Chance Not Direct Cause
The Cogito Model
Could Do Otherwise
Event Has Many Causes
Freedom of Action
Free Will Axiom
Free Will in Antiquity
Free Will Mechanisms
Free Will Requirements
Free Will Theorem
Idea of Freedom
Illusion of Determinism
Liberty of Indifference
Science Advance Fallacy
Up To Us
What If Dennett and Kane Did Otherwise?
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Richard J. Bernstein
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Joseph Keim Campbell
Mario De Caro
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
John Martin Fischer
Richard L. Franklin
Nicholas St. John Green
Georg W.F. Hegel
George Henry Lewes
C. Lloyd Morgan
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Ruth Barcan Marcus
Paul E. Meehl
John Stuart Mill
William of Ockham
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Willard van Orman Quine
L. Susan Stebbing
George F. Stout
Teilhard de Chardin
Peter van Inwagen
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
C.F. von Weizsäcker
Alfred North Whitehead
John S. Bell
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Satyendra Nath Bose
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Arthur Holly Compton
E. P. Culverwell
Louis de Broglie
Abraham de Moivre
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Hugh Everett, III
R. A. Fisher
J. Willard Gibbs
A. O. Gomes
J. B. S. Haldane
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Ruth E. Kastner
Martin J. Klein
William R. Klemm
James Clerk Maxwell
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Paul A. Weiss
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Free Will in AntiquityHistorians of the free will problem disagree about who exactly was first to take positions as determinist, libertarian, and compatibilist in antiquity, but there is wide agreement that these views were essentially fully formed over 2000 years ago. Candidates for the first thinkers to form these views, as well as the idea of a non-physical "agent-causal" libertarianism, include Democritus (460-370), Aristotle (384-322), Epicurus (341-270), Chrysippus (280-207), and Carneades (214-129). After a brief review of the history, we will also look at the arguments of modern classicists and historians of philosophy who have scrutinized the textual evidence for each of these philosophers. These modern thinkers include Carlo Giussani, Cyril Bailey, David Furley, Pamela Huby, Richard Sorabji, R. W. Sharples, Don Fowler, A. A. Long and D. N. Sedley, Walter Englert, Julia Annas, Jeffrey S. Purinton, Susanne Bobzien, Tim O'Keefe, Ricardo Salles, Dorothea Frede, and John Dudley. All of these modern analyses make implicit or explicit comparisons to sophisticated modern ideas of determinism and libertarianism. Since these ideas are quite complex, we need to identify and separate the original problems from their modern counterparts. And we need to separate the distinct ideas of logical necessity, physical determinism, fatalism, future contingency (denied on the basis of the principle of bivalence), and divine foreknowledge that are often scrambled together in the work of the ancient thinkers.
The very first free will "problem" was whether freedom was compatible with intervention and foreknowledge of the gods. Before there was anything called philosophy, religious accounts of man's fate explored the degree of human freedom permitted by superhuman gods. Creation myths often end in adventures of the first humans making choices and being held responsible. But a strong fatalism is present in those tales that foretell the future, based on the idea that the gods have foreknowledge of future events. Anxious not to annoy the gods, the myth-makers rarely challenged the implausible view that the gods' foreknowledge is compatible with human freedom. This was an early form of today's compatibilism, the idea that causal determinism and logical necessity are compatible with free will.
The first thinkers to look for explanatory causes (ἀιτία) in natural phenomena (rather than gods controlling events) were the Greek physiologoi or cosmologists. The reasons or rules (λόγοι) behind the physical (φύσις) world became the ideal "laws" governing material phenomena. The first cosmologist was Anaximander (610-546), who coined the term physis (φύσις) and perhaps even the cosmological combination of cosmos (κόσμος), as organized nature, and logos (λόγοσ), as the law behind nature. The Greeks had a separate word for the laws (or conventions) of society, nomos (νόμος).
Heraclitus (535-475) claimed that everything changes ("you can't step twice into the same river") but that there were laws or rules (the logos) behind all the change. The early cosmologists' intuition that their laws could produce an ordered cosmos out of chaos was prescient. Our current model of the universe begins with a state of minimal information and maximum disorder. Early cosmologists imagined that the universal laws were all-powerful and must therefore explain the natural causes behind all things, from the regular motions of the heavens to the mind (νοῦς) of man.
The physiologoi transformed pre-philosophical arguments about gods controlling the human will into arguments about pre-existing causes controlling it. The cosmological problem became a psychological problem. Some saw a causal chain of events leading back to a first cause (later taken by many religious thinkers to be God). Other physiologoi held that although all physical events are caused, mental events might not be. This is mind/body dualism, perhaps the most important of all great dualisms. If the mind (or soul) is a substance different from matter, it could have its own laws different from the laws of nature for material bodies, and agents might originate new causal chains.
The materialist philosophers Democritus and his mentor Leucippus were the first determinists. With extraordinary prescience, they claimed that all things, including humans, were made of atoms in a void, with individual atomic motions strictly controlled by causal laws. Democritus said:
"By convention (nomos) color, by convention sweet, by convention bitter, but in reality atoms and a void." νόμῳ χροιή, νόμῳ γλυκύ, νόμῳ πικρόν, ἑτεῇ δ’ ἄτομα καὶ κενόν (Diels Kranz, fragment B125)Democritus wanted to wrest control of man's fate from arbitrary gods and make us more responsible for our actions. But ironically, he and Leucippus originated two of the great dogmas of determinism, physical determinism and logical necessity, which lead directly to the traditional and modern problem of free will and determinism.
