (especially in compatibilist criticisms of libertarianism), although I am unaware of any explicit formulations of it in just the way I have in mind. Simply put, agent-control is that feature of the process of agency that accounts for how a particular piece of behavior is connected to, or an 'outflowing of, the agent, i.e., that which allows us properly to assert that the action was controlled by the agent. (shrink)
Originally published in 1934, this book presents the content of an inaugural lecture delivered by the British philosopher Charles Dunbar Broad, upon taking up the position of Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge University. The text presents a discussion of the relationship between determinism, indeterminism and libertarianism. This book will be of value to anyone with an interest in the writings of Broad and the history of philosophy.
One of the fundamental questions of life sciences is one of whether there are genuinely random biological processes. An affirmative or negative answer to this question may have important methodological consequences. It appears that a number of biological processes are explicitly classified as random. One of them is the so-called somatic hypermutation. However, closer analysis of somatic hypermutation reveals that it is not a genuinely random process. Somatic hypermutation is called random because the exact outcome of this process is difficult (...) to predict in practice. The case of somatic hypermutation suggests that there may be no scientific evidence of a single case of ontologically random process in the biological world. (shrink)
Most physics theories are deterministic, with the notable exception of quantum mechanics which, however, comes plagued by the so-called measurement problem. This state of affairs might well be due to the inability of standard mathematics to “speak” of indeterminism, its inability to present us a worldview in which new information is created as time passes. In such a case, scientific determinism would only be an illusion due to the timeless mathematical language scientists use. To investigate this possibility it is (...) necessary to develop an alternative mathematical language that is both powerful enough to allow scientists to compute predictions and compatible with indeterminism and the passage of time. We suggest that intuitionistic mathematics provides such a language and we illustrate it in simple terms. (shrink)
This book uses the concepts of freedom, indeterminism, and fallibilism to solve, in a unified way, problems of free will, knowledge, reasoning, rationality, personhood, ethics and politics. Presenting an overarching theory of human freedom, Frederick argues for an account of free will as the capacity for undetermined acts. Knowledge, rationality, and reasoning, both theoretical and practical, as well as personhood, morality and political authority, are all shown to be dependent at their roots on indeterminism and fallibility, and to (...) be connected to individual freedom. Thought-provoking and original, Frederick’s theory of freedom examines a broad spectrum of issues, from the distinction between persons and other animals, to the purpose of the state and political authority. Offering a bold and succinct conspectus of the philosophy of freedom, this book makes surprising connections between perennial issues across the field of philosophy. (shrink)
The general question to which Edwards here addresses himself is "whether any event whatsoever, and volition in particular, can come to pass without a cause of its existence," and among other arguments for a negative answer he has a reductio ad absurdum, arguing that if an act of will can occur without a cause, then anything at all, no matter how fantastic, can occur without a cause. There is, he says in effect, an inner contradiction in the notion that uncaused (...) events are bound always to be acts of will. We must note, however, in following his argument through, that his language is not quite that which I have just used, and in particular he does not speak primarily of what "occurs" but rather of what "begins to be." He says. (shrink)
I assess Robert Kane's view that global Frankfurt-type cases don't show that freedom to do otherwise is never required for moral responsibility. I first adumbrate Kane's indeterminist account of free will.This will help us grasp Kane's notion of ultimate responsibility, and his claim that in a global Frankfurt-type case, the counterfactual intervener could not control all of the relevant agent's actions in the Frankfurt manner, and some of those actions would be such that the agent could have done otherwise. Appealing (...) to considerations of responsibility and luck, I then show that the global cases survive Kane's objections. (shrink)
This paper continues an earlier investigation into the philosophical tradition of Vienna Indeterminism until the formation of the Vienna Circle in 1929. It focuses in particular on how Philipp Frank and Richard von Mises were able to contemplate genuine indeterminism in physics before the advent of quantum mechanics. On this account, all apparently deterministic laws could well be the macroscopic limit of indeterministic basic laws valid for the single mirco-events. Philosophically Vienna Indeterminism was launched by Mach's redefinition (...) of causality in terms of functional dependencies. This severed the rigid bond between causality and empirical realism characteristic of the Kantian conception and made possible to adjust the ontology according to the needs of a single theory. The debates between Max Planck and Franz Serafin Exner teach that the indeterminism issue was also a struggle about Boltzmann's philosophical legacy between Vienna and Berlin. Quite in line with Mach's firm empiricism, Vienna Indeterminists rejected any final decision between determinism and indeterminism on the metaphysical level. Once the frequency interpretation had won favor, the empiricist stance, moreover, permitted them to consider mass phenomena as generic observational facts coordinated to statistical collectives and to treat them on a par with moving point particles. The only condition imposed on this ontology was the uniqueness of this coordination, a condition that could be viewed as a late heir of Mach's principle of unique determination which had complemented his relational ontology. (shrink)
