Abstract If asked about the Darwinian influence on William James, some might mention his pragmatic position that ideas are “mental modes of adaptation,” and that our stock of ideas evolves to meet our changing needs. However, while this is not obviously wrong, it fails to capture what James deems most important about Darwinian theory: the notion that there are independent cycles of causation in nature. Versions of this idea undergird everything from his campaign against empiricist psychologies to his theories of (...) mind and knowledge to his pluralistic worldview; and all of this together undergirds his attempts to challenge determinism and defend freewill. I begin this paper by arguing that James uses Darwinian thinking to bridge empiricism and rationalism, and that this merger undermines environmental determinism. I then discuss how Darwinism informs his concept of pluralism; how his concept challenges visions of a causally welded “block universe”; and how it also casts doubt on the project of reducing all reality to physical reality, and therewith the wisdom of dismissing consciousness as an inert by-product of physiology. I conclude by considering how Darwinism helps him justify the pragmatic grounds upon which he defends freewill. (shrink)
How do our secular reflections on freewill relate to the theological tradition of human freedom and divine grace? I will pursue this question with reference to Kant, who represents a half-way house between Christianity and the atheism of other Enlightenment thinkers. But are those the only two alternatives? I suggest that Kant’s wrestling with the notion of divine grace can draw us all towards recognition of the ultimate mystery of human motivation and behaviour, and our need for forgiveness and (...) hope. (shrink)
During my childhood I was fascinated by videogames. One game that stands out in my memory is Pacman. It wasn’t the gameplay that interested me so much as the behavior of the ghosts. As you watch them roam around the maze, you get the feeling that they are intelligent. They seem to be making decisions about how best to catch Pacman. But how free are their decisions? One of the interesting things I noticed was that I could play exactly the (...) same game over and over if I moved Pacman in precisely the same way each time. The ghosts always followed the same behavioral pattern and didn’t deviate from that pattern until I changed my pattern. Experimenting with Pacman in this way revealed to me something about the ghosts’ behavior. True, they make decisions, but their decisions are firmly and predictably determined by the way I move around the maze. (shrink)
On Friday God knew everything, including f, a proposition about what Jones would do on Monday; we can write the time-indexed proposition that on Friday God believed f as Bgf. If Jones does not do the thing that makes f true, then the resulting state of affairs will be ∼f. So on Monday, before a certain time – ‘ t time’ – Jones has it in his power to bring it about that ∼f. It seems to follow that on Monday (...) Jones has it in his power to bring it about that on Friday God believed something false. Yet this is impossible, as Bgp ⊃ p . But if f is false – if Jones makes it so on Monday – then so is Bgf, and God is not infallible. So either Jones cannot not do the thing that makes f true, and he has no freewill, or God is not infallible. The traditional responses to this dilemma are subtle, time-honoured and, as I see it, almost completely unconvincing. According to Linda Zagzebski , there are five of them: the Ockhamist response that God’s Friday belief is a so-called ‘soft’ fact, itself a problematic notion; the confused Molinist claim that on Friday God has something called ‘middle knowledge’ , so that God knows what Jones would do, but does not will it or know what Jones would do if … ); and the more sensible but still perplexing solution of Boethius’s that God’s knowing is not in time, so that the time-indexed proposition Bgf is not true. (How does it help to move the knowing that is said to determine our actions from the past to the timeless? It seems to …. (shrink)
A central argument for the view that God's necessary omniscience [( Bgf p )] precludes freewill is unsound, because the necessity of the consequence is not the necessity of the consequent, and nor is Bgf true. God's belief in some particular proposition f about what I will do is not necessary, as I might do something that makes ~ f true. Fischer and Tognazzini claim that this counterargument argument assumes that I must freely do the something that makes f (...) true. But plainly it doesn't. All that it assumes is that I will do the something that makes f true. It makes no difference whether I do that thing unfreely, or "deterministicall". The argument does not assume the existence of a case of freewill in the face of divine foreknowledge, but instead considers the necessity of God's belief in some particular designated proposition f. The argument does not depend, as Fischer and Tognazzini suppose, on whether God's knowledge is a function of the facts (omniscience) or vice versa (infallibility). (shrink)
Brian Garrett (Analysis (2012), 293–5) comments on McCall's paper (Analysis (2011), 501–6). McCall had claimed that since the truth of true empirical propositions supervenes on, and depends upon, empirical fact, what God knows and does not know also depends upon being, i.e. upon facts. Consequently God's foreknowing what I freely decide to do depends upon what I freely do. Garrett objects that the dependence of truth on being seems to play no essential role in McCall's argument. McCall replies that his (...) argument is an up-to-date version of Luis de Molina's 16th century reconciliation of freewill with omniscience, in which the dependence of God's knowledge on what humans do is crucial. (shrink)
In his A Treatise of Freewill, Ralph Cudworth argues against Stoic determinism by drawing on what he takes to be other concepts found in Stoicism, notably the claim that some things are ?up to us? and that these things are the product of our choice. These concepts are central to the late Stoic Epictetus and it appears at first glance as if Cudworth is opposing late Stoic voluntarism against early Stoic determinism. This paper argues that in fact, despite his (...) claim to be drawing on Stoic doctrine, Cudworth uses these terms with a meaning first articulated only later, by the Peripatetic commentator Alexander of Aphrodisias. (shrink)
Tribe, David In reviewing Bill Cooke's Wealth of Insights (2011) (AH, Autumn 2012), I said that the age-old debate on freewill versus determinism is 'a major issue for neurophysiology, philosophy, jurisprudence and criminology'. I could have added religion, but here the debate takes on a slightly different form of freewill versus predestination (worth considering later) and appears to have divided on peaceful sectarian lines.