Leucippus stated the first dogma, an absolute necessity which left no room in the cosmos for chance.
"Nothing occurs at random (maten), but everything for a reason (logos) and by necessity." οὐδὲν χρῆμα μάτηῳ γίνεται, ἀλλὰ πάντα ἐκ λόγου τε καὶ ὑπ’ ἀνάγκηςThe consequence is a world with but one possible future, completely determined by its past. Some even argued for a great cycle of events (an idea borrowed from Middle Eastern sources) repeating themselves over thousands of years.
The first major philosopher to argue convincingly for some indeterminism was probably Aristotle. First he described a causal chain (ἄλυσις) back to a prime mover or first cause, and he elaborated four possible causes (material, efficient, formal, and final). Aristotle's word for these causes was ἀιτία, which translates as causes in the sense of the multiple factors responsible for an event. Aristotle did not subscribe to the simplistic "every event has a (single) cause" idea that was to come later.
Then, in his Physics and Metaphysics, Aristotle also said there were "accidents" caused by "chance (τυχή)." In his Physics, he clearly reckoned chance among the causes. Aristotle might have added chance as a fifth cause - an uncaused or self-caused cause - one he thought happens when two causal chains come together by accident (συμβεβεκός). He noted that the early physicists had found no place for chance among their causes.
Aristotle opposed his accidental chance to necessity:
Nor is there any definite cause for an accident, but only chance (τυχόν), namely an indefinite (ἀόριστον) cause.Tracing any particular sequence of events back in time will usually come to an accidental event - a "starting point" or "fresh start" (Aristotle calls it an origin or arche (ἀρχῆ) - whose major contributing cause (or causes) was itself uncaused, e.g., it involved irreducible chance (today's quantum indeterminacy). Whether a particular thing happens, says Aristotle, may depend on a series of causes that
goes back to some starting-point, which does not go back to something else. This, therefore, will be the starting-point of the fortuitous, and nothing else is the cause of its generation.In general, many such causal sequences contribute to any event, including human decisions. Each sequence has a different time of origin, some going back before we were born, some originating during our deliberations.
A tertium quid beyond chance and necessityBeyond causal sequences that are the result of chance or necessity, Aristotle felt that some breaks in the causal chain allow us to feel our actions "depend on us" (ἐφ' ἡμῖν). These are the causal chains that originate within us (ἐv ἡμῖν).
But if it is manifest that a man is the author of his own actions, if we are unable to trace conduct back to any other origins than those within ourselves, then actions of which the origins are within us (ἐν ἡμῖν), themselves depend upon us (ἐφ' ἡμῖν), and are voluntary (ἐκούσια - willed).Aristotle defends chance (τυχή) as providing a break in any causal chain, but he never says that human free choices are made by chance. Instead, he introduces a tertium quid, a "third thing" that is neither chance (τύχη) nor necessity (ᾶνάγκη). For Aristotle, our decisions are "up to us" (ἐφ ἡμῖν), a phrase that comes closest to our modern free will. Aristotle knew that many of our decisions are quite predictable based on habit and character, but they are no less free nor we less responsible if our character itself and predictable habits were developed freely in the past and are changeable in the future.
This is the view of some Eastern philosophies and religions. Our Karma has been determined by past actions (even from past lives), and strongly influences our current actions, but we are free to improve our Karma by good actions.
One generation after Aristotle, Epicurus argued that as atoms moved through the void, there were occasions when they would "swerve" from their otherwise determined paths, thus initiating new causal chains. Epicurus argued that these swerves would allow us to be more responsible for our actions, something impossible if every action was deterministically caused. For Epicurus, the occasional interventions of arbitrary gods would be preferable to strict determinism. Epicurus did not say the swerve was directly involved in decisions. His critics, ancient and modern, have claimed mistakenly that Epicurus did assume "one swerve - one decision" and that "free " actions are uncaused. But following Aristotle, Epicurus thought human agents have the autonomous ability to transcend necessity and chance (both of which destroy responsibility), so that praise and blame are appropriate.
Parenthetically, we now know that atoms do not occasionally swerve, they move unpredictably whenever they are in close contact with other atoms. Everything in the material universe is made of atoms in unstoppable perpetual motion. Deterministic paths are only the case for very large objects, where the statistical laws of atomic physics average to become nearly certain dynamical laws for billiard balls and planets.
So Epicurus' intuition of a fundamental randomness in nature was correct. And he agreed with Aristotle that there is another basic kind of causes beyond necessity (άνάyκη) and chance (τυχῆ). They both said our actions are "up to us" (ἐφ' ἡμῖν or παρ’ ῆμᾶς). How exactly determinism and chance relate to autonomous agent causality is not made clear by either of them, and it remains a challenge for theories of free will. We know Epicurus' work largely from the Roman Lucretius and his friend Cicero. Lucretius, a strong supporter of Epicurus, saw the randomness as enabling free will, even if he could not explain exactly how, beyond the fact that random swerves would break the causal chain of determinism.