I examine some philosophical arguments as well as current empirical research in molecular neurobiology in order to throw some new light on the question of whether neurological processes are deterministic or indeterministic. I begin by showing that the idea of an autonomous biological indeterminism violates the principle of the supervenience of biological properties on physical properties. If supervenience is accepted, quantum mechanics is the only hope for the neuro-indeterminist. But this would require that indeterministic quantum-mechanical effects play a role (...) in the functioning of the nervous system. I examine several candidates of molecular processes where this could, in theory, be the case. It turns out that there is good news from recent work on ion channels. Unfortunately (for the indeterminist), this good news is neutralised at once by bad news. (shrink)
This article articulates and defends an indeterministic weightings model of libertarian free will. It begins by defining the conception of free will at issue and then goes on to present versions of the luck objection which is often made against theories of LFW. It is argued that the sort of indeterministic weightings model of LFW which has been defended in the recent literature by Storrs McCall and E.J. Lowe and John Lemos has the resources to answer such luck objections while (...) possessing virtues which some other libertarian views lack. According to the indeterministic weightings model of LFW, in making undetermined free-willed choices between two courses of action, A or B, the reasons for choosing each option don’t come with pre-established evaluative weights. During the process of deliberation, the agent assigns weight in an undetermined way to the reasons for each option and this typically leads to the choice of the option that has been assigned a greater value. In the paper, it is not only argued that this theory can resolve worries about luck but also that the view has virtues which certain other libertarian views lack, as such the view is contrasted with the modest libertarian models of LFW from Daniel Dennett and Alfred Mele as well as Robert Kane’s view. (shrink)
The paper defends an Aristotelian notion of indeterminism, as rigorously formulated in the framework of branching space-times (BST) of Belnap (1992), against the model-theoretic characterization of indeterminism that Montague (1962) introduced into the philosophy of science. It delineates BST branching against the background provided by Earman's (2008) distinction between individual vs. ensemble branching. It describes a construction of physically-motivated BST models, in which histories are isomorphic to Minkowski spacetime. Finally it responds to criticism leveled against BST by addressing (...) some semantical questions, a topological issue, and the past/future asymmetry. (shrink)
In "The Indeterministic Character of Evolutionary Theory: No 'Hidden Variables Proof' But No Room for Determinism Either," Brandon and Carson (1996) argue that evolutionary theory is statistical because the processes it describes are fundamentally statistical. In "Is Indeterminism the Source of the Statistical Character of Evolutionary Theory?" Graves, Horan, and Rosenberg (1999) argue in reply that the processes of evolutionary biology are fundamentally deterministic and that the statistical character of evolutionary theory is explained by epistemological rather than ontological considerations. (...) In this paper I focus on the topic of mutation. By focusing on some of the theory and research on this topic from early to late, I show how quantum indeterminism hooks up to point mutations (via tautomeric shifts, proton tunneling, and aqueous thermal motion). I conclude with a few thoughts on some of the wider implications of this topic. (shrink)
I first adumbrate pertinent aspectsof Robert Kane''s libertarian theory of free choice oraction and an objection of luck that has been levelledagainst the theory. I then consider Kane''s recentresponses to this objection. To meet these responses,I argue that the view that undetermined choices (ofthe sort implied by Kane''s theory) are a matter ofluck is associated with a view about actionexplanation, to wit: when Jones does A and hisdoing of A is undetermined, and when hiscounterpart, Jones*, in the nearest possibleworld in (...) which the past and the laws are held constantuntil the moment of choice does B instead, thereis no explanation (deterministic or indeterministic)of the difference in outcome – Jones''s A-ing butJones*''s B-ing – in terms of prior reasonsor motives of either agent. Absence of such anexplanation is one crucial factor that underliesthe charge that Jones''s A-ing and Jones*''sB-ing are matters of luck. I argue that thissort of luck is incompatible with responsibility. (shrink)
