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Core Concepts

Actualism
Adequate Determinism
Agent-Causality
Alternative Possibilities
Causa Sui
Causal Closure
Causalism
Causality
Certainty
Chance
Chance Not Direct Cause
Chaos Theory
The Cogito Model
Compatibilism
Complexity
Comprehensive   Compatibilism
Conceptual Analysis
Contingency
Control
Could Do Otherwise
Creativity
Default Responsibility
De-liberation
Determination
Determination Fallacy
Determinism
Disambiguation
Double Effect
Either Way
Emergent Determinism
Epistemic Freedom
Ethical Fallacy
Experimental Philosophy
Extreme Libertarianism
Event Has Many Causes
Frankfurt Cases
Free Choice
Freedom of Action
"Free Will"
Free Will Axiom
Free Will in Antiquity
Free Will Mechanisms
Free Will Requirements
Free Will Theorem
Future Contingency
Hard Incompatibilism
Idea of Freedom
Illusion of Determinism
Illusionism
Impossibilism
Incompatibilism
Indeterminacy
Indeterminism
Infinities
Laplace's Demon
Libertarianism
Liberty of Indifference
Libet Experiments
Luck
Master Argument
Modest Libertarianism
Moral Necessity
Moral Responsibility
Moral Sentiments
Mysteries
Naturalism
Necessity
Noise
Non-Causality
Nonlocality
Origination
Paradigm Case
Possibilism
Possibilities
Pre-determinism
Predictability
Probability
Pseudo-Problem
Random When?/Where?
Rational Fallacy
Refutations
Replay
Responsibility
Same Circumstances
Scandal
Science Advance Fallacy
Second Thoughts
Self-Determination
Semicompatibilism
Separability
Soft Causality
Special Relativity
Standard Argument
Supercompatibilism
Superdeterminism
Taxonomy
Temporal Sequence
Tertium Quid
Torn Decision
Two-Stage Models
Ultimate Responsibility
Uncertainty
Up To Us
Voluntarism
What If Dennett and Kane Did Otherwise?

Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
G.E.M.Anscombe
Anselm
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Augustine
J.L.Austin
A.J.Ayer
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
Isaiah Berlin
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
F.H.Bradley
C.D.Broad
Michael Burke
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Carneades
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Chrysippus
Cicero
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Democritus
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Epictetus
Epicurus
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Gorgias
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
W.F.R.Hardie
Sam Harris
William Hasker
R.M.Hare
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
R.E.Hobart
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Leucippus
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
John McTaggart
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
G.E.Moore
C. Lloyd Morgan
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Plato
Karl Popper
Porphyry
Huw Price
H.A.Prichard
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
C.W.Rietdijk
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
T.M.Scanlon
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
J.J.C.Smart
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Francisco Suárez
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter Unger
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
Voltaire
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
W.G.Ward
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists

Michael Arbib
Bernard Baars
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Charles Darwin
Terrence Deacon
Louis de Broglie
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A.O.Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Simon Kochen
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Roger Sperry
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Peter Tse
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek

Presentations

Biosemiotics
Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium

 
Possibilism
Possibilism is the idea that there are real possibilities available in an open future.

It stands in contrast to actualism, the idea that the events that do happen are the only possible events that could possibly have happened.

Actualism denies the existence of alternative possibilities. Actualists are deterministsand eliminative materialists. Philosophers from Diodorus Cronus to Daniel Dennett argue that actualism is true, that there is only one possible actual future. How could anything have been otherwise, Dennett asks.

Actualism is closely connected to the mistaken belief, held by some prominent theoretical physicists, that information is a conserved quantity, just like matter and energy. Information philosophy has shown that the total information content has been increasing since the origin of the universe. We have explained the cosmic creation process that allows pockets of negative entropy to appear in what we call "information structures," like the galaxies, stars, and planets, even as the total entropy is increasing, in conformity with the second law of thermodynamics.