Again, if all motion is always one long chain, and new motion arises out of the old in order invariable, and if the first-beginnings do not make by swerving a beginning of motion such as to break the decrees of fate, that cause may not follow cause from infinity, whence comes this freedom (libera) in living creatures all over the earth, whence I say is this will (voluntas) wrested from the fates by which we proceed whither pleasure leads each, swerving also our motions not at fixed times and fixed places, but just where our mind has taken us? For undoubtedly it is his own will in each that begins these things, and from the will movements go rippling through the limbs.Lucretius' "first beginning" (primordia motus principium) seems to be a reference to Aristotle's starting point (ἀρχῆ)) and a kind of causa sui that would start additional new causal chains under the control of the mind ("just where our mind has taken us").
The Latin original libera in "whence comes this freedom" has often been translated as "free will," influenced perhaps by the centuries-old free will debate.
But Lucretius himself clearly distinguishes the "free" (libera) from the "will" (voluntas).Cicero, a severe critic of Epicurus, unequivocally denies fate, strict causal determinism, and God's foreknowledge.
If there is free will, all things do not happen according to fate; if all things do not happen according to fate, there is not a certain order of causes; and if there is not a certain order of causes, neither is there a certain order of things foreknown by God.Although he defends human freedom, Cicero ridicules the presumptive Epicurean idea of a chance swerve as the cause of our decisions. (Note that Epicurus did not involve chance in decisions that are "up to us." For him chance simply breaks the chain of causal determinism.) Cicero's implication has created the mistaken notion that for libertarians, chance is the direct cause of action.
Epicurus saw that if the atoms travelled downwards by their own weight; we should have no freedom of the will [nihil fore in nostra potestate], since the motion of the atoms would be determined by necessity. He therefore invented a device to escape from determinism: he said that the atom while travelling vertically downward by the force of gravity makes a very slight swerve to one side. This defence discredits him more than if he had had to abandon his original position.
It was the Stoic school of philosophy that solidified the idea of natural laws controlling all things, including the mind. Zeno of Citium, the original founder of Stoicism, had a very simplistic but powerful idea of the causal chain compared to Aristotle. Zeno said that every event has a cause, and that cause necessitates the event. Given exactly the same circumstances, exactly the same result will occur.
It is impossible that the cause be present yet that of which it is the cause not obtain. ἀδύνατον δ’ εἴναι τὸ μὲν αἴτιον παρεῖναι, οὖ δέ ἐστιν αἴτιον μὴ ὑπάρχειν.The Stoic influence persists to this day, in philosophy and religion. Most of the extensive Stoic writings are lost, probably because their doctrine of fate, which identified God with Nature, was considered anathema to the Christian church. The church agreed that the laws of God were the laws of Nature, but that God and Nature were two different entities. In either case strict determinism follows by universal Reason (logos) from an omnipotent God. Stoic virtue called for men to resist futile passions like anger and envy. The fine Stoic morality that all men (including slaves and women) were equal children of God coincided with (or was adopted by) the church. Stoic logic and physics freed those fields from ancient superstitions, but strengthened the dogmas of determinism that dominate modern science and philosophy, especially when they explicitly denied Aristotle's chance as a possible cause.
The major developer of Stoicism, Chrysippus, took the edge off strict necessity. Like Democritus, Aristotle, and Epicurus before him, he wanted to strengthen the argument for moral responsibility, in particular defending it from Aristotle's and Epicurus' indeterminate chance causes. Whereas the past is unchangeable, Chrysippus argued that some future events that are possible do not occur by necessity from past external factors alone, but might (as Aristotle and Epicurus maintained) depend on us. We have a choice to assent or not to assent to an action. This is a controversial idea and may be inconsistent with orthodox Stoic doctrines, since it suggests the existence of alternative possibilities and the capacity to do otherwise. Chrysippus said our actions are determined (in part by ourselves as causes) and fated (because of God's foreknowledge), but he also said correctly that they are not necessitated, i.e., pre-determined from the distant past. Chrysippus would be seen today as a compatibilist, as was the Stoic Epictetus. He also has a strong element of agent-causalism.
Alexander of Aphrodisias (c.150-210), the most famous commentator on Aristotle, wrote 500 years after Aristotle's death, at a time when Aristotle and Plato were rather forgotten minor philosophers in the age of Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics. Alexander defended a view of moral responsibility we would call libertarianism today. Greek philosophy had no precise term for "free will" as did Latin (liberum arbitrium or libera voluntas). The discussion was in terms of responsibility, what "depends on us" (in Greek ἐφ ἡμῖν). Alexander believed that Aristotle was not a strict determinist like the Stoics, and Alexander himself argued that some events do not have pre-determined causes. In particular, man is responsible for self-caused decisions, and can choose to do or not to do something, as Chrysippus argued. However, Alexander denied the foreknowledge of events that was part of the Stoic identification of God and Nature.
Most of the ancient thinkers recognized the obvious difficulty with chance (or an uncaused cause) as the source of human freedom. Even Aristotle described chance as a "cause obscure to human reason" (ἀιτιάν ἄδελον ἀνθρωπίνᾠ λογισμῶ).
