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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
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
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
Carl Ginet
Edmund Gettier
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
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
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
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Kenneth Sayre
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
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
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
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
Stuart Hameroff
Patrick Haggard
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
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
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
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
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


Mental Causation
James Symposium

The Problem of Free Will
The classic problem of free will is to reconcile an element of freedom with the apparent determinism in a world of causes and effects, a world of events in a great causal chain.
Determinists deny any such freedom.
Compatibilists redefine freedom. Although our will is determined by prior events in the causal chain, it is in turn causing and determining our actions. Compatibilists say that determinism by our will allows us to take moral responsibility for our actions.
Libertarians think the will is free when a choice can be made that is not determined or necessitated by prior events. The will is free when alternative choices could have been made with the same pre-existing conditions.

Freedom of the will allows us to say, "I could have chosen (and done) otherwise."

In a deterministic world, everything that happens follows ineluctably from natural or divine laws. There is but one possible future.
In the more common sense view, we are free to shape our future, to be creative, to be unpredictable.
From the ancient Epicureans to modern quantum mechanical indeterminists, some thinkers have suggested that chance or randomness was an explanation for freedom, an explanation for the unpredictability of a free and creative act. A truly random event would break the causal chain and nullify determinism, providing room for human freedom.
Freedom of human action does require the randomness of absolute unpredictability, but if our actions are the direct consequence of a random event, we cannot feel responsible. That would be mere indeterminism, as unsatisfactory as determinism.
Moreover, indeterminism appears to threaten reason itself, which seems to require certainty and causality to establish truth, knowledge, and the laws of nature.
Most philosophers in all ages have been committed to one or more of the dogmas of determinism, refusing to admit any indeterminism or chance. They described the case of "indeterminism is true" as a disaster for reason. They said chance was "obscure to human reason." They found "no medium betwixt chance and necessity."
Many scientists agree that science is predicated on strict causality and predictability, without which science itself, considered as the search for causal laws, would be impossible.
For those scientists, laws of nature would not be "laws" if they were only statistical and probabilistic. Ironically, some laws of nature turn out to be thoroughly statistical and our predictions merely probable, though with probabilities approaching certainty.
Fortunately, for large objects the departure from deterministic laws is practically unobservable. Probabilities become indistinguishable from certainties, and we can show there is an "adequate determinism" and a "soft causality."
In the next chapter, we review the history of the free will problem.
We then summarize the requirements for free will, and propose a working solution based on the past and current ideas of those philosophers and scientists who have addressed the free will problem.

Recent debate on the free will problem uses a taxonomy of positions that has caused a great deal of confusion, partly logical but mostly linguistic. Let's take a quick look at the terminology.
At the top level, there are two mutually exclusive positions, Determinism and Indeterminism.
Under Determinism, two more positions conflict, Compatibilism and Incompatibilism.
And under Indeterminism, Robert Kane in the Oxford Handbook of Free Will distinguishes three positions recently taken by Libertarians - Non-Causal, Agent-Causal, and Event-Causal.

Taxonomy of Free Will Positions

Instead of directly discussing models for free will, the debate is conducted indirectly.
Is free will compatible with determinism? is a frequently asked question. Most philosophers answer yes and describe themselves as compatibilists. They call libertarians "incompatibilists."
Is determinism true? is another frequent question. The answer, at least in the physical world, is now well known. Determinism is not "true." The physical world contains quantum randomness - absolute chance.
Chance does not mean that every event is completely undetermined and uncaused. And it does not mean that chance is the direct cause of our actions, that our actions are random in any way.
Nevertheless, the typical argument of determinists and compatibilists is that if our actions had random causes we could not be morally responsible.
To avoid the obvious difficulty for their position, most compatibilist philosophers simply deny the reality of chance. They hope that something will be found to be wrong with quantum mechanical indeterminism. Chance is unintelligible, they say, and thus there is no intelligible account of libertarian free will. Some dismiss free will (as many philosophers denied chance) as an illusion.
Recently, professional philosophers specializing in free will and moral responsibility have staked out nuanced versions of the familiar positions with new jargon, like broad and narrow incompatibilism, semicompatibilism, hard incompatibilism, and illusionism.
Awkwardly, the incompatibilist position includes both "hard" determinists, who deny free will, and libertarians, who deny determinism, making the category very messy.
Broad incompatibilists think both free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with determinism. Narrow incompatibilists think free will is not compatible, but moral responsibility is compatible with determinism.

Semicompatibilists are narrow compatibilists who are agnostic about free will and determinism but claim moral responsibility is compatible with determinism.

Hard incompatibilists think both free will and moral responsibility are not compatible with determinism. Illusionists are incompatibilists who say free will is an illusion.
Soft incompatibilists think both free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with strict determinism, but both are compatible with an adequate determinism.
Soft causalists are event-causalists who accept causality but admit some unpredictable events that are causa sui and which start new causal chains.
For those who know indeterminism is the case, at least in the microphysical world, many deny that chance and quantum randomness can be important for free will. Oddly, this includes agent-causalists, who postulate a non-physical origin for causes (like reasons in the agent's mind), and non-causalists, who claim volitions and intentions are simply uncaused.
For the "event-causal" theorists of free will, we can distinguish six increasingly sophisticated attitudes toward the role of chance and indeterminism. "Event-causal" theorists embrace the first two, but very few thinkers, if any, appear to have considered all six essential requirements for chance to contribute to libertarian free will.
  1. Chance exists in the universe. Quantum mechanics is correct. Indeterminism is true, etc.

  2. Chance is important for free will. It breaks the causal chain of determinism.

  3. Chance cannot directly cause our actions. We cannot be responsible for random actions.

  4. Chance can only generate random (unpredictable) alternative possibilities for action or thought. The choice or selection of one action must be adequately determined, so that we can take responsibility. And once we choose, the connection between mind/brain and motor control must be adequately determined to see that "our will be done."

  5. Chance, in the form of noise, both quantum and thermal, must be ever present. The naive model of a single random microscopic event, amplified to affect the macroscopic brain, never made sense. Under what ad hoc circumstances, at what time, at what place in the brain, would it occur to affect a decision?

  6. Chance must be overcome or suppressed by the adequately determined will when it decides to act, de-liberating the prior free options that "one could have done."

Of those thinkers who have considered most of these six aspects of chance, a small fraction have also seen the obvious parallel with biological evolution and natural selection, with its microscopic quantum accidents causing variations in the gene pool and macroscopic natural selection of fit genes by their reproductive success. Biology affords other examples of two-stage processes, with first chance, then adequately determined choice. For example, the immune system.
For Teachers
For Scholars
Cambridge: "a central question is whether humans are free in what they do or are determined by external events beyond their control." Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, p.281.
Oxford: " can be voluntary or free, where that means that they come about purely because of my willing them when I could have done otherwise." Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, p.147.
Runes: "The freedom of self-determination consist(s of a) decision independent of external constraint but in accordance with the inner motives and ideals of the agent." Runes Dictionary of Philosophy, p.127.

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