Determinism

Edited by Jonah Nagashima (University of California, Riverside)
About this topic
Summary Determinism is a claim about the laws of nature. Events are determined if the laws of nature, together with the total set of facts prevailing at a moment in time, are sufficient to settle precisely what happens at the next and each subsequent moment of time. Determinism thus rules out chanciness in a central sense of that word. The free will debate has been centrally concerned with whether determinism is incompatible with freedom: many philosophers worry that if how agents act is always settled prior to their action (settled even prior to their birth) than we lack free will.
Key works The key works on the compatibility question are more or less coextensive with the key works on free will, since the first issue has been so central to the second. I shall not list those works here. Important papers that explore the nature of determinism itself as it pertains to free will includeBerofsky 1971; the two volumes of Honderich 1988 and Earman 2004.
Introductions Honderich 1973;Kane 2002
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814 found
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  1. Frankfurt Cases and 'Could Have Done Otherwise'.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    In his seminal essay, Harry Frankfurt argued that our exercise of free will and allocation of moral responsibility do not depend on us being able to do other than we did. Leslie Allan defends this moral maxim from Frankfurt's attack. Applying his character-based counterfactual conditional analysis of free acts to Frankfurt's counterexamples, Allan unpacks the confusions that lie at the heart of Frankfurt's argument. The author also explores how his 4C compatibilist theory measures up against Frankfurt’s conclusions.
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  2. Free Will and Compatibilism.Leslie Allan - manuscript
    The author mounts a case against the libertarian and hard determinist's thesis that free will is impossible in a deterministic world. He charges incompatibilists with misconstruing ordinary 'free will' talk by overlaying common language with their own metaphysical presuppositions. Through a review of ordinary discourse and recent developments in jurisprudence and the sciences, he draws together the four key factors required for an act to be free. He then puts his 4C theory to work in giving a credible account of (...)
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  3. Strong Determinism.Eddy Keming Chen - manuscript
    A strongly deterministic theory of physics is one that permits exactly one possible history of the universe. In the words of Penrose (1989), "it is not just a matter of the future being determined by the past; the entire history of the universe is fixed, according to some precise mathematical scheme, for all time.” Such an extraordinary feature may appear unattainable in any realistic and simple theory of physics. In this paper, I propose a definition of strong determinism and contrast (...)
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  4. Determinism and Luck.Steven M. Duncan - manuscript
    In the course of writing a book on Free Will, I took the opportunity to read a good deal of contemporary literature on the Free Will problem. This paper is a survey and reflection on that reading, responding to the current trends and state of play concerning the existence of free will.
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  5. Freedom in a physical world – a partial taxonomy.Jude Arnout Durieux - manuscript
    If I take a free decision, how does this express itself physically? If God acts in this world, how does he do so? The answers to those two questions may be different or the same. Here we sketch a typology of possible answers, including Transcendent Compatibility. It turns out that in an open universe, freedom is the timewise mirror image of causality.
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  6. Mechanical Choices: A Compatibilist Libertarian Response.Christian List - manuscript
    Michael S. Moore defends the ideas of free will and responsibility, especially in relation to criminal law, against several challenges from neuroscience. I agree with Moore that morality and the law presuppose a commonsense understanding of humans as rational agents, who make choices and act for reasons, and that to defend moral and legal responsibility, we must show that this commonsense understanding remains viable. Unlike Moore, however, I do not think that classical compatibilism, which is based on a conditional understanding (...)
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  7. Humean Laws, Humean-law Compatibilism, and the Consequence Argument.Kristin M. Mickelson - manuscript
    Traditional compatibilism is the view that free will is compatible with determinism. Humean-law compatibilism (a.k.a. weak-law compatibilism), is the view that free will is compatible with determinism, where determinism is defined in terms of a broadly Humean view of the laws of nature. A growing number of philosophers hold that Humean-law compatibilists are targeted by and have special resources to resist arguments for traditional incompatibilism, including the Consequence Argument (cf. Beebee and Mele 2002, Perry 2004, Hetherington 2006, Berofsky 2012, Mele (...)