Actions caused by chance are simply random and we cannot feel responsible for them. But we do feel responsible. Despite more than twenty-three centuries of philosophizing, most modern thinkers have not moved significantly beyond this core problem of randomness and free will for libertarians - the confused idea that free actions are caused directly by a random event. Caught between the horns of a dilemma, with determinism on one side and randomness on the other, the standard argument against free will continues to render human freedom unintelligible (ἄδελον).
Modern Classicists and Historians of Philosophy on Free Will
Carlo GiussaniIn his 1896 Studi lucreziani (p.126),Giussani put forward the idea that Epicurus' atomic swerves are involved directly in every case of human free action, not just somewhere in the past that breaks the causal chain of determinism. This goes beyond Epicurus and leads to the mistaken conclusion that the swerves directly cause actions.
The complete conception of the will according to Epicurus comprises two elements, a complex atomic movement which has the characteristic of spontaneity, that is, is withdrawn from the necessity of mechanical causation: and then the sensus, or self-consciousness in virtue of which the will, illuminated by previous movements of sensation, thought, and emotion, profits by the peculiar liberty or spontaneity of the atomic motions, to direct or not to direct these in a direction seen or selected. (Cyril Bailey translation)
Cyril BaileyIn 1928 Bailey agreed with Giussani that the atoms of the mind-soul provide a break in the continuity of atomic motions, otherwise actions would be necessitated. Bailey imagined complexes of mind-atoms that work together to form a consciousness that is not determined, but also not susceptible to the pure randomness of individual atomic swerves, something that could constitute Epicurus' idea of actions being "up to us" (πὰρ' ἡμάς).
It is a commonplace to state that Epicurus, like his follower Lucretius, intended primarily to combat the 'myths' of the orthodox religion, to show by his demonstration of the unfailing laws of nature the falseness of the old notions of the arbitrary action of the gods and so to relieve humanity from the terrors of superstition. But it is sometimes forgotten that Epicurus viewed with almost greater horror the conception of irresistible 'destiny' or 'necessity', which is the logical outcome of the notion of natural law pressed to its conclusion. This conclusion had been accepted in its fulness by Democritus, but Epicurus conspicuously broke away from him: 'it were better to follow the myths about the gods than to become a slave to the "destiny" of the natural philosophers: for the former suggests a hope of placating the gods by worship, whereas the latter involves a necessity which knows no placation'. Diogenes of Oenoanda brings out the close connexion with moral teaching: 'if destiny be believed in, then all advice and rebuke is annihilated'. If any ethical system is to be effective it must postulate the freedom of the will. If in the sphere of human action too 'destiny' is master, if every action is the direct and inevitable outcome of all preceding conditions and man's belief in his own freedom of choice is a mere delusion, then a moral system is useless: it is futile to tell a man what he ought or ought not to do, if he is not at liberty to do it. Here at all events 'destiny' must be eliminated. It is a more fatal enemy than superstition, for it means complete paralysis: spontaneity — voluntas — must be at all costs maintained. But why, in order to secure this very remote object, should a protest against 'inexorable necessity' be made at this point in the physical system? It would have been easy, one might think, to accomplish the immediate purpose of securing the meeting of the atoms in their fall through space by some device, such as the Stoic notion that all things tend to the centre,' which should not be a breach of the fundamental law of causality, instead of this sporadic spontaneous deviation. And in what sense can this 'swerve' be said to be vital for the freedom of the will, with which Lucretius so emphatically connects it? The answer must be looked for in the very material notions of Epicurus' psychology, which may be briefly anticipated here. The mind (νοῦς) is a concentration in the breast of an aggregate of very fine atoms, the same in character as those which, distributed all over the body and intermingling with the body atoms, form the vital principle (ψυχή). This aggregation of atoms may be set in motion by images, whether coming directly from external things or stored up as an 'anticipation' (πρόληχις) in the mind itself. Suppose, for instance, that in this way there comes before my mind the image of myself walking: ultimately the atoms of the mind being themselves stirred, will set in motion the atoms of the vital principle: they in turn will stir the atoms of body, the limbs will be moved and I shall walk. But before this can happen another process must take place, the process of volitional choice.
David FurleyIn 1967 Furley examined the ideas of Giussani and Bailey and de-emphasized the importance of the swerve in both Epicurus and Lucretius so as to defend Epicurus from the "extreme" libertarian view that our actions are caused directly by random swerves. (Bailey had also denied this "traditional interpretation.") Furley argues for a strong connection between the ideas of Aristotle and Epicurus on autonomous actions that are "up to us."
If we now put together the introduction to Lucretius' passage on voluntas and Aristotle's theory of the voluntary, we can see how the swerve of atoms was supposed to do its work. Aristotle's criterion of the voluntary was a negative one: the source of the voluntary action is in the agent himself, in the sense that it cannot be traced back beyond or outside the agent himself. Lucretius says that voluntas must be saved from a succession of causes which can be traced back to infinity. All he needs to satisfy the Aristotelian criterion is a break in the succession of causes, so that the source of an action cannot be traced back to something occurring before the birth of the agent. A single swerve of a single atom in the individual's psyche would be enough for this purpose, if all actions are to be referred to the whole of the psyche.different determinisms, namely theological determinism (predestination and foreknowledge) and the physical causal determinism of Democritus.
