Fate, freedom and contingency

Acta Analytica 17 (1):79-102 (2002)
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Abstract

Argument for fatalism attempts to prove that free choice is a logical or conceptual impossibility. The paper argues that the first two premises of the argument are sound: propositions are either true or false and they have their truth-value eternally. But the claim that from the fatalistic premises with the introduction of some innocent further premise dire consequences follow as regards to the possibility of free choice is false. The introduced premise, which establishes the connection between the first two premises (which are about the nature of propositions) and the concept of free choice is not innocent. It creates the impression that the truth of certain propositions can somehow determine the occurrence of certain events. But no proposition can have such an effect since the counterfactuals If proposition P were true, event E would happen does not say anything about determination. The argument for fatalism is, however, not a boring sophism. It does reveal something about the nature of propositional representation. It shows that each proposition represents necessarily the fact what it represents, i.e. it shows that propositions have their truth conditions non-contingently. But from this nothing follows as regards to the contingent nature of the facts represented. On the bases of the first two premises of the argument for fatalism we cannot infer to the impossibility of free choice. The argument for fatalism should not be interpreted as an attempt to prove on purely logical or conceptual grounds that we do not have the ability to influence future events by our choices. But it could be used to show something about the nature of propositional representation.

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Ferenc Huoranszki
Central European University

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