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Core Concepts

Adequate Determinism
Alternative Possibilities
Causa Sui
Causal Closure
Chance Not Direct Cause
Chaos Theory
The Cogito Model
Comprehensive   Compatibilism
Conceptual Analysis
Could Do Otherwise
Default Responsibility
Determination Fallacy
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
Laplace's Demon
Liberty of Indifference
Libet Experiments
Master Argument
Modest Libertarianism
Moral Necessity
Moral Responsibility
Moral Sentiments
Paradigm Case
Random When?/Where?
Rational Fallacy
Same Circumstances
Science Advance Fallacy
Second Thoughts
Soft Causality
Special Relativity
Standard Argument
Temporal Sequence
Tertium Quid
Torn Decision
Two-Stage Models
Ultimate Responsibility
Up To Us
What If Dennett and Kane Did Otherwise?


Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
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
Michael Burke
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
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
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
Sam Harris
William Hasker
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
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
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
C. Lloyd Morgan
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Karl Popper
Huw Price
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
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
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf


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
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
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
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
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
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek


Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium

Predictability is an important characteristic of law-governed phenomena. It is an essential part of the scientific method, sometimes called the hypothetico-deductive-experimental-observation method.

In the first step, freely invented hypotheses are proposed. In the second, reason, logic, and mathematics are used to deduce quantitative implications of the hypotheses. These deductions suggest observations and experiments (step 3), especially those that can provide quantitative measurements. The best hypothesis is the one that predicts observations or experiments that confirm (verify) or deny (falsify) the implied theory, and more specifically the one hypothesis that leads to quantitative measurements in agreement with the prediction.

But what does agreement mean? Predictions are never in perfect mathematical agreement with the observations and experimental measurements. When measurements are repeated (as they must be, preferably by independent observers), they scatter randomly around some average value in a "normal distribution." Confirmation of a prediction is when the prediction lies within an acceptable error (usually reported as "number of standard deviations"), a range of values around the average measured value.

Predictability is related to the idea of reproducibility. In order for an experiment to be accepted as scientific evidence, the experiments must be reproducible and repeatable. But, since experimental results are never exact, a reproducible result is one that gets the same result within the "error bars."

Experimental science can thus offer no "proofs" of knowledge - just best predictions, best explanations, and best theories. Like all knowledge, scientific knowledge is merely probable or statistical, though it is, at the same time, the most reliable knowledge that we have.

Probabilities are a priori, produced by theories.
Statistics are the a posteriori results of experiments.

The reason physical science is so well respected is because the precision and accuracy of its measurements are so high. Quantum physics, the most accurate physical theory, produces measurements accurate to within over fifteen significant figures, that is to say with standard deviations of +/- .0000000000000001.

Quantum mechanical predictions are unusual in that they contain a minimal indeterminism, consistent with the Heisenberg uncertainty (or indeterminacy) principle. Some definitions of science maintain that it must be based on perfectly repeatable experiments. At the level of quantum particles, there is no such thing as a perfectly repeatable experiment.

Classical deterministic laws of nature have been traditionally thought to be infinitely accurate, that is, to an infinite number of decimal places. They are only as accurate as their experimental evidence.

Philosophers (including many philosophers of science) have sometimes misread physical determinism as providing an infinitely accurate predictability. This is impossible.

Ludwig Boltzmann, his admirer and contemporary Franz Exner, and Exner's student Erwin Schrödinger often pointed out that deterministic theories go beyond the available evidence. Popularization of physical theories has often confused not just the public, but even philosophers of science.

On the three hundredth anniversary of Newton’s Principia, Sir James Lighthill gave a lecture to the Royal Society, lamenting the confusion between Newton's classical mechanical determinism and the apparent claim of perfect predictability:

”We are all deeply conscious today that the enthusiasm of our forebears for the marvellous achievements of Newtonian mechanics led them to make generalizations in this area of predictability which, indeed, we may have generally tended to believe before 1960, but which we now recognize were false. We collectively wish to apologize for having misled the general educated public by spreading ideas about determinism of systems satisfying Newton’s laws of motion that, after 1960, were to be proved incorrect...”

The Marquis de Laplace imagined an intelligent being (Laplace's Demon who knows the positions and velocities of the constituent atoms and uses Newton's equations of motion to predict the future (and retrodict the past) of the entire universe.

Predictability, Determinism, and Free Will?
Although many thinkers confuse predictability with determinism, neither Newton nor Laplace likely did so. Newton was painfully aware of the errors made in astronomical observations. Laplace invented his super intelligent being to contrast its infinite mind (like that of God) to the finite minds that must remain infinitely distant from such knowledge. He knew that the information for even one single particle is infinite mathematically.

Philosophers who appreciate that determinism does not imply predictability have used the unpredictability of the future to argue for a kind of free will called epistemic freedom. It is enough freedom that we do not know what the future will be. "God only knows," say those religious thinkers who are not bothered by the foreknowledge of a God or gods. Although it is true that we cannot know what an open future will bring, to accept human ignorance as a basis for human freedom seems perverse.

When physical laws are expressible as mathematical functions of time, knowledge of the initial conditions at some time allows us to predict the conditions at all later (and retrospectively earlier) times.

Long before Laplace, Gottfried Leibniz imagined a scientist who could see the events of all times, just as all times are thought to be present to the mind of God. "Everything proceeds mathematically...if someone could have a sufficient insight into the inner parts of things, and in addition had remembrance and intelligence enough to consider all the circumstances and take them into account, he would be a prophet and see the future in the present as in a mirror."

Baruch Spinoza held a similar view, and these views deeply impressed Albert Einstein, who remained a confirmed determinist all his life, despite discovering the fundamental randomness (and unpredictability) of quantum mechanics over two decades before Werner Heisenberg!

For Teachers
For Scholars

Chapter 3.7 - The Ergod Chapter 4.2 - The History of Free Will
Part Three - Value Part Five - Problems
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