It is unfortunate that our knowledge of the early history of the Stoics is so fragmentary, and that we have no agreed account of the relations between them and Epicurus. On the evidence we have, however, it seems to me more probable that Epicurus was the originator of the freewill controversy, and that it was only taken up with enthusiasm among the Stoics by Chrysippus, the third head of the school. The outlines of Epicurus' approach are familiar enough. He took over the atomic theory of Democritus almost unchanged, but introduced one significant new point, the swerve of the atoms, a slight change of direction that could occur without any cause. According to tradition this was to solve two problems for him: the change of direction would enable atoms otherwise falling all in the same direction and at the same speed to collide and so enter into larger combinations, and the fact that it occurred without cause would break the otherwise continuous chain of causation and so allow room for freedom of action by men, whose minds were composed of atoms and therefore subject to the same laws as everything else. In spite of the poverty of our evidence, it is quite clear that one main reason Epicurus had for introducing the swerve, or rather the swerve as a random, uncaused event, was as a solution to the problem of freewill. Unlike Aristotle, he fully appreciated that there was a problem. He believed in free will, because it seemed to him manifestly clear that men could originate action, but he could not, like Aristotle, regard this as the end of the matter. We may not think much of the solution he offers, but he deserves full credit for appreciating the problem. There are now two main points to be cleared up: (1) was Epicurus the first to appreciate the problem, or was he anticipated by the Stoics or someone else? (2) If he was the first, how did he come to do so, and what exactly was the nature of the problem as he saw it? ...we have to explain why Aristotle was so resistant to determinism, and Epicurus so impressed by it. The answer must surely lie, in part at least, in their differing attitudes to Democritus. Aristotle was indeed steeped in Democritus, and had a considerable admiration for him, but at the same time found his system quite unacceptable. We can see why this was so. Aristotle's thought was dominated by a teleological view of causality, in which the paradigm of what guides change is the tendency of an organism to develop into a certain kind of thing. This made the idea of a causal chain in which the future is entirely determined by the past strange and irrelevant. ...in Book K (1064b 35) Aristotle takes his stand on the point that we know very well that some things happen kata symbebekos, which is in opposition to ex anankes, and that, in this context, means causally determined in our sense. What happens kata symbebekos is, then, undetermined. Aristotle then had two reasons for rejecting determinism, (i) that some things obviously happened kata symbebekos, and (ii) that men had free will [Aristotle only says some actions are "up to us."] At the same time it is putting it too strongly to say that he rejected determinism: rather it seems that it was for him a non-starter. This is clearly in sharp contrast to the views of Epicurus and the Stoics, both of whom made valiant if unsuccessful attempts to reconcile freedom and determinism. ...the fact remains, on the evidence of Cicero and Lucretius, that Epicurus still ultimately traced the freedom of the will to the swerve of the atoms. How exactly he did this remains a mystery. The philosophical, as distinct from the historical, conclusion of my argument is twofold, first that it was possible for men like Plato and Aristotle to hold many educational and psychological beliefs in common with us without being aware of any freewill problem because they had no notion of thorough-going psychological determinism, and, second, that once the problem had been formulated it was appreciated by philosophers of many different schools throughout later antiquity as if it were indeed a natural problem.
Richard SorabjiSorabji's 1980 Necessity, Cause, and Blame surveyed Aristotle's positions on causation and necessity, comparing them to his predecessors and successors, especially the Stoics and Epicurus. Sorabji argues that Aristotle was an indeterminist, that real chance and uncaused events exist, but never that human actions are uncaused in the extreme libertarian sense that some commentators mistakenly attribute to Epicurus. Aristotle accepted the past as fixed, in the sense that past events were irrevocable. But future events cannot be necessitated by claims about the present truth value of statements about the future. Aristotle does not deny the excluded middle (either p or not p), only that the truth value of p does not exist yet. Indeed, although the past is fixed, the truth value of past statements about the future can be changed by the outcome of future events.