A common criticism of free will or origination theories is that if what we do is not the result of an unbroken sequence of causes and effects, then it must to some degree be the product of chance. But in what sense can a chance act be intentional or deliberate, in what sense can it be based on reasons, and in what sense can a person be held responsible for it? If free and responsible action is incompatible with determinism, must (...) it not equally well be incompatible with indeterminism? Professor McCall says no. He argues that a new idea, that of a controlled indeterministic process, resolves a variety of classical dilemmas and opens the way to a new understanding of the relationship between actions, reasons, causes, and responsibility. Does he succeed? All of this, like a related line of argument by Professor McCann to which you can turn, is a long way from what seems to me the continuing arguableness of determinism and the unavoidableness of the proposition that both incompatibilism and compatibilism about freedom are false. But we all need to remember, with Cromwell, in our own bowels if not by those of Christ, that we may be mistaken. I guess that given the proportion of false to true views in the world, we need to remember it is arguable that we are more likely to be mistaken. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to prove the consistency of libertarianism. We examine the example of Jane, who deliberates at length over whether to vacation in Colorado or Hawaii, weighing the costs and benefits, consulting travel brochures, etc. Underlying phenomenological deliberation is an indeterministic neural process in which nonactual motor neural states n and n corresponding to alternatives C and H remain physically possible up until the moment of decision. The neurophysiological probabilities pr) and pr) evolve continuously according to (...) the different weights Jane’s judgement attaches to C and H at different times during the deliberation. The overall process is indeterministic, since Jane’s exact judgemental weighting would vary slightly were the process to be repeated from the same initial conditions. The weighting is however rational, and entirely under Jane’s control. This controlled, rational, indeterministic process shows that libertarianism is a consistent philosophical thesis. (shrink)
A view that emancipates free will by means of quantum indeterminism is frequently rejected based on arguments pointing out its incompatibility with what we know about quantum physics. However, if one carefully examines what classical physical causal determinism and quantum indeterminism are according to physics, it becomes clear what they really imply–and, especially, what they do not imply–for agent-causation theories. Here, we will make necessary conceptual clarifications on some aspects of physical determinism and indeterminism, review some of (...) the major objections against libertarian conjectures, and show that there is no conceptual incompatibility preventing us from taking a ‘quantum-libertarian’ approach to the problem of free will. In particular, we will illustrate the possible role of self-causation (causa sui) as a potential solution to otherwise apparently incompatible or even paradoxical statements concerning free will and quantum indeterminism. (shrink)
Many contemporary compatibilists about free will and determinism are agnostic about whether determinism is true, yet do not doubt that we have free will. They are thus committed to the thesis that free will is compatible with both determinism and indeterminism. This paper explores the prospects for this version of compatibilism, including its response to the argument that indeterminism would introduce an element of randomness or chance or luck that is inimical to free will and moral responsibility.
The aim of the paper is to prove the consistency of libertarianism. We examine the example of Jane, who deliberates at length over whether to vacation in Colorado (C) or Hawaii (H), weighing the costs and benefits, consulting travel brochures, etc. Underlying phenomenological deliberation is an indeterministic neural process in which nonactual motor neural states n(C) and n(H) corresponding to alternatives C and H remain physically possible up until the moment of decision. The neurophysiological probabilities pr(n(C)) and pr(n(H)) evolve continuously (...) according to the different weights Jane's judgement attaches to C and H at different times during the deliberation. The overall process is indeterministic, since Jane's exact judgemental weighting would vary slightly were the process to be repeated from the same initial conditions. The weighting is however rational, and entirely under Jane's control. This controlled, rational, indeterministic process shows that libertarianism is a consistent philosophical thesis. (shrink)
The causal Markov condition (CMC) plays an important role in much recent work on the problem of causal inference from statistical data. It is commonly thought that the CMC is a more problematic assumption for genuinely indeterministic systems than for deterministic ones. In this essay, I critically examine this proposition. I show how the usual motivation for the CMC—that it is true of any acyclic, deterministic causal system in which the exogenous variables are independent—can be extended to the indeterministic case. (...) In light of this result, I consider several arguments for supposing indeterminism a particularly hostile environment for the CMC, but conclude that none are persuasive. Introduction Functional models and directed graphs The causal Markov theorem The causal Markov theorem and genuine indeterminism Are the exogenous variables independent? EPR Conclusion. (shrink)
The present paper studies a specific way of addressing the question whether the laws involving the basic constituents of nature are statistical. While most German physicists, above all Planck, treated the issues of determinism and causality within a Kantian framework, the tradition which I call Vienna Indeterminism began from Mach’s reinterpretation of causality as functional dependence. This severed the bond between causality and realism because one could no longer avail oneself of a priori categories as a criterion for empirical (...) reality. Hence, an independent reality criterion had to be sought, a problem which all three physicists to be studied solved in different ways that were mainly conditioned by their different concepts of probability. In order to prevent a dissipation of intuited facts, Mach had to resort to a principle of unique determination as his reality criterion, especially when discussing the Principle of Least Action. Giving theories more independence, Boltzmann understood atomism as property reduction to precisely defined theoretical entities and their interactions. While this served as a relative reality criterion, he also advocated a constructivist one because atomism was already implied by our finitary reasoning power. Finally, Exner contemplated the idea that all apparently deterministic laws are only a macroscopic limit of an irreducible indeterminism, because by adopting the frequency interpretation, observable collectives could be considered as the real basic entities. (shrink)
