Today A brief general introduction to the problem of free will
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1 Today A brief general introduction to the problem of free will Augustine’s notion of freedomBoethius’ notion of freedom
2 The problem of free will What are some of the things that we think we do freely?What are some of the things that we think we do of our own free will?We have the intuition that we have free will and that some of our actions are done freely.
3 The problem of free will We distinguish between a free action and one that is the result of some compulsion.Examples of actions that are not free are: we are blackmailed to do what we do, we can not help doing what we do, we are forced to do what we do, we are unable to do what we want to do
4 The problem of free will Actions that are done freely often involve a choice between different courses of actionWe make a choice and since it is our choice we are also morally responsible for our action.If someone is forced to step on your toe you will find it difficult to blame him. But if someone makes a free choice to step on your toe, you will blame him and hold him responsible.
5 The problem of free will The intuitive idea of free will thus involves that a person makes a choice and then performs the action he has chosen.For the choice to be free the person needs to have alternatives available.As a result of the free choice, the person is morally responsible for the action.
6 The problem of free will Now we get to the problem of free will.There are a variety of arguments that claim that we in fact have no free will.The modern argument is based on the idea of determinismAugustine and Boethius consider an argument that is based on God’s foreknowledge
7 The problem of free will Determinism is the following claim: Everything in the world is determined to happen by any prior state of the universe and the laws of nature.Determinism claims that the history of the world is fixed from its beginning and the laws of nature.This includes all human actions.
8 The problem of free will If all human actions are fixed by the laws of nature and a prior state of the universe, then nobody ever has genuinely an alternative open to him.When we make a choice it only seems to us that we can choose an alternative.We are in fact unable to choose anything but what is determined to happen.
9 The problem of free will There are different ways of responding to this problem.The response that is most important for us is compatibilism.Compatibilism claims that an action can be free even if we could not have chosen an alternative, even if we do not make a real choice.
10 The problem of free will Compatibilism claims that determinism and free will are compatible, that they do not contradict one another.However, compatibilism has the task of explaining how one can have freedom if one has no real choice.Compatibilism also has the problem of explaining how moral responsibility is possible if nobody ever has a real choice.
11 Augustine’s notion of freedom To understand Augustine’s notion of freedom we need to distinguish between free will and free action.Consider a decision that leads to an actionOne might say that the action is free if it is based on your own decision.One might say that your decision or your will is free if it is the decision you want to make
12 Augustine’s notion of freedom Freedom of ActionYou act in the way you want to actYou act in accordance with your own decisionYou are not bound and gagged, or forced to perform a certain actionFreedom of the WillYou make the decision you want to makeYour decision is genuinely based on your own preferencesYou are not blackmailed or forced to make a certain decision
13 Augustine’s notion of freedom Augustine considers only freedom of actionHe defines freedom as voluntary actionThis means that freedom consists in doing what you decide to do.If you act on your own decisions you are free.
14 Augustine’s notion of freedom Augustine does not see a problem of freedom and determinismHe understands the problem to arise because of God’s foreknowledgeIf God knows already what you will decide to have for lunch tomorrow, then you do not seem to have a real choice.You have to choose what God knows you will choose.
15 Augustine’s notion of freedom A genuine choice is not required for freedom according to AugustineAll that is required for freedom is that your action is based on your own decision.You in a sense had to make that decision, but it is still your decision and so your action is free.
16 Augustine’s notion of freedom One can easily raise a problem with this notion of freedom.Suppose that someone pushes you over a cliff and you say half way down: I want to fall to my death! Would your falling to your death then be free?Suppose that you are imprisoned and cannot leave. One day you say to yourself: I want to be imprisoned! Would it then be free?
17 Augustine’s notion of freedom In response to these problems we need to remember that Augustine is a Christian thinker.When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we say: Thy will be done!Augustine often talks about a choice that we have to make, between serving our own various wants and needs and serving God.
18 Augustine’s notion of freedom Augustine thinks of this decision, to serve our own interests or to serve God is the key free choice that we have to make.Freedom is compatible with submitting ourselves to God’s willWhen we pray Thy will be done, we freely submit to God’s will.
19 Augustine’s notion of freedom If our freedom is the result of the choice to serve either our own wants and needs or God, then freedom is compatible with God’s foreknowledge.When we say Thy will be done, we submit of our own free will and perform those actions that God foresees us to perform
20 Augustine’s notion of freedom In the case of falling down the cliff, we are not supposed to submit to the bad will of this other person pushing us off the cliff.When we are imprisoned we are not supposed to submit to the bad will of the person’s imprisoning us.We are supposed to decide for or against God and submit to him, not to the bad will of other people.
21 Boethius’ notion of freedom Boethius struggles with the same problem of whether God’s foreknowledge and freedom in our choices and actions are compatible.However, he sees the key to the problem in the distinction between simple and conditional necessity.
22 Boethius’ notion of freedom Boethius thinks of simple necessity as due to the nature of the necessary thing.Suppose that we consider the law of gravity.Now we can predict a number of things on the basis of the law of gravity, and those things that we predict happen necessarily.If an object falls to the ground it does so out of necessity.Given its nature is has to fall down.
23 Boethius’ notion of freedom Conditional necessity on the other hand means that something is necessary given that a certain condition obtains.For example it is necessary that all those who are registered for this class will receive a grade.Given the condition of being registered for the class, you will receive a grade.However, it is not simply necessary that you will receive a grade for the class.
24 Boethius’ notion of freedom Conditional necessityIf a certain condition obtains then something must happenWithout the condition it need not happen.Example: If you go to a specific restaurant, you need to choose from its menu.Simple NecessitySomething must happen because of its natureEven before it happens it is necessary that it will happenExample: the motion of the planets
25 Boethius’ notion of freedom Boethius main claim is that human actions are not simply necessary, but only conditionally necessary.The condition that renders them necessary is God’s foreknowledge.But they are not in themselves or by their nature necessary.We do not act in the way in which the planets move around.
26 Boethius’ notion of freedom Boethius idea thus allows one to distinguish different ways in which something might be necessary.He is able to distinguish between the necessity of human action and the necessity of planetary motion, for example.Human action is due to our own decisions. However, God foresees our decisions and actions. Given this condition they have to happen. But it is not the case that human action is because of its nature necessary.
27 Boethius’ notion of freedom In the modern version of the problem of free will, people usually think that the same kind of necessity governs both planetary motion and human action.The idea is that everything that happens is determined to happen by the laws of nature and a prior state of the universe.What could Boethius say in response?