This book centres on Aristotle's treatment of determinism and culpability. One of the advantages of studying Aristotle's treatment of determinism is that we get a sense of what a multiform thesis it is. Arguments from causation are by no means the only ones that have been used to support it, and Aristotle is the grandfather, even if not the father, of many of these arguments. I am not myself convinced by any of the arguments for determinism, nor by the arguments that it would be compatible with moral responsibility. But in order to discuss the question, I shall have to consider some very diverse topics: cause, explanation, time, necessity, essence and purpose in nature. These are all subjects of intense controversy today, and time and again Aristotle's discussions are intimately bound up with modern ones. Often, I believe and shall argue, we can benefit from going back to the views of another period, views which are sometimes refreshingly different from our own. I shall try to explain, when necessary, where those differences lie. The discussion will not be confined to Aristotle. I shall try to supply a historical perspective and a sense of continuity, by seeing how the views of his successors and predecessors fit on to his own. But at the same time it will remain a central aim to build up a picture of Aristotle's own position on determinism and culpability, by tracing it through the many areas of his thought. By determinism I shall mean the view that whatever happens has all along been necessary, that is, fixed or inevitable. I say 'whatever happens', meaning to cover not merely every event, but every aspect of every event — every state of affairs, one might say. I shall make no further attempt to define necessity, although various kinds of necessity will come to be distinguished as we go along. I have deliberately defined determinism by reference, not to causation, but to necessity. I have not defined determinism as a view which denies us moral responsibility. The latter idea, often known as `hard' determinism is comparatively rare, and was rarer still in antiquity. Many determinists have tried to argue that it is not a consequence of their position. I believe that it is a consequence, but not usually an intended one. I have spoken of things as having 'all along' been necessary, because there would be little moral interest in a view which declared that things became necessary at the last moment, or irrevocable once they had happened. Indeed, Aristotle admits the point about irrevocability; what he denies is that everything has been necessary all along. I shall be representing Aristotle as an indeterminist; but opinions on this issue have been diverse since the earliest times... It is not always recognised that Aristotle gave any consideration to causal determinism, that is, to determinism based on causal considerations. But I shall argue that in a little-understood passage he maintains that coincidences lack causes. To understand why he thinks so; we must recall his view that a cause is one of four kinds of explanation. On both counts, I think he is right. His account of cause, I believe, is more promising than any of those current today, and also justifies the denial that coincidences have causes. There is another strut in the causal determinist's case. Besides the view that everything has a cause, he holds that whatever is caused or explicable is necessitated. If this idea is once accepted, he has a powerful argument, already wielded by the Stoics, against the indeterminist: any action that is not necessitated becomes causeless, inexplicable and hence a thing for which no one can be held responsible. On this issue, regrettably, Aristotle is less firm; he wavers on whether what is caused is necessitated. But insofar as he sometimes implies that it is not, we will be better placed, later in the book, to understand the argument of Nicomachean Ethics III 5. In denying that voluntary actions have been necessary all along, Aristotle need not be implying that something is uncaused. The best-known arguments in Aristotle on determinism have to do with time rather than cause. In Int. 9, he tries to reply to the deterministic 'sea battle' argument which is based on considerations of time and truth...I shall distinguish certain further deterministic arguments based on the necessity of the past, or on divine foreknowledge. The only one of these arguments articulated by Aristotle (and opposed by him) is the sea battle argument. But he is a more or less remote ancestor of many of the others, and of some of the answers to them. I shall have shown by the end of Chapter Eight why I think Aristotle an indeterminist. I do not believe that he came close to the determinism of Diodorus Cronus, or of the author of the sea battle, nor that he treated coincidences as necessary. In a later chapter (Fourteen), I shall further deny that he treated all human action as necessary. But it will be time in Chapter Nine to guard against the ascription to him of too extreme an indeterminism. His occasional denials that natural events can ever occur of necessity seem to be contradicted elsewhere. Certainly, his belief that there is purpose in nature does not require, and is not thought by to require, the denial of causal necessitation. To show why such a denial is not required, I shall have to try to show how Aristotle's purposive explanations in biology work. It will be argued that they work in several different ways, and that most of these ways leave Aristotle immune to modern criticisms of purposive explanation in biology. Criticism of Aristotle here has been widepread and vitriolic; I hope to show that it is largely mistaken.Sorabji claims that he can separate necessity from causality, with implications for causal determinism. In particular, he defends indeterminists against the charge that libertarian decisions are unintelligible.
[If] some of our decisions are not necessitated, it by no means follows that they are uncaused or inexplicable. If this is correct, it should answer the causal determinist's argument that, if some of our decisions are not necessary in advance, they will be inexplicable and mysterious happenings of which we cannot be held responsible. The answer suggested here is that from our decisions being unnecessitated it would not follow that they were inexplicable, or uncaused. The above reflections have implications not only for the common charge against the indeterminist - that he renders decisions inexplicable, but also for some of the premises that are typically used for establishing the determinist's case. For we have been led to doubt the premises that every state of affairs has a cause and that whatever is caused is necessitated. Even these two premises together would not be enough to yield the determinist's view that whatever happens is necessary in advance. To obtain that result, he may appeal to the idea of a sequence of causes: each state of affairs has a prior state of affairs as its cause. If this seems implausible, because the dent in a springy cushion is caused by the contemporary presence of a weight, it will suffice if in any causal chain a proportion of the causes are prior. On the other hand, if the determinist allows that a cause is only a part of some necessitating conditions, he will have to be willing to argue that the complete set of necessitating conditions commonly exists in advance of its effect.Sorabji considers the suggestions that quantum uncertainty disproves determinism, and he finds that Aristotle described "starting points" (ἄρχαι) for new causal chains that resemble probabilistic quantum events.
The appeal to the totality of laws and of initial conditions brings us closer to the classic formulation of causal determinism by Laplace. [But], the current state of physics no longer offers the encouragement that was once expected. By an ambitious extrapolation from the successes of Newtonian mechanics in the field of astronomy, Laplace was able to think of science as on the determinist's side. But the majority" of quantum physicists now maintain that their science actually contradicts determinism. or certain micro-events are not made necessary in advance of their occurrence. Sometimes an attempt is made to admit this conclusion, but reduce its interest, by maintaining that indeterminacy at the level of micro-events will not lead to indeterminacy at the level of the large-scale events that concern us in real life. But against this we have already noticed examples of a small-scale indeterminacy being amplified into a large-scale indeterminacy through radio-active material being connected to a bomb or a living organ.Finally, although he thinks Aristotle was not aware of the "problem" of free will vis-a-vis determinism (as first described by Epicurus), Sorabji thinks Aristotle's position on the question is clear enough. Voluntariness is too important to fall before theoretical arguments about necessity and determinism.