Possibilism should not be confused with the idea of possible worlds, the analytic language philosopher David Lewis's methodology in modal philosophy for investigating the logic of "nearby possible worlds" that differ only slightly from our world, as a tool for examining concepts like truth and falsity, necessity and contingency, possibility and impossibility.

Nor should it be confused with the extravagant idea of "parallel universes" - Hugh Everett's "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics which postulates the world "splitting" into two or more complete universes whenever a quantum experiment requires a "collapse of the wave function."

Possibilism and Possible Worlds
The idea of many possible worlds was first proposed by Gottfried Leibniz, who famously argued that the actual world is "the best of all possible worlds."

The analytic language philosopher David Lewis developed the philosophical methodology known as modal realism based on his claim that for every non-contradictory statement there is a possible world in which that statement is true.

Hugh Everett III's many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is an attempt to deny the random "collapse" of the wave function and preserve determinism in quantum mechanics. Everett claimed that where the projection postulate of standard quantum mechanics says that one of the possible eigenstates of a quantum system is randomly realized, his many worlds interpretation says that the world "splits" into multiple universes so as to realize all the possible eigenstates, one in each new world.

David Layzer argues that since the universe is infinite there are places in the universe where any possible situation is being realized. This is a cosmologist's version of philosopher David Lewis's "possible worlds."

Possibilism and Quantum Physics
Possibilism finds support in the fact that quantum physics is a statistical or probabilistic theory. When a quantum measurement is made, the theory accurately predicts (to many significant figures) the probabilities that the measurement apparatus will end up in one of its possible energy values (eigenvalues).

At the microscopic quantum level, the future is distinctly open to many possibilities.

According to the information interpretation of quantum mechanics, quantum systems evolve in two ways: the first is the wave function deterministically exploring all the possibilities for interaction; the second is the particle randomly choosing one of those possibilities to become actual.

The complex probability amplitude wave function, whose square gives the probabilty (between 0 and 1) of finding the particle somewhere, should perhaps be called the "possibilities function,"because it explores all space and tells us where particles will possibly be found.

The Existential and Ontological Status of Possibilities
Diodorus Cronus, Harry Frankfurt, Daniel Dennett, J. J. C. Smart, and many other determinist philosophers deny the existence of possibilities.

Aristotle asked whether the statement "There will be a sea battle next week," was already true or false. Actualists like Didorus had argued that its truth necessitates its happening in the future.

A few hundred years later, Porphyry asked what is called his "Fateful Question." Do the Platonic categories exist? Information philosophy answers yes. They exist in the realm of immaterial, but physical, information. It is the realm of thought, the very stuff of philosophy.

In quantum mechanics, especially in the information interpretation, possibilities have calculable probabilities. Their existence is shown by the fact that they interfere with one another, determining the actual outcomes of physical experiments.

In the most plausible solution to the problem of free will, the generation of alternative possibilities is the first stage. The second stage is the evaluation of those possibilities and the selection of one that is consistent with and statistically determined by the agent's motives, reasons, feelings, etc., as compatibilists have always insisted.

But what becomes of the many possibilities that are not actualized? Jean-Paul Sartre said they become "nothingness." Would Hugh Everett give each one of them its own universe?

Claude Shannon's information theory requires multiple possible messages or no new information can be communicated. Unless there can be "surprises," no new information is possible. But it goes deeper than that. Without possibilities, no new information can even be created.

Possibilism and Free Will
Chance in quantum physics is the basis for the many possible thoughts that can pop into our heads when we are evaluating alternative possibilities and making a decision. But we must deny that our decisions and actions are the direct result of a random quantum event.

Two-stage models of free will claim that noise quantum noise in the brain generates alternative possibilities (new "thoughts") for action. But they do not determine the action, because our actions are the result of the statistically determined evaluation of those possibilities, subsequent deliberation, and finally an ultimate choice governed by our character (beliefs, desires, motives) so that we are responsible for our actions.

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