Evidence from experimental philosophy indicates that people think that their choices are not determined. What remains unclear is why people think this. Denying determinism is rather presumptuous given people’s general ignorance about the nature of the universe. In this paper, I’ll argue that the belief in indeterminism depends on a default presumption that we know the factors that influence our decision making. That presumption was reasonable at earlier points in intellectual history. But in light of work in cognitive science, (...) we are no longer justified in sustaining the presupposition that we know what influences our choices. As a result, I’ll suggest, our belief in indeterminist choice is unjustified. (shrink)
A set of axioms implicitly defining the standard, though not instant-based but interval-based, time topology is used as a basis to build a temporal modal logic of events. The whole apparatus contains neither past, present, and future operators nor indexicals, but only B-series relations and modal operators interpreted in the standard way. Determinism and indeterminism are then introduced into the logic of events via corresponding axioms. It is shown that, if determinism and indeterminism are understood in accordance with (...) their core meaning, the way in which they are formally introduced here represents the only right way to do this, given that we restrict ourselves to one real world and make no use of the many real worlds assumption. But then the result is that the very truth conditions for sentences about indeterministic events imply the existence of tensed truths, in spite of the fact that these conditions are formulated (in the indeterministic axiom) in terms of tenseless language. The tenseless theory of time implies determinism, while indeterminism requires the flow of time assumption. (shrink)
Two initially different arguments for indeterminism are often based either upon the Uncertainty Relations or the statistical interpretation of the wave equation of quantum mechanics. Both arguments ultimately involve three factors: (1) the assumption that elementary entities are enough like classical particles for it to make sense to say they are either determined or indetermined, (2) the fact that no exact measurements are possible of quantities supposed to characterize elementary entities, (3) the pragmatic supposition that determinism is false unless (...) exact predictions are theoretically possible. If it is legitimate to use (3) to prove indeterminism, then an equally legitimate argument can be based upon (2) which denies (1). Thus, it is doubtful that quantum mechanics supports indeterminism, though it may show that the concepts of 'determined' and 'indetermined' are inapplicable to the world. (shrink)
It is a commonplace of philosophy that the notion of free will is a hard nut to crack. A simple, compelling argument can be made to show that behavior for which an agent is morally responsible cannot be the outcome of prior determining causal factors.1 Yet the smug satisfaction with which we incompatibilists are prone to trot out this argument has a tendency to turn to embarrassment when we're asked to explain just how it is that morally responsible action might (...) obtain under the assumption of indeterminism. Despair over the prospect of giving a satisfactory answer to this question has led some contemporary philosophers to a position rarely, if ever, held in the history of philosophy: free, responsible action is an incoherent concept.2. (shrink)
A suspicion about libertarian free will is that freedom is undermined, rather than supported, by the positing of indeterminism within processes of volition. In response, this paper presents a way in which moments of indeterminism can enhance freedom, by showing how such moments can genuinely belong to the agent. The key idea is that of putting the imagination to work in the service of free agency. The suggestion is that indeterministic processes of imaginative generativity can both belong to (...) an agent, and provide a ground for claims of freedom. In contrast to Robert Kane’s libertarian proposal of locating critical self-forming actions in special moments of rational choice, freedom-friendly indeterministic moments of self-shaping are instead posited within processes of imaginative generativity in which our future possibilities are imagined. This incompatibilist alternative to traditional libertarianism is briefly compared to Mele’s modest libertarianism, and defended against a selection of likely criticisms. (shrink)
This article focuses on philosophical views that attempt to explain widespread belief in indeterministic choice by following a strategy that harkens back at least to Spinoza. According to this Spinozan strategy, people draw an inference from the absence of experiences of determined choice to the belief in indeterministic choice. Accounts of this kind are historically liable to overgeneralization. The pair of accounts defended in Shaun Nichols’ recent book, Bound: Essays on Free Will and Responsibility, are the most complete and empirically (...) plausible representatives of this strategy. I argue that both accounts ultimately fail, and overgeneralization worries remain for Spinozan strategists. (shrink)
In this fictitious dialogue, it is shown that there are three kinds of freedom, each of which, though non-trivially different from the other two, is identical with the subject's being appropriately constitutive of a causally cohesive structure of some kind or other. Analogues of this point are proven to hold not just of personal freedom, but also of personal identity, and not just of personal identity, but also of objectual identity.