I come now to the question of how determinism is related to involuntariness. Many commentators nowadays hold one or more parts of the following view. Determinism creates a problem for belief in the voluntariness of actions. Regrettably, but inevitably, Aristotle was unaware of this problem, and so failed to cope with it. Indeed, the problem was not discovered until Hellenistic times, perhaps by Epicurus, who was over forty years junior to Aristotle, and who reached Athens just too late to hear his lectures. In Aristotle's time no one had yet propounded a universal determinism, so that he knew of no such theory. His inevitable failure to see the threat to voluntariness is all the more regrettable in that he himself entertained a deterministic account of actions, which exacerbated the problem of how any could be voluntary. I shall argue that this account misrepresents the situation. First, Aristotle is aware of the idea that everything is determined, whether causally or non-causally. He considers a non-causal determinism in Int. 9, and a causal determinism not only in Metaph. VI 3, but also in Phys. II 4, where he remarks that some people had denied that there was such a thing as chance, on the grounds that a cause could always be found for everything (195b36 — 196a11). Admittedly, he takes the falsity of determinism as fairly obvious in Metaph. VI 3, and feels little need to discuss it in NE III, or in GC II 11. Indeed, in the last passage he asks whether all coming to be is necessary, but whether any is. None the less, he does sometimes produce arguments against determinism (Int. 9, 18b26 — 19a22; Phys. II 5, 196b14; GC II 11, 337b3-7). And he also thinks that in the light of its falsity, he needs to do some explaining, and to show how there can be events without a cause (accidental conjunctions, Metaph. VI 3), or how some predictions can avoid being already true (Int. 9, 19a22—b4, on the traditional interpretation). What Aristotle failed to discuss was not determinism, but something that William James was later to call 'hard' determinism,' the view not only is determinism true, but that also, because of it, there is no thing as moral responsibility or voluntary action. The commentators mentioned above are right insofar as they only want to say this. But what is debatable is whether we should see Aristotle's silence about `hard' determinism as simply a failure to see a problem, and how far the subsequent Hellenistic period differed from Aristotle in their readiness to discuss 'hard' determinism. Determinists in antiquity did not make it a triumphant conclusion that all actions are involuntary. Rather, they would have thought it an objection to their view, if they had to banish voluntariness. There is a whole battery of arguments, which turn up in treatise after treatise, urging against determinism, that it would do away with many of our conceptions about conduct and morality. In the De Fato of Alexander of Aphrodisias (fl. c. A.D. 200), where many of these arguments are used, it becomes clear that the Stoics, against whom they were directed, replied not by conceding the point, but by urging that fate did not exclude the standard moral concepts (chs 13-14, 33, 35-8 Occasionally, they seem to have gone over to the offensive, and argued like certain modern philosophers,5 that the standard moral concepts actually presuppose determinism. But... they felt little attraction towards 'hard' determinism, even if their founder Zeno (fl c. 300 B. C.) deployed an argument in an ad hominem way which is used also by hard determinists, that our moral practices are inevitable, whether justifiable, or not (Diogenes Laertius 7 1 23). Most ancients would have said, and so would Aristotle, that, if there is a genuine incompatibility between determinism and voluntariness, this is so much the worse for determinism, not for voluntariness; and even in modern times, 'hard' determinism is much rarer than 'soft'. Aristotle himself, so far from failing to observe any incompatibility between determinism and our ordinary ways of thinking about conduct, actually tended to see such incompatibilities too readily. Moreover, so far from his successors starting a new tradition, they are often simply echoing Aristotle's own comments, when they argue that there is an incompatibility, and that it counts against determinism. We have seen that Aristotle thinks voluntariness incompatible with an action's having all along been necessary, and further that he goes so far as to argue (wrongly) against determinism that it is incompatible with the efficacy of effort or deliberation (Int. 9, 18b31-3, 19a7-8). This latter was echoed in one of the famous named arguments of antiquity, the Lazy Argument, according to which belief in determinism would make us lazy. A related argument, which we have already noticed, appears in NE II 5 (1113b21-30), where Aristotle claims (again wrongly) that since punishment and honours influence conduct, good and bad conduct must be up to us. Aristotle may here have been ignoring, rather than answering, the idea that wicked conduct is determined, and may have been concentrating instead on the point that our conduct is in some way dependent on us. But his successors used arguments like this one in order to attack determinism, and he too might have been willing to use the argument against a determinist, if he had felt himself to be confronted by one. Aristotle often repeats that we do not deliberate about what is necessary (NE III 3, 1112a21-6; VI 1, 1139a13; VI 2, 113967-9; VI 5, 1140a 31—b1; VI 7, 1141b10-11; III 3, 1112a30-1 with III 5, 1113b7-8; EE II 10, 1226a20-30; Rhet. I 2, 1357a8), and only once comes at all close to adding the desirable qualification 'unless we do not realise that such and such a course is necessary'. If determinism is incompatible with deliberation, it will also be incompatible with praxis, the distinctively human kind of action, and with moral virtue, both of which presuppose deliberation. Similar views on the relation of deliberation to determinism reappeared among Aristotle's ancient and modern successors. And they also turned against determinism the comment, which Aristotle makes in another context, that we cannot bestow praise and blame for what happens of necessity (NE III 5, 1114a23-9; EE II 6, 1223a10; II 11 1228a5), although we can bestow honour, e.g. on the gods (NE 1101b10 — 1102a4). Those who think that determinism endangers voluntariness have every right to disagree with Aristotle's view that our ways of thinking about conduct endanger determinism. But they should recognise it as an alternative view. It misrepresents the situation to suggest that Aristotle was merely not yet in a position to appreciate the problem; he would not have agreed that the problem was one for believers in voluntariness. And the succeeding age would have supported him.
