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Metaphysics. The Problem of Free Will. “surface freedom” Being able to ‘do what you want’ Being free to act, and choose, as you will BUT: what if ‘what you will’ is not under your control?. “free will” Being an agent capable of influencing the world Source of ones own actions

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metaphysics

Metaphysics

The Problem of Free Will

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

what is freedom
“surface freedom”

Being able to ‘do what you want’

Being free to act, and choose, as you will

BUT: what if ‘what you will’ is not under your control?

“free will”

Being an agent capable of influencing the world

Source of ones own actions

Actions and choices are “up-to-us”

What is freedom?

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

why is freedom important
Why is freedom important?
  • We ‘feel’ that we are free; that we are the originators of our own actions
  • We need to be free in order to be responsible for our actions; our practices of praise and blame presuppose that we are free (compare the kleptomaniac to the ordinary thief)

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

could we be mistaken about feeling free
Could we be mistaken about‘feeling free’?
  • Let us imagine a man who, while standing on the street, would say to himself: ‘It is six o’clock in the evening, the working day is over. Now I can go for a walk, or I can go to the club; I can also climb up the tower to see the sun set; I can go to the theatre; I can visit this friend or that one; indeed, I also can run out of the gate, into the wide world and never return. All this is strictly up to me; in this I have complete freedom. But still, I shall do none of these things now, but with just as free a will I shall go home to my wife.’ This is exactly as if water spoke to itself: ‘I can make high waves (yes! in the sea during a storm), I can rush down hill (yes! in the river bed), I can plunge down foaming and gushing (yes! in the fountain) I can, finally, boil away and disappear (yes! at certain temperature); but I am doing none of these things now, and am voluntarily remaining quiet and clear in the reflecting pond.
      • (Schopenhauer, On the Freedom of The Will)

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

causal determinism
Causal determinism
  • (Roughly): the view that the state of the world at a given time determines the state of the world at the next moment
  • Every event that occurs, including human action, is entirely the result of earlier causes [event causation]

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

determinism types
Determinism: types
  • Causal determinism*
    • Theological determinism
    • Psychological determinism
    • Sociological determinism
    • Biological determinism
    • Environmental determinism

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

so determinism and free will would appear to be in tension with one another
So, determinism and free will would appear to be in tension with one another
  • This raises two big questions
    • The determinist question - is determinism true or false?
    • The compatibility question - is free will compatible with determinism?
  • The combination of answers that can be given form the standard positions in the debate

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

incompatibilism
Incompatibilism
  • Incompatibilists believe freedom is not compatible with determinism; if determinism is true, then one cannot be held truly free and responsible for one’s actions
  • Incompatibilists may be divided into two groups …

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

incompatibilism hard determinism
Incompatibilism: Hard Determinism
  • Free will is not compatible with determinism
  • Determinism is true
  • So, we do not have free will

HARD DETERMINISTS are incompatibilists who hold that determinism is true

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

incompatibilism libertarianism
Incompatibilism: libertarianism
  • Libertarians believe
    • We do have free will
    • Free will is not compatible with determinism
    • Determinism is therefore false

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

compatibilism
Compatibilism
  • COMPATIBILISTS believe that freedom and responsibility are in every significant sense compatible with determinism; thus there is no conflict between determinism and free will
    • SOFT DETERMINISTS are compatibilists who believe determinism is true
    • Classical Compatibilists: Hobbes, Hume, Mill
    • Modern Compatibilists: Ayer, Dennett, Frankfurt

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

hard determinism
Hard Determinism
  • Free will is not compatible with determinism
  • Determinism is true
  • Therefore, free will is an illusion

Support?

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

hard determinism1
Hard Determinism
  • CONSEQUENCE ARGUMENT (informal)

If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us.

Peter van Inwagen, An Essay on Free Will (p. 56)

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

hard determinism2
Hard Determinism
  • Problems:
    • How can the HD explain our behaviour of praising and blaming agents for their actions, and ascribing responsibility?
    • What happens to morality? If nobody can ever ‘do otherwise’ than they in fact do, then notions of responsibility, desert, praise, and blame are redundant.