It is usual to identify initial conditions of classical dynamical systems with mathematical real numbers. However, almost all real numbers contain an infinite amount of information. I argue that a finite volume of space can’t contain more than a finite amount of information, hence that the mathematical real numbers are not physically relevant. Moreover, a better terminology for the so-called real numbers is “random numbers”, as their series of bits are truly random. I propose an alternative classical mechanics, which is (...) empirically equivalent to classical mechanics, but uses only finite-information numbers. This alternative classical mechanics is non-deterministic, despite the use of deterministic equations, in a way similar to quantum theory. Interestingly, both alternative classical mechanics and quantum theories can be supplemented by additional variables in such a way that the supplemented theory is deterministic. Most physicists straightforwardly supplement classical theory with real numbers to which they attribute physical existence, while most physicists reject Bohmian mechanics as supplemented quantum theory, arguing that Bohmian positions have no physical reality. (shrink)
The main goal of this paper is to contribute to the clarification of the dialectics between compatibilists and incompatibilists on free action. I describe a new incompatibilist position that has been neglected in the literature. I also provide a proper rationale for such a position. First, I present a justification for incompatibilism that is composed of an old idea and a new one. The old idea is the FRAP principle: freedom requires alternative possibilities. Compatibilists and incompatibilists alike usually share a (...) Key Assumption about how the open alternative possibilities allowed by indeterminism are supposed to support the libertarian case: the existence of alternative possibilities should make a metaphysically relevant difference concerning the control and/or the authorship of the agent over the action. The other component in the justification for incompatibilism is the rejection of the Key Assumption. Why to preserve FRAP when the Key Assumption is dropped? The answer has three parts: we have a strong pre-theoretical intuition in favour of FRAP; a crucial anti-libertarian argument, known as the Luck Argument, can be interpreted as showing that FRAP and the Key Assumption cannot both be true; the Luck Argument doesn't work when directed against FRAP itself. (shrink)
Does the brain behave indeterministically? I argue that accounting for ion channels, key functional units in the brain, requires indeterministic models. These models are probabilistic, so the brain does behave indeterministically in a weak sense. I explore the implications of this point for a stronger sense of indeterminism. Ultimately I argue that it is not possible, either empirically or through philosophical argument, to show that the brain is indeterministic in that stronger sense.
Although free will compatibilists are typically focused on arguing that determinism is compatible with free will, most compatibilists also think that indeterminism is compatible with free will too—and I am one of those compatibilists. In this chapter, I will look at this issue from the perspective of a compatibilist view I have defended elsewhere : a view that takes our freedom to be a function of the actual causal histories of our behavior. In the first part of the chapter (...) I argue that, assuming this view, it follows that indeterminism is in fact compatible with free will. Still, the assumption of indeterminism gives rise to some novel and interesting questions concerning the nature of indeterministic causation. The second part of the chapter is concerned with motivating and discussing those questions. (shrink)
Carl G. Hempel's doctrine of essential epistemic relativization of inductive-statistical explanation seems to entail the unintelligibility of the notion of objective homogeneity of reference classes. This discussion note explores the question of whether, as a consequence, essential epistemic relativization also entails the unintelligibility of the doctrine of indeterminism.
The pairing argument aims to demonstrate the impossibility of non-spatial objects (including minds) standing in causal relations. Its chief premises are (roughly) that causation requires pairing relations between causes and effects and that pairing relations require spatial relations. Critics have argued that the first claim suffers from counterexamples involving indeterministic causation. After briefly rehearsing the pairing argument and the objection from indeterministic causation, I offer two ways of revising the pairing argument to meet the objection from indeterministic causation.
I think it is clear that we must not take partial determination as meaning that our free acts consist of two parts, one of which is completely determined and the other not influenced by causation at all. Apart from the difficulty of carrying out such a division in detail, there is the fatal objection that we could in that case not even regard it as more probable than not that a person who had shown high moral character would continue to (...) do so as regards any future free action. For the only free, and therefore the only moral part of his action, would be one with which causation had nothing to do. Nor could we suppose that the free part of his action was at all influenced by motives, even the motive of regard for the moral law. For influence involves partial causation. (shrink)