R. W. SharplesSharples' great translation and commentary Alexander of Aphrodisias On Fate appeared in 1983. He described Alexander's De Fato as perhaps the most comprehensive treatment surviving from classical antiquity of the problem of responsibility (τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμίν) and determinism. It especially shed a great deal of light on Aristotle's position on free will and on the Stoic attempt to make responsibility compatible with determinism. Sharples thinks that the problem of determinism and responsibility was not realised, in the form in which it was eventually passed on to post-classical thinkers, until relatively late in the history of Greek thought - at least not until after Aristotle.
Although there are passages in which it is recognised that there is something problematic in holding someone responsible for an action that a god has foretold he will perform, it is generally misleading in the interpretation of the literature of the fifth century B.C. and earlier to assume that the difficulty is always as obvious or as important as it seems to us. The mechanistic atomism of Democritus (born 460-457 B.C.) may well seem to us to raise difficulties for human responsibility, and it seemed to do so to Epicurus, but Democritus himself apparently felt no such problem. The question of the relation between destiny and human choice is raised, in mythical form, at the end of the Republic of Plato (c. 429-347B.C.), in a passage that was to be important for later discussion; but it only attains its full significance in the context of a theory claiming that all events in the physical world are governed by a rigid determinism, and this is not present in Plato, for whom what admits of absolute regularity with no exceptions is to be found among the Ideas rather than in sensible phenomena. The classic notion of determinism — of a system in which every state of affairs is a necessary consequence of any and every preceding state of affairs — is almost entirely absent from the approach to the physical world of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) also; more important for him is the contrast between, on the one hand, the absolute necessity and invariance which applies to the motions of the heavenly bodies, to mathematical truths, and to certain attributes of beings in the sublunary world — the mortality of all men, for example — and, on the other hand, the irregularity and variation of many aspects of the sublunary world, where the most that can be said of many things is that they happen for the most part but not always, and where there are many accidental connections that fall outside the scope of scientific knowledge — concerned with what is always or usually the case — altogether. Aristotle's picture of the consequences of an event is not one of chains of cause and effect interwoven in a nexus extending to infinity...Aristotle can assert that there are fresh beginnings (archai), not confined to human agency, without supposing that there is a deterministic causal nexus occasionally interrupted by undetermined events; he simply does not see the question in these terms. He does discuss the question whether all events are determined by necessary chains of causation at Metaphysics E 3 1027a30 — b14, and there denies this possibility insisting that not everything is necessary; but here as elsewhere it is not clear that he distinguishes between (i) the claim that there are events which are not predetermined, and (ii) the lesser claim that there are some things that do not always happen in the same way — which does not exclude their being predetermined by different factors on each occasion. He certainly holds that there are events which result from chance rather than necessity; but as has often been pointed out his treatment of chance events in terms of coincidence is not incompatible with determinism. He is in fact interested in a different question, that of explanation; it may well be that chance events have no scientific explanation, without their thereby involving indeterminism. It would indeed be rash to claim that there are no passages where Aristotle intends to assert freedom from determinism as later philosophers would understand it; but this is not, in dealing with the universe as a whole, his main concern. And Aristotle's emphasis on other questions, particularly that of the presence or absence of a variation which may well be entirely predetermined, was highly influential on later thinkers, Alexander among them, who were concerned with the problem of determinism. Aristotle did however discuss the issue of the analysis of responsible human action in a way which, although it does not form part of a treatment of determinism in the world as a whole, was nevertheless to be influential when this topic was later discussed. In Nicomachean Ethics III.1 he defines voluntary (hekousion) action as that where there is no external compulsion, so that the source (arche) of the action is in the agent, and where the agent is not ignorant of the particular details of what he is doing. In this chapter he is concerned with the practical, quasi-legal problem of the imputability of actions to their agents, rather than with a philosophical analysis of freedom of choice, but the question of the presence or absence of external compulsion was to be important in later discussion. In Nicomachean Ethics III1.5 Aristotle asserts that responsible actions — those which 'depend on us' — involve the possibility of choosing otherwise (1113b7). He then meets the objection that a man's character may be such that he cannot choose other than actions of a particular sort by arguing that, since dispositions develop as a result of actions, even if a man cannot now choose not to act in a certain way, it is his responsibility that he came to be like this in the first place (1114a3-31). This argument, however, only pushes