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  8. Constructive Dilemma Arguments for the Impossibility of Free Will.Kristin M. Mickelson - manuscript
    The traditional problem of free will and determinism is ostensibly about settling the relationship between free will and determinism. According to the standard narrative, this problem boils down to settling whether free will stands in a compatibility or incompatibility relation with determinism. Similarly, there is traditional debate over whether a compatibility or an incompatibility relationship holds between free will and indeterminism. Since indeterminism is simply the negation of determinism, anyone who holds that human free will is incompatible with both determinism (...)
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  9. Free Will of an Ontologically Open Mind.Jan Scheffel - manuscript
    The problem of free will has persistently resisted a solution throughout centuries. There is reason to believe that new elements need to be introduced into the analysis in order to make progress. In the present physicalist approach, these elements are emergence and information theory in relation to universal limits set by quantum physics. Furthermore the common, but vague, characterization of free will as "being able to act differently" is, in the spirit of Carnap, rephrased into an explicatum more suitable for (...)
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  10. How necessary is the past? Reply to Campbell.Matthew H. Slater - manuscript
    Joe Campbell has identified an apparent flaw in van Inwagen’s Consequence Argument. It apparently derives a metaphysically necessary conclusion from what Campbell argues is a contingent premise: that the past is in some sense necessary. I criticise Campbell’s examples attempting to show that this is not the case (in the requisite sense) and suggest some directions along which an incompatibilist could reconstruct her argument so as to remain immune to Campbell’s worries.
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  11. The basis of indeterminism.Shan Gao - 2001
  12. From Newtonian determinism to branching-space-time indeterminism.Nuel Belnap - manuscript
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  13. Freedom and determinism.Author unknown - manuscript
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  14. One World or Many? Poppoer's Three World Theory and the Problem of Scientific Determinism.Brian Baigrie - unknown - Eidos: The Canadian Graduate Journal of Philosophy 3.
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  15. Resolving teleology's false dilemma.Gunnar Babcock & Dan McShea - forthcoming - Biological Journal of the Linnean Society:1-15.
    This paper argues that the account of teleology previously proposed by the authors is consistent with the physical determinism that is implicit across many of the sciences. We suggest that much of the current aversion to teleological thinking found in the sciences is rooted in debates that can be traced back to ancient natural science, which pitted mechanistic and deterministic theories against teleological ones. These debates saw a deterministic world as one where freedom and agency is impossible. And, because teleological (...)
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  16. Lawful Persistence.David Builes & Trevor Teitel - forthcoming - Philosophical Perspectives.
    The central aim of this paper is to use a particular view about how the laws of nature govern the evolution of our universe in order to develop and evaluate the two main competing options in the metaphysics of persistence, namely endurantism and perdurantism. We begin by motivating the view that our laws of nature dictate not only qualitative facts about the future, but also which objects will instantiate which qualitative properties. We then show that both traditional doctrines in the (...)
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  17. Blackwell Companion to Free Will.Joe Campbell, Kristin Mickelson & V. Alan White (eds.) - forthcoming - Blackwell.
  18. Tertullian on Divine Sovereignty and Free Will in advance.David Clark - forthcoming - Philosophy and Theology.
    Christian thinkers in the patristic era were not reluctant to integrate classical philosophy with biblical theology as they addressed the seeming incompatibility of free will and determinism (fate). This paper compares and contrasts Tertullian and the Stoics as they explain three issues relating to freedom and fate: 1) The operation of the Logos, 2) Theological Anthropology, and 3) Teleology. While in agreement with the Stoics on several key points, Tertullian crucially departs from them as he argues it is not by (...)