Historically there have been two main freewill problems, the problem of freedom versus predestination, which is mainly theological, and the problem of freedom versus determinism, which has exercised the minds of many of the great modern philosophers. The latter problem is seldom stated in full detail, for its elements are taken as so obvious that they do not need to be stated. The problem is seen as an attempt to reconcile the belief in human freedom, which is essential if (...) men are to be able to act morally, with determinism, the belief that every event is fully determined in all its details by the sum of its precedent causes. But even the meticulous Moore does not trouble to explore at length what is meant by determinism. He devotes one very short paragraph to the matter, and sums it up immediately afterwards as the view that ‘everything … has a cause’. (shrink)
I describe recent developments of Conway and Kochen on the physical meaning of freewill and their theorem that the assertion of freewill for human beings, in their specific sense, implies the same for elementary particles. This description is given in simplified metaphorical terms that nonetheless address the key physical axioms and essential analytic content of their argument. I then give points of contact of our metaphor with the full technical analysis of the cited authors and conclude with some (...) associated metaphysical speculations. These include the implications of the freewill theorem for dual aspect theories and, in particular, for process metaphysics. (shrink)
This book, first published in 1968, examines the complicated issues which surround the problem of freewill. Although it reaches a libertarian conclusion, its focus is largely on other questions. What ultimately is at stake in this debate? What difference would it make whether we had freewill or not? Why must disagreement persist, and why do philosophes each opposed conclusions with such confidence? The answers to these questions open new perspectives.
Ralph Cudworth deserves recognition as one of the most important English seventeenth-century philosophers after Hobbes and Locke. In opposition to Hobbes, Cudworth proposes an innatist theory of knowledge which may be contrasted with the empirical position of his younger contemporary Locke, and in moral philosophy he anticipates the ethical rationalists of the eighteenth century. A Treatise Concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality is his most important work, and this volume makes it available, together with his shorter Treatise of Freewill, with (...) a historical introduction, a chronology of his life, and an essay on further reading. (shrink)
Of all the philosophical challenges to theism in general and Christianity in particular, the one that Christians take most seriously is the Problem of Evil. It is clearly not logically contradictory to hold that there exists a Loving Ultimate Creator; and nevertheless there is a very substantial amount of evil and suffering in the world. But it is certainly problematic. Deeper scientific understandings of physics and evolution shed some light on this. It is also useful to reflect more deeply on (...) the relationships between love, suffering and creativity. (shrink)
This reissue was first published in 1978. Anthony Kenny, one of the most distinguished philosophers in England, explores the notion of responsibility and the precise place of the mental element in criminal actions. Bringing the insights of recent philosophy of mind to bear on contemporary developments in criminal law, he writes with the general reader in mind, no specialist training in philosophy being necessary to appreciate his argument. Kenny shows that abstract distinctions drawn by analytic philosophers are relevant to decisions (...) in matters of life and death, and illustrates the philosophical argument throughout by reference to actual legal cases. The topics he covers are of wide general interest and include: mens rea and mental health, strict liability, freedom and determinism, duress and necessity, intoxication and irresistible impulse, intention and purpose, murder and rape, punishment and deterrence, witchcraft and supernatural beliefs. (shrink)
The discussion below could be extended by pointing out that there is a fifth notion of freedom which refers to what you are free to do within a context of a game, a system of laws, a moral regime etc. This notion of freedom is close to the notion of permission. It is worth noting that the law may forbid something without enforcing that proscription. So many people constantly do what they are not free to do in this sense.
According to Arnauld, if we cannot help acting in some way, that is either (1) because external forces or obstacles leave no alternative, or (2) because we cannot help wanting to act that way; and that may be (2a) because we have absolutely no power to want anything else, or (2b) because the power we have is quite insufficient to overcome the inclination to act that way. This gives three kinds of necessity, corresponding to (1), (2a) and (2b).[.