2 The importance of free will Human autonomy and dignity Value of deliberation Deserving praise and condemnation Moral responsibility
3 What is free will? The ability to act freely Our actions are free if they are under our control.David Hume defines freedom as “a power of acting or of not acting, according to the determination of the will.” (1748, sect.viii, part 1)David Hume
4 Freedom of action Definition 1: Free will is the ability to do what we choose to do.We are unrestrained.Problem: is the choice free?Is an animal free just because it can make choices? What about a computer?Is a brain-washed person free? A hypnotized person?What about determinism?
5 Determinism Our future is determined. There is only one possible future.Determinism vs. fateFate: certain actions or futures are fated to us, in spite of our own desires or our efforts to change thingsDeterminism: every thought and every action has been determined in advance by something outside of ourselves (e.g. God or the state of the universe before we were born)
6 Kinds of Determinism Determinism by God Determinism by physical laws God made us in full knowledge of everything we would be and do.Determinism by physical lawsEvery thought or decision we make is determined by physical processes in the brainThe laws of nature work the same way within the brain as out in the worldThe mind is the brain
7 Physical DeterminismAll of our thoughts and actions are ultimately determined by the laws of the universe. Every physical event is determined by prior events and physical states. There are no random or miraculous causes.If you knew all the physical states of all the matter in the universe at time t (e.g. the big bang), you could theoretically predict all subsequent events, including every thought and every action of every person who ever lives.
8 Determinism and Free Will 3 common intuitions: i) Our brains are deterministic systems ii) Determinism is incompatible with free will iii) We have free will One of these must be wrong!
9 Free Will TheoriesIncompatibilism: Free will is not compatible with determinism. If the universe is deterministic, free will is impossible. (Maintain intuition 2)Libertarianism: We do have free will. Therefore, the universe is not deterministic. (Reject intuition 1: Our brains are deterministic systems.)Hard determinism: The universe is deterministic (or, if it is indeterministic, indeterminism does not allow for free will either), and there is no free will. (Reject intuition 3: We have free will.)Compatibilism: Free will is compatible with determinism. Free will can exist even if all our actions are ultimately determined by the laws of physics. (Reject intuition 2: Determinism is incompatible with free will.)
10 IncompatibilismDefinition 2: A person is only free if their choices are undetermined Genuine (undetermined) ability to do otherwise The garden of forking paths
11 LibertarianismLibertarianism: Free will is possible only if determinism is false. We do have free will. Therefore determinism is false (in a relevant way) Problems: 1) Contrary to science 2) Indeterminism doesn’t seem to help
12 Agent Causation A variety of libertarianism Actions are caused by us as an agentAgents are not themselves caused. Agents cause events in a way that is not deterministic and not randomProblems:Incoherent. How can a cause be neither deterministic nor random?How can anything be ultimately self-generated and therefore ultimately responsible for being what it is?
13 Hard determinism Hard determinism Free will is only possible if determinism is false. But determinism is true. Therefore, we do not have free will.Problems:1) It seems like we have free will.2) There seems to be a difference between free actions and unfree actions.3) If there is no free will, a carefully considered plan is no more free than the act of a person under hypnosis.
14 Compatibilism Definition 3: A person is free if they are able to make choices rationally on the basis of their goals, desires and values.People are not at the mercy of every passing desire.People act according to second-order desires (Frankfurt).Problem: Are the goals, values or second-order desires free?Harry Frankfurt
15 Deep Self View (also a form of compatibilism) Definition 4:A person is free insomuch as their actions arise from their deep self.A free action is one that you (the agent) would endorse and identify with, on reflection. It stems from who you are.How you come to be who you are doesn’t matter.Problems:what about uncharacteristic actions?are you free to be who you are? Does it matter?
16 Another possible stance: Free will is incoherent The concept of free will is incoherent. Free will is impossible whether determinism is true or not. Determinism makes our actions unfree. Indeterminism also makes our actions unfree. Free will requires self-generation, which is logically impossible Free will is incoherent – not even possible to imagine. Problem: If free will is incoherent, the term “free will” has no meaning. But surely it means something!
17 Summary of possible stances 1) Compatibilism (soft determinism)2) Libertarianism2) Hard determinism4) Free will is incoherent
18 Free will and robotsCould a robot have free will? What would be the criteria? Ability to choose between alternatives? Capacity for self-modification? Consciousness? Rationality? Genuine desires? (What is genuine?) Indeterminism?
19 The importance of free will Human autonomy and dignity: are we less if we are not free? Meaningfulness of deliberation: does it make sense to deliberate if our actions are determined by physical laws? Deserving praise and blame: does it make sense to praise or blame people for their actions, if their actions are not free? Moral responsibility: does it make sense to punish someone for an act that was not freely willed?
20 ReadingsAndrew Morton, “Free Will” in Philosophy in Practice, Ch , on UMMoodle Thomas Nagel, “Free Will” in What Does It All Mean?, Chapter 6, on UMMoodle Stephen Law, “Do We Ever Deserve to Be Punished” in The Philosophy Gym, Chapter15, on UMMoodle