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  19. Natural Compatibilists Should Be Theological Compatibilists.Taylor Cyr - forthcoming - In Peter Furlong & Leigh Vicens (eds.), Theological Determinism: New Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 119-132.
    Natural compatibilists say that moral responsibility is compatible with natural (or causal) determinism, where natural events and laws of nature determine everything that happens. Theological compatibilists say that moral responsibility is compatible with theological determinism, where God (rather than natural events/laws) determines everything that happens. Some philosophers accept natural compatibilism but reject theological compatibilism, and, in this chapter, I argue that this combination of views is untenable I start with a discussion of why someone might be attracted to this combination (...)
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  20. Why the Manipulation Argument Fails: Determinism Does Not Entail Perfect Prediction.Oisin Deery & Eddy Nahmias - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-21.
    Determinism is frequently understood as implying the possibility of perfect prediction. This possibility then functions as an assumption in the Manipulation Argument for the incompatibility of free will and determinism. Yet this assumption is mistaken. As a result, arguments that rely on it fail to show that determinism would rule out human free will. We explain why determinism does not imply the possibility of perfect prediction in any world with laws of nature like ours, since it would be impossible for (...)
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  21. Causal Counterfactuals without Miracles or Backtracking.J. Dmitri Gallow - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    If the laws are deterministic, then standard theories of counterfactuals are forced to reject at least one of the following conditionals: 1) had you chosen differently, there would not have been a violation of the laws of nature; and 2) had you chosen differently, the initial conditions of the universe would not have been different. On the relevant readings---where we hold fixed factors causally independent of your choice---both of these conditionals appear true. And rejecting either one leads to trouble for (...)
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  22. Effects, Determinism, Neither Compatibilism nor Incompatibilism, Consciousness.Ted Honderich - forthcoming - Philosophical Explorations.
    Since the rise of the theory of determinism, philosophers have argued and declared that we are diminished by it. Bishop Bramhall against Thomas Hobbes in the 17th Century, Kant against Hume in the 18th, F. H. Bradley against John Stuart Mill in the 19th, Robert Kane and Robert Nozick against such as me in the 20th Century. There must be something in this relentless tradition. It cannot, it seems to me, be the falsehood of determinism. Is it, so to speak, (...)
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  23. Freedom and Determinism.Jenann Ismael - forthcoming - Philosophical Explorations.
    Any person truly considering belief in a scientific world view has to confront the question of whether and in what sense, if she views herself as a natural system in a world governed by natural laws, she can continue to regard herself as free. The prima facie clash is usually expressed in terms of a conflict between freedom and determinism, captured in an argument known as the Consequence Argument. If the natural laws are deterministic, our behavior must be deducible by (...)
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  24. The Incompatibility of Universal, Determinate Divine Action with Human Free Will.Simon Kittle - forthcoming - In Peter Furlong & Leigh C. Vicens (eds.), Theological Determinism: New Perspectives. Cambridge. pp. 100-118.
    Is it consistent to maintain that human free will is incompatible with determinism in the natural world while also maintaining that it is compatible with divine universal causation? On the face of it, divine universal causation looks like a form of determinism. And the intuitions which lead to incompatibilism about free will and natural determinism also lead to incompatibilism about free will and divine determinism. Several thinkers have attempted to resist this conclusion. This essay critiques that view, with a special (...)
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  25. The naturalistic case for free will.Christian List - forthcoming - In Stavros Ioannidis, Gal Vishne, Meir Hemmo & Orly Shenker (eds.), Levels of Reality in Science and Philosophy. Cham: Springer.
    The aim of this expository paper is to give an informal overview of a plausible naturalistic case for free will. I will describe what I take to be the main naturalistically motivated challenges for free will and respond to them by presenting an indispensability argument for free will. The argument supports the reality of free will as an emergent higher-level phenomenon. I will also explain why the resulting picture of free will does not conflict with the possibility that the fundamental (...)
