"This is an important book, and no one interested in issues which touch on the free will will want to ignore it."--Ethics. In this stimulating and thought-provoking book, the author defends the thesis that free will is incompatible with determinism. He disputes the view that determinism is necessary for moral responsbility. Finding no good reason for accepting determinism, but believing moral responsiblity to be indubitable, he concludes that determinism should be rejected.
In this essay I present what is, I contend, the free-will problem properly thought through, or at least presented in a form in which it is possible to think about it without being constantly led astray by bad terminology and confused ideas. Bad terminology and confused ideas are not uncommon in current discussions of the problem. The worst such pieces of terminology are "libertarian free will" and "compatibilist free will." The essay consists partly of a defense of the thesis that (...) the use of these phrases by writers on the problem of free will can only generate conceptual confusion and partly of a formulation of the problem that does not make use of them. I contend that this formulation is neutral with respect to the historically important positions on free will (e. g., compatibilism and incompatibilism). (shrink)
This paper has two parts. In the first part, I concede an error in an argument I have given for the incompatibility of free will and determinism. I go on to show how to modify my argument so as to avoid this error, and conclude that the thesis that free will and determinism are compatible continues to be—to say the least—implausible. But if free will is incompatible with determinism, we are faced with a mystery, for free will undeniably exists, and (...) it also seems to be incompatible with indeterminism. In the second part of this paper, I will defend the conclusion that the concept of agent causation is of no use to the philosopher who wants to maintain that free will and indeterminism are compatible. I conclude that free will remains a mystery---that is, that free will undeniably exists and that there is a strong and unanswered prima facie case for its impossibility. (shrink)
Many important metaphysical arguments validly deduce an actuality from a possibility. For example: Because it is possible for me to exist in the absence of anything material, I am not my body. I argue that there is no reason to suppose that our capacity for modal judgment is equal to the task of determining whether the "possibility" premise of any of these arguments is true. I connect this thesis with Stephen Yablo's recent work on the epistemology of modal statements.
This book gathers together thirteen of Peter van Inwagen's essays on metaphysics, several of which have acquired the status of modern classics in their field. They range widely across such topics as Quine's philosophy of quantification, the ontology of fiction, the part-whole relation, the theory of 'temporal parts', and human knowledge of modal truths. In addition, van Inwagen considers the question as to whether the psychological continuity theory of personal identity is compatible with materialism, and defends the thesis that possible (...) states of affairs are abstract objects, in opposition to David Lewis's 'extreme modal realism'. A specially-written introduction completes the collection, which will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in metaphysics. (shrink)
Quine has called the question, ‘What is there?’ the “ontological question.” But if we call this question by that name, what name shall we use for the question, ‘What are we asking when we ask “What is there?”’? I shall call it ‘the meta-ontological question’. I shall call the attempt to answer the meta-ontological question ‘meta-ontology’ and any proposed answer to it ‘a meta-ontology’. In this essay, I shall briefly sketch a meta-ontology. The meta-ontology I shall present is broadly Quinean. (...) I am, in fact, willing to call it an exposition of Quine’s meta-ontology. (shrink)
The vast amount of suffering in the world is often held as a particularly powerful reason to deny that God exists. Now, one of the world's most distinguished philosophers of religion presents his own position on the problem of evil. Highly accessible and sensitively argued, Peter van Inwagen's book argues that such reasoning does not hold: his conclusion is not that God exists, but that suffering cannot be shown to prove that He does not.
Many philosophers think not. Many philosophers, in fact, seem to suppose that anyone who raises the question whether mereological sums can change their parts displays thereby a failure to grasp an essential feature of the concept “mereological sum.” It is hard to point to an indisputable example of this in print,[i] but it is a thesis I hear put forward very frequently in conversation (sometimes it is put forward in the form of an incredulous stare after I have said something (...) that implies that mereological sums can change their parts). (shrink)
In this classic, exciting, and thoughtful text, Metaphysics , Peter van Inwagen examines three profound questions: What are the most general features of the world? Why is there a world? and What is the place of human beings in the world? Metaphysics introduces to readers the curious notion that is metaphysics, how it is conceived both historically and currently. The author's work can serve either as a textbook in a university course on metaphysics or as an introduction to metaphysical thinking (...) for the interested reader. This second edition, revised though not fundamentally changed, includes the basis of the first edition with a new chapter on the nature of time. (shrink)
The Clifford of my title is W. K. Clifford, who is perhaps best known as the exponent of a certain ethic of belief – an ethic of belief that he was probably the first to formulate explicitly and which no one has defended with greater eloquence or moral fervor. In the lecture called, appropriately enough, ‘The Ethics of Belief,’ Clifford summarized his ethic in a single, memorable sentence: ‘It is wrong always, everywhere, and for any one, to believe anything upon (...) insufficient evidence’. It will be convenient for us to have a name for this ethical thesis. I will call it ‘ethical evidentialism’ – ‘evidentialism’ for short. (shrink)