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Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Anaximander
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
George Berkeley
Isaiah Berlin
Richard J. Bernstein
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
Heraclitus
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
C. Lloyd Morgan
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
Alasdair MacIntyre
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
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
Parmenides
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Plato
Karl Popper
Porphyry
Huw Price
H.A.Prichard
Protagoras
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
Isabelle Stengers
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
Martin J. Klein
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
Abraham Pais
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
John Stachel
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
 
Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
G.E.M.Anscombe
Anselm
Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle
Augustine
J.L.Austin
A.J.Ayer
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
Isaiah Berlin
Bernard Berofsky
Susanne Bobzien
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
F.H.Bradley
C.D.Broad
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Carneades
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Chrysippus
Cicero
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Diodorus Cronus
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Democritus
Daniel Dennett
René Descartes
Richard Double
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Fred Dretske
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Epictetus
Epicurus
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouillée
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Carl Ginet
H.Paul Grice
Nicholas St. John Green
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
W.F.R.Hardie
R.M.Hare
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
R.E.Hobart
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Christine Korsgaard
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Leucippus
Michael Levin
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Paul E. Meehl
Alfred Mele
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
G.E.Moore
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Karl Popper
H.A.Prichard
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
C.W.Rietdijk
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
T.M.Scanlon
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
J.J.C.Smart
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
L. Susan Stebbing
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
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
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists
G. H. von Wright

Georg Henrik von Wright was the successor to Ludwig Wittgenstein's professorship at Cambridge. With Elizabeth Anscombe and Rush Rhees, he was executor of Wittgenstein's papers.
In his 1972 Woodbridge Lectures at Columbia University, Causality and Determinism, von Wright dealt with free will in the concluding paragraphs - Part IV, section 10. Note that Anscombe had just delivered her 1971 inaugural lecture at Cambridge on a similar topic, Causality and Determination.

Whereas Anscombe had found no basis for strict determinism, and argued that indeterminism was necessary if not sufficient for human freedom, von Wright was more of a compatibilist. Like Wittgenstein, von Wright tied a free and open future merely to human ignorance about what is to come.

von Wright's abstract for Part IV.10
The truth of Universal Determinism must remain an open question. We can settle it only for fragments of the world. In order to discriminate between ontic and epistemic alternatives (show that some are "merely epistemic") we must admit alternatives for which such discrimination has not yet been made. How this fact is related to the thesis that the concept of cause presupposes that of action.
I have argued that determinism is compatible with action in the sense that every change in the world which results from the action of an agent, i.e. is imputed to agency, might also have resulted from another change which is its causally sufficient condition. This compatibility is subject to the condition that the agent has not himself, prior to and independently of his action, anticipated the operation of the cause. This being so, does it then not follow that action, though not an "illusion," is a concept rooted in our ignorance of causes?

The idea that human freedom is relative to human ignorance is familiar from the history of thought. It is related to the idea, discussed earlier, of determinism through the foreknowledge of an omniscient being. It was given an aphoristic formulation in modern times by Wittgenstein when he wrote in the Tractatus (5.1362): "The freedom of the will consists in the fact that future actions cannot be known now."
[See Wittgenstein.]

If action is correlative with ignorance of what is going to be, is then not the openness of the future, which may be said to be baked into our very concept of action, an epistemic and not an ontic feature of the world-tree? On this question, hinted at in the first lecture, I shall still have to take a stand before I finish.

Consider a total state of the world and its immediate development. Let us, for the time being, lay aside assumptions about linearity and Universal Determinism.

What is ontically certain about the world is that certain changes will occur, because there are causes of those changes operating. Ontically certain is also that some other changes will not occur, because there are counteracting causes preventing them. For the rest, the development of the world is ontically contingent, i.e. there are alternatives ahead of the given world. If determinism reigns, this "margin of contingency" shrinks to zero.

Similarly, there are two kinds of epistemic certainty about the world. One is the certainty we have that it will change in some features, because we think we know that causes of those changes are operating. The other is our certainty that the world will not change in some other features. This latter certainty may be grounded in knowledge of counteracting causes preventing the changes, but it may also be a "mere certainty" without any further ground. That which is not epistemically certain in either of these two senses is epistemically contingent.

Between the two kinds of certainty and contingency, the ontic and the epistemic, no logical relations hold. The ontic and the epistemic alternatives can be partly overlapping, or they can be inclusive or exclusive of one another. But any attempted description of the factual ontic alternatives would, of course, have to be in the terms of epistemic alternatives. For what we think, rightly or wrongly, that the ontic alternatives are, is reflected in the epistemic alternatives which we admit.

I have argued that if we want to establish, i.e. give our grounds for thinking, that something is ontically certain or is a causal necessity about changes in the world, then this presupposes an epistemic certainty regarding not-changes. This last is the certainty that some things, though not prevented from changing by any cause, will as a matter of fact not change unless we change them. The existence of this peculiar kind of epistemic certainty entails that we consider it an ontic contingency whether the world will or will not change in those features.

Now it may happen that this epistemic certainty becomes, as I shall say, "undermined" — and therewith also the entailed belief in an ontic contingency. This happens when the epistemic certainty is shown to have been "merely epistemic." The change we were certain would not happen would in fact have happened, because of the operation of a cause. That is: this change was ontically certain to occur. But the undermining of the original epistemic certainty and the establishing (as we think) of the new ontic certainty would again presuppose an epistemic certainty of the same kind as the undermined one. And this would entail belief in a new ontic contingency—and so forth for every further case of undermining the epistemic certainty.

Every time an epistemic certainty is undermined, the margin of that which we consider to be ontically contingent will shrink. But the very process of undermining requires that there is some such margin left. And this means that only for fragments of the world can determinism ever become established. It is part of the logic of things here that the validity of the deterministic thesis for the whole world must remain an open question.

To say that to establish the ontic certainty of a change presupposes an epistemic certainty of the peculiar kind which we have described is but another way of saying that establishing causal bonds in nature presupposes action. It is by virtue of these relationships that I say that the concept of cause presupposes the concept of action. Action, however, cannot rightly be said to presuppose the existence of ontic alternatives in nature, i.e. the truth of some form of indeterminism. What action presupposes is only the epistemic certainty which, as long as it is not undermined, entails the belief in the ontic contingency of some changes and thus takes for granted a certain margin of indeterminism in the world.

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