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  26. Ted Honderich, Philosopher: A Kind of Life.D. Macey - forthcoming - Radical Philosophy.
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  27. Naming and Free Will.Pedro Merlussi & Fabio Lampert - forthcoming - Grazer Philosophische Studien.
    Rigidity does interesting philosophical work, with important consequences felt throughout metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and so on. Our aim in this paper is to show that rigidity has yet another role to play, with surprising consequences for the problem of free will and determinism, for the phenomenon of rigidity has the upshot that some metaphysically necessary truths are up to us. The significance of this claim is shown in the context of influential arguments against free will. We show that (...)
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  28. (In)compatibilism.Kristin M. Mickelson - forthcoming - In Joseph Campbell (ed.), Companion to Free Will. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.
    The terms ‘compatibilism’ and ‘incompatibilism’ were introduced in the mid-20th century to name conflicting views about the in-principle relationship between the thesis of determinism and the thesis that someone has free will. These technical terms were originally introduced within a specific research paradigm, the classical analytic paradigm, but few free-will theorists still work within that paradigm (i.e. using its methods, granting its substantive background assumptions, etc.). This chapter discusses how the ambiguity of the terms ‘incompatibilism’ and ‘compatibilism’ took root. I (...)
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  29. Do people understand determinism? The tracking problem for measuring free will beliefs.Samuel Murray, Elise Dykhuis & Thomas Nadelhoffer - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy.
    Experimental work on free will typically relies on deterministic stimuli to elicit judgments of free will. We call this the Vignette-Judgment model. We outline a problem with research based on this model. It seems that people either fail to respond to the deterministic aspects of vignettes when making judgments or that their understanding of determinism differs from researcher expectations. We provide some empirical evidence for this claim. In the end, we argue that people seem to lack facility with the concept (...)
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  30. Intuitions About Free Will and the Failure to Comprehend Determinism.Thomas Nadelhoffer, Samuel Murray & Elise Dykhuis - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-22.
    Theories of free will are often measured against how well they capture everyday intuitions about free will. But what are these everyday intuitions, and what theoretical commitments do they express? Empirical methods have delivered mixed messages. In response, some free will theorists have developed error theories to undermine the credentials of countervailing intuitions. These efforts are predicated on the idea that people might misunderstand determinism in any of several ways. This paper sheds light on the comprehension problem. We first discuss (...)
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  31. Toward a Reactive Attitudes Theodicy.Garrett Pendergraft - forthcoming - In Peter Furlong & Leigh Vicens (eds.), Theological Determinism: New Perspectives. pp. 231–50.
    According to the argument from gratuitous evil, if God were to exist, then gratuitous evil wouldn’t; but gratuitous evil does exist, so God doesn’t. We can evaluate different views of divine providence with respect to the resources they are able to bring to bear when encountering this argument. By these lights, theological determinism is often seen as especially problematic: the determinist is seen as having an impoverished set of resources to draw from in her attempts to respond to the argument (...)
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  32. A Hot Mess: Girolamo Cardano, the Inquisition and the Soul.Jonathan Regier - forthcoming - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science.
  33. Freedom, even if God decrees it.James Dominic Rooney - forthcoming - In Aku Visala & Olli-Pekka Vainio (ed.), Theological Perspectives on Free Will: Compatibility, Christology, and Community.
    W. Matthews Grant has argued that it is possible to reconcile a strong theory of God’s causal sovereignty with libertarian freedom by denying that God causes the acts of free creatures by means of some factor intrinsic to Himself. Grant argues that the accounts on which God causes those actions of His creatures in virtue of His decrees cannot be libertarian. I will argue that two classical theories of grace, despite holding that God causes creaturely acts in virtue of a (...)
