In this paper I shall define a thesis I shall call ' determinism ', and argue that it is incompatible with the thesis that we are able to act otherwise than we do. Other theses, some of them very different from what I shall call ' determinism ', have at least an equal right to this name, and, therefore, I do not claim to show that every thesis that could be called ' determinism ' without historical impropriety (...) is incompatible with freewill. I shall, however, assume without argument that what I call ' determinism ' is legitimately so called. In Part I, I shall explain what I mean by ' determinism '. In Part II, I shall make some remarks about 'can'. In Part III, I shall argue that freewill and determinism are incompatible. In Part IV, I shall examine some possible objections to the argument of Part III. I shall not attempt to establish the truth or falsity of determinism, or the existence or nonexistence of freewill. (shrink)
Progress may be made in resolving the tension between freewill and determinism by analysis of the necessary conditions of freedom. It is of the essence that these conditions include causal and deterministic regularities. Furthermore, the human expression of freewill is informed by understanding some of those regularities, and increments in that understanding have served to enhance freedom. When the possible character of a deterministic system based on physical theory is considered, it is judged (...) that, far from implying the elimination of human freedom, such a theory might simply set parameters for it; indeed knowledge of that system could again prove to be in some respects liberating. On the other hand, it is of the essence that the overarching biological framework is not a deterministic system and it foregrounds the behavioural flexibility of humans in being able to choose within a range of options and react to chance occurrences. Furthermore, an issue for determinism flows from the way in which randomness (e.g. using a true random number generator) and chance events could and do enter human life. Once the implications of that issue are fully understood, other elements fit comfortably together in our understanding of freely undertaken action: the contribution of reasons and causes; the fact that reasons are never sufficient to account for outcomes; the rationale for the attribution of praise and blame. (shrink)
This essay begins by dividing the traditional problem of freewill and determinism into a “correlation” problem and an “explanation” problem. I then focus on the explanation problem, and argue that a standard form of abductive (i.e. inference to the best-explanation) reasoning may be useful in solving it. To demonstrate the fruitfulness of the abductive approach, I apply it to three standard accounts of freewill. While each account implies the same solution to the correlation (...) problem, each implies a unique solution to the explanation problem. For example, all libertarian-friendly accounts of freewill imply that it is impossible to act freely when determinism is true. However, only a narrow subset of libertarians have the theoretical resources to defend the incompatibilist claim that deterministic laws (qua being deterministic) undermine freewill, while other libertarians must reject this incompatibilist view. -/- [Version: Nov. 12, 2018]. (shrink)
This book argues two main things: The first is that there is no such thing as freewill—at least not in the sense most ordinary folk take to be central or fundamental; the second is that the strong and pervasive belief in freewill can be accounted for through a careful analysis of our phenomenology and a proper theoretical understanding of consciousness.
In this introduction we accomplish two things. First, we attempt to get clear about what we mean by the term 'freewill'. Second, we introduce a philosophical puzzle known as the metaphysical problem of freewill.
The debate over whether freewill and determinism are compatible is controversial, and produces wide scholarly discussion. This paper argues that recent studies in experimental philosophy suggest that people are in fact “natural compatibilists”. To support this claim, it surveys the experimental literature bearing directly or indirectly upon this issue, before pointing to three possible limitations of this claim. However, notwithstanding these limitations, the investigation concludes that the existing empirical evidence seems to support the view that most (...) people have compatibilist intuitions. (shrink)
In Causes, Laws, and FreeWill, Kadri Vihvelin argues that we can have freewill even if everything we do is predictable given the laws of nature and the past. The belief that determinism robs us of freewill springs from mistaken beliefs about the metaphysics of causation, the nature of laws, and the logic of counterfactuals.