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

soft determinism compatibilism
Soft Determinism (compatibilism)
  • Determinism is true
  • Free will exists
  • There is no tension between these claims
    • If some people see a tension here, it is because they are misunderstanding the notions of freedom and determinism, of ‘free-choice’ and ‘causal necessity’

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

challenge for the compatibilist
Challenge for the compatibilist:
  • Incompatibilists say:

For our actions to be free, it must be the case that, when we act, we could do otherwise than we actually do

This insistence on the ability to do otherwise is often referred to as the “principle of alternate possibilities”

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

compatibilist responses
Compatibilist responses:
  • Interpret the CDO-condition of freedom as having a hypothetical or conditional meaning, i.e.

To say one ‘could have done otherwise’ is to say that one would have done otherwise had things been different (given a different set of beliefs, desires, etc.)

[classical compatibilist response]

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

compatibilist responses1
Compatibilist responses:
  • So what if I couldn’t ‘do otherwise’?

The ability to do otherwise is not in fact required for moral responsibility, and so determinism is no threat to free will

  • The proper contrast to freedom is not determinism, but constraint/coercion

As long as we are not constrained, coerced or forced in our actions then we do what we will, and it doesn’t matter whether our wills are determined or not

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

compatibilism problems
Compatibilism: problems
  • compatibilist freedom is only ‘surface’ freedom - it is not free will in the full, proper sense
  • Compatibilism is a “wretched subterfuge” (Kant), a “quagmire of evasion” (William James)

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

libertarian free will position
Libertarian (free will) position
  • Libertarians believe
    • Free will is not compatible with determinism
    • Free will exists
    • Determinism is therefore false

Support?

Criticism?

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

libertarian free will position1
Libertarian (free will) position
  • Criticism: our sense of free will is just an illusion, as Schopenhauer shows with his water example
    • Also, “leaf” example

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

libertarian free will position2
Libertarian (free will) position
  • More serious problem:
    • If determinism is false, then events are not subject to chain of cause-and-effect
    • So events occur randomly, by chance (indeterminism)
    • If events occur by chance, then they are not under our control
    • So, how can we be free and responsible?

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

libertarian free will position3
Libertarian (free will) position
  • This is known as the “Intelligibility Question” - how do we make sense of a non-determined free will?
  • 3 common responses:
    • Agent-causal theory (self-determination)
    • Simple indeterminism
    • Causal indeterminism

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

agent causation
Agent causation
  • Not only events can be causes; agents themselves can be causes too (distinction between event-causation and agent-causation)
  • Agent-causation is not reducible to causation by events (agent-causes are not explainable by reference to other events)

A STAFF MOVES A STONE, AND IS MOVED BY A HAND, WHICH IS MOVED BY A MAN - Aristotle, Physics 256a

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

agent causation1
Agent causation
  • Problems:
    • Many people, including many libertarians, find the notion of ‘agent-causation’ far too mysterious and problematic
      • Requires agents to be the uncaused cause of their actions, to be “prime movers unmoved”
      • Problem of economy - positing a second, additional, category of causation

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

slide26

So…

… are you free?

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

positions in the free will debate diagram taken from http en wikipedia org wiki free will
Positions in the ‘Free Will Debate’Diagram taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

film resource
Film resource:
  • Minority Report

Psychic creatures called ‘pre-cogs’ can “see” crimes before they happen, so murderers are apprehended and tried before they commit their crimes (this is done under the “Pre-crime Programme)

  • Would you support the pre-crime programme?

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

causal determinism1
Causal determinism
  • We ought then to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its anterior state and as the cause of the one which is to follow. Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings who compose it - an intelligence sufficiently vast to submit these data to analysis - it would embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atom; for it, nothing would be uncertain and the future, as the past, would be present to its eyes. The human mind offers, in the perfection which it has been able to give to astronomy, a feeble idea of such an intelligence.
  • (Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities [1820] 1951: 4)

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews

1 is determinism true 2 can there be free will
Determinists

1. YES

2. Depends …

Compatibilists (Soft Determinists)

2. YES

Hard Determinists

2. NO

Libertarians

2. YES

1. NO (since FW exists)

(Another position)

1. Maybe …

2. No (doesn’t matter whether Determinism is true or not)

1. Is Determinism true? 2. Can there be Free Will?

Dr Lisa Jones University of St Andrews