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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
Vlatko Vedral
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
 
Indeterminism and Free Will
(Nature, Vol. 138, No. 3479, pp.13-14, July 4, 1936)

It has become the orthodox view of physicists to-day, that the momentary state of a physical system does not determine its movement or development or behaviour, to follow; Nature is supposed to be such that a knowledge of state, sufficiently accurate for sharp prediction of the future, is not only unobtainable but also unthinkable. All that can be predicted refers to a large number of identical experiments, and consists in a definite statistics among all the possible developments to follow. The relative margin of indeterminacy (the 'spread' of the statistics) is large for a small system, for example, for an atom; but for large systems the margin is usually, though not necessarily, small, which makes it possible to account for the apparent determinacy of inanimate Nature.

Eddington, Compton, and others suggested quantum mechanical free-will mechanisms
Many eminent scientific workers, especially physicists, have tried to play with the idea that the apparent indeterminacy of animate Nature, that is, of living matter, might be connected with the theoretical indeterminacy of modern physics. What makes this play so fascinating and thrilling is evidently the hope (whether outspoken or concealed) of extracting from the new physical dogma a model of free-will, which the old one would refuse to yield. I consider this hope an illusion, for the following general reasons.

When observed objectively in other creatures, free-will actions do not call for a special 'indeterminist' explanation any more than other events. When two persons (or the same person on different occasions) react differently under apparently the same conditions, we feel compelled to account for it, whether the reaction is a passive or an active one, by a real, though unknown, difference of conditions, including, of course, character and temporary disposition on the part of the reacting persons. A poet unrolling before us the objective picture of free-will actions is just as concerned about proper causation (here called motivation) as the classical physicist was for inanimate Nature.

On the other hand, when regarded as a fact of self-observation, free-will has quite a different standing from scientific experience. The two are, as it were, in different planes, which do not intersect. Self-observed free-will I would analyse into two facts. First, indeed, a prediction, but not based on previous experience, certainly not in the way in which scientific prediction is. If I am the actor, I just know what is going to happen, and that, apart from pathological cases, with the greatest amount of certainty which is ever met with in life. The second fact is a moral one. I feel responsible for what happens.

Now, it is true that this absolute prescience is a matter only of the very last moment before or when the action sets in, which it rather accompanies than precedes. Before that there is frequently doubt and even entire ignorance ('hesitation'). This antecedent period, together with the remarkable feeling of responsibility, entails the idea of choice between different possibilities for which a clue is sought in the modern views of physics. If that were right, it would mean either one of two things.

Schrödinger makes the common error of assuming chance is the direct cause of action
First, that the laws of Nature are after all at "my" mercy. For if my smoking or not smoking a cigarette before breakfast (a very wicked thing!) were a matter of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the latter would stipulate between the two events a definite statistics, say 30:70; which I could invalidate by firmness. Or, secondly, if that is denied, why on earth do I feel responsible for what I do, since the frequency of my sinning is determined by Heisenberg's principle? The new physics does not shift St. Augustin's paradox by a hair's breadth.

In my opinion the whole analogy is fallacious, because the plurality of possible events, in the case of an action under free-will, is a self-deception. Think of cases such as the following: you are sitting at it formal dinner, with important persons, terribly boring. Could you, all at once, jump on the table and trample down the glasses and dishes, just for fun? Perhaps you could: maybe you feel like it: at any rate you cannot. Then, which of the virtually possible events are to be called possible under the auspices of free-will? I would say, just the one that actually follows.

Against this view cases might be quoted where the decision is really difficult, serious, painful, bewildering, when we are down on our knees before the Almighty to forgo it. But in this He is inexorable!

no ψ-function in life! - this from the creator of Schrödinger's Cat
We must decide. One thing must happen, will happen, life goes on. There is no ψ-function in life. I have always considered this having-to-decide as a strikingly close subjective correlate to the classical, the deterministic model of Nature. It ought to be emphasized that modern physics does not compel us to abandon this correlation. The material units which determine the processes of life seem to be large enough for - possibly and even probably - safeguarding the essential course of these processes against any perceptible direct and immediate manifestation of the Heisenberg uncertainty.

The preceding remarks have been elicited by the first page of a highly interesting sketch by Prof. F. G. Donnan, "Integral Analysis and the Phenomena of Life" (Acta Biotheoretica, Series A, vol. 2, Pars I, 1936; Leyden: E. J. Brill), though not by way of contradiction. Prof. Donnan is not concerned with the question of free-will. His idea is that an organism is to be regarded as a 'historical' system, whose reactions at a given moment are not determined alone by its surroundings and by its momentary state, but also by what has happened to that organism during a certain previous period. This is a highly attractive view, and the mathematical treatment proposed by Prof. Donnan a very suggestive one - even if one should hesitate to agree with the view (which he considers essential) that some of the historical traces are not engraved in the momentary state otherwise than by modifying its reactivity.

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