Like most episodes of Black Mirror, “Hang the DJ” raises a host of philosophical questions. While there is much from this episode to explore, this chapter will explore something that has not yet been addressed in other work, namely the connection between “Hang the DJ” and questions about freewill and determinism (or indeterminism, as the case may be). This chapter will proceed as follows: first, I will sketch some reasons for thinking that, if (...)determinism is true, then no one has or exercises freewill. One type of response to determinism’s threat to freewill is to accept the incompatibility of freewill and determinism and to maintain that we nevertheless have freewill. Theorists who endorse indeterministic accounts of freewill are called libertarians in the freewill debate (but please do not confuse them with political libertarians). Second, I will explain a bit more of the mechanics of libertarianism. Third, I will discuss an influential challenge to libertarianism that has come to be known as the “rollback argument.” The mechanics of this challenge will resemble the plot twist of “Hang the DJ.” Fourth, and finally, I will explore the episode’s portrayal of the value of undetermined choice. (shrink)
This article begins with some brief reflexions on the definition of determinism (II), on the notion of the subject of experience (III), and on the relation between conscious experience and brain events (IV). The main discussion (V?XIII) focuses on the traditional view, endorsed by Honderich in his book A Theory of Determinism, that the truth of determinism poses some special threat to our ordinary conception of ourselves as morally responsible free agents (and also to our ?life?hopes'). (...) It is argued that this is half right: the truth of determinism does indeed threaten certain vital parts of our ordinary conception of ourselves as morally responsible free agents. The trouble is that the falsity of determinism does not diminish the threat in any useful way. The old, natural, and recurrent mistake is to think that we would really be better off, so far as freewill and moral responsibility (and our ?life?hopes') were concerned, if determinism were false. It is argued that there is no important sense in which this is true, and that the question of whether determinism is true or false is therefore of no real importance, so far as the freewill debate is concerned. (shrink)
Mele's ultimate purpose in this book is to help readers think more clearly about freewill. He identifies and makes vivid the most important conceptual obstacles to justified belief in the existence of freewill and meets them head on. Mele clarifies the central issues in the philosophical debate about freewill and moral responsibility, criticizes various influential contemporary theories about freewill, and develops two overlapping conceptions of freewill--one (...) for readers who are convinced that freewill is incompatible with determinism (incompatibilists), and the other for readers who are convinced of the opposite (compatibilists). Luck poses problems for all believers in freewill, and Mele offers novel solutions to those problems--one for incompatibilist believers in freewill and the other for compatibilists. An early chapter of this empirically well-informed book clearly explains influential neuroscientific studies of freewill and debunks some extravagant interpretations of the data. Other featured topics include abilities and alternative possibilities, control and decision-making, the bearing of manipulation on freewill, and the development of human infants into free agents. Mele's theory offers an original perspective on an important problem and will garner the attention of anyone interested in the debate on freewill. (shrink)
James's classic article "The Dilemma of Determinism" represents only an early and partial statement on his views of freewill and determinism. James's mature position incorporates the arguments of "The Dilemma of Determinism" into a robust theory of freewill which at once explains the operations of free effort, and delineates the scope of legitimate psychological explanation. Freewill is an issue of fact while being beyond the competence of psychological (...) science. (shrink)
I argue that freewill and determinism are compatible, even when we take freewill to require the ability to do otherwise and even when we interpret that ability modally, as the possibility of doing otherwise, and not just conditionally or dispositionally. My argument draws on a distinction between physical and agential possibility. Although in a deterministic world only one future sequence of events is physically possible for each state of the world, the more coarsely (...) defined state of an agent and his or her environment can be consistent with more than one such sequence, and thus different actions can be “agentially possible”. The agential perspective is supported by our best theories of human behaviour, and so we should take it at face value when we refer to what an agent can and cannot do. On the picture I defend, freewill is not a physical phenomenon, but a higher-level one on a par with other higher-level phenomena such as agency and intentionality. (shrink)
This set reissues a number of classic titles on freewill and determinism. They approach the topic from a range of differing viewpoints, and in so doing, provide an excellent overview and in-depth analysis of this fundamental philosophical problem.
I argue that the Buddha did not discuss the freewill and determinism problem because he only considered issues relating to overcoming suffering and his teaching about this did not raise the problem. As represented in the Nikāyas, the heart of his teaching was an empirically based account of the causes of suffering and how to modify these to end suffering. It was primarily a practical teaching about how to achieve this goal, more a craft knowledge than (...) a philosophical theory of causality. Similarly, the no-self teaching was more about living selflessly than about developing a theoretical analysis of agency. (shrink)
In this article we study the question of freewill from an interdisciplinary angle, drawing on philosophy, neurobiology and physics. We start by reviewing relevant neurobiological findings on the functioning of the brain, notably as presented in (Koch 2009); we assess these against the physics of (in)determinism. These biophysics findings seem to indicate that neuronal processes are not quantum but classical in nature. We conclude from this that there is little support for the existence of an immaterial (...) ‘mind’, capable of ruling over matter independently of the causal past. But what, then, can freewill be ? We propose a compatibilist account that resonates well with neurobiology and physics, and that highlights that freewill comes in degrees – degrees which vary with the conscious grasp the ‘free’ agent has over his actions. Finally, we analyze the well-known Libet experiment on freewill through the lens of our model. We submit this interdisciplinary investigation as a typical case of naturalized philosophy: in our theorizing we privilege assumptions that find evidence in science, but our conceptual work also suggests new avenues for research in a few scientific disciplines. (shrink)