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  34. Against the inside out argument.Amy Seymour - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    Bailey (2021) offers a clever argument for the compatibility of determinism and moral responsibility based on the nature of intrinsic intentions. The argument is mistaken on two counts. First, it is invalid. Second, even setting that first point aside, the argument proves too much: we would be blameworthy in paradigm cases of non-blameworthiness. I conclude that we cannot reason from intentions to responsibility solely from the “inside out”—our possessing a blameworthy intention cannot tell us whether this intention is also blameworthy (...)
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  35. Free will and determinism. Edited by vlggo Mortensen and Robert C. Sorensen. Philadelphia: Coronet, 1987. 213 pages and notes. $28.50 (paper). Tackling the subject of free will and determinism is like trying to fight a Tar baby: No matter where you throw the first punch, you find. [REVIEW]Kenneth Vaux - forthcoming - Zygon.
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  36. A Problem for Counterfactual Sufficiency.John Waldrop - forthcoming - Analysis.
    The consequence argument purports to show that determinism is true only if no one has free will. Judgments about whether the argument is sound depend on how one understands locutions of the form 'p and no one can render p false'. The main interpretation on offer appeals to counterfactual sufficiency: s can render p false just in case there is something s can do such that, were s to do it, p would be false; otherwise, s cannot render p false. (...)
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  37. The Question of Determinism.Greg Whistance-Smith & Dr Nathan Kowalsky - forthcoming - Philosophy.
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  38. Law-Abiding Causal Decision Theory.Timothy Luke Williamson & Alexander Sandgren - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    In this paper we discuss how Causal Decision Theory should be modified to handle a class of problematic cases involving deterministic laws. Causal Decision Theory, as it stands, is problematically biased against your endorsing deterministic propositions (for example it tells you to deny Newtonian physics, regardless of how confident you are of its truth). Our response is that this is not a problem for Causal Decision Theory per se, but arises because of the standard method for assessing the truth of (...)
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  39. Compatibilism from the inside out.Andrew M. Bailey - 2022 - Analytic Philosophy 63 (3):137-146.
    In this article, I focus on internal dimensions of moral responsibility. I argue that if such dimensions are real -- and it seems they are -- then moral responsibility is compatible with determinism.
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  40. A Companion to Free Will.Joseph Campbell, Kristin M. Mickelson & V. Alan White (eds.) - 2022 - Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
    The concept of free will is fraught with controversy, as readers of this volume likely know. Philosophers disagree about what free will is, whether we have it, what mitigates or destroys it, and what it's good for. Indeed, philosophers even disagree about how to fix the referent of the term 'free will' for purposes of describing and exploring these disagreements. What one person considers a reasonably neutral working definition of 'free will' is often considered question-begging or otherwise misguided by another. (...)
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  41. Precis of Rejecting Retributivism: Free Will, Punishment, and Criminal Justice.Gregg D. Caruso - 2022 - Journal of Legal Philosophy 2 (46):120-125.
  42. Moral Responsibility Reconsidered.Gregg D. Caruso & Derk Pereboom - 2022 - Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    This Element examines the concept of moral responsibility as it is used in contemporary philosophical debates and explores the justifiability of the moral practices associated with it, including moral praise/blame, retributive punishment, and the reactive attitudes of resentment and indignation. After identifying and discussing several different varieties of responsibility-including causal responsibility, take-charge responsibility, role responsibility, liability responsibility, and the kinds of responsibility associated with attributability, answerability, and accountability-it distinguishes between basic and non-basic desert conceptions of moral responsibility and considers a (...)
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  43. Laws, melodies, and the paradox of predictability.Dorst Chris - 2022 - Synthese 200 (1):1-21.
    If the laws of nature are deterministic, then it seems possible that a Laplacean intelligence that knows the initial conditions and the laws would be able to accurately predict everything that will ever happen. However, it would be easy to construct a counterpredictive device that falsifies any revealed prediction about its future behavior. What would then occur if a Laplacean intelligence encountered a counterpredictive device? This is the paradox of predictability. A number of philosophers have proposed solutions to it, though (...)
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  44. Free Will, Control, and the Possibility to do Otherwise from a Causal Modeler’s Perspective.Alexander Gebharter, Maria Sekatskaya & Gerhard Schurz - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (4):1889-1906.
    Strong notions of free will are closely connected to the possibility to do otherwise as well as to an agent’s ability to causally influence her environment via her decisions controlling her actions. In this paper we employ techniques from the causal modeling literature to investigate whether a notion of free will subscribing to one or both of these requirements is compatible with naturalistic views of the world such as non-reductive physicalism to the background of determinism and indeterminism. We argue that (...)
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  45. The ability to do otherwise and the new dispositionalism.Romy Jaster - 2022 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 65 (9):1149-1166.
    According to the New Dispositionalist’s response to the Frankfurt Cases, Jones can do otherwise because Black merely masks (or finks), but does not deprive Jones of the relevant ability. This reasoning stands in the tradition of a line of thought according to which an informed view of the truth conditions of ability attributions allows for a compatibilist stance. The promise is that once we understand how abilities work, it turns out that the ability to do otherwise is compatible with determinism, (...)
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  46. Od patetiky k etike. Spinozova teória ľudskej slobody [From Pathetics to Ethics. Spinoza's Theory of Human Freedom].Michaela Petrufova Joppova - 2022 - Prešov, Slovensko: Atény nad Torysou.
    The monograph offers an original account of Spinoza’s philosophy and ethics concentrated on its concordance with selected modern neuroscientific theories. The book proceeds through the whole of Spinoza’s philosophy and by increasingly complex analytical account acquaints with its essential frameworks, terminology, and concepts, and is thus accessible also to readers who are not yet familiar with the thought of this peculiar thinker. The fundamental motives of this interpretation are the nature of the mind and the questions of human freedom and (...)
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  47. A puzzle about the fixity of the past.Fabio Lampert - 2022 - Analysis 82 (3):426-434.
    It is a widely held principle that no one is able to do something that would require the past to have been different from how it actually is. This principle of the fixity of the past has been presented in numerous ways, playing a crucial role in arguments for logical and theological fatalism, and for the incompatibility of causal determinism and the ability to do otherwise. I will argue that, assuming bivalence, this principle is in conflict with standard views about (...)
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  48. Special-science counterfactuals.Christian List - 2022 - The Monist 105 (2):194–213.
    On the standard analysis, a counterfactual conditional such as “If P had been the case, then Q would have been the case” is true in the actual world if, in all nearest possible worlds in which its antecedent (P) is true, its consequent (Q) is also true. Despite its elegance, this analysis faces a difficulty if the laws of nature are deterministic. Then the antecedent could not have been true, given prior conditions. So, it is unclear what the relevant “nearest (...)
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  49. Nietzsche's Immoralism: Politics as First Philosophy.Donovan Miyasaki - 2022 - Palgrave Macmillan.
    Nietzsche’s Immoralism begins a two-volume critical reconstruction of a socialist, democratic, and non-liberal Nietzschean politics. Nietzsche’s ideal of amor fati (love of fate) cannot be individually adopted because it is incompatible with deep freedom of agency. However, we can create its social conditions thanks to an under-appreciated aspect of his will-to-power psychology. We are driven not toward domination and conquest but toward resistance, contest, and play―a heightened feeling of power provoked by equal challenges that enables the non-instrumental affirmation of suffering. (...)
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  50. Libertarian Free Will and the Physical Indeterminism Luck Objection.Dwayne Moore - 2022 - Philosophia 50 (1):159-182.
    Libertarian free will is, roughly, the view that agents cause actions to occur or not occur: Maddy’s decision to get a beer causes her to get up off her comfortable couch to get a beer, though she almost chose not to get up. Libertarian free will notoriously faces the luck objection, according to which agential states do not determine whether an action occurs or not, so it is beyond the control of the agent, hence lucky, whether an action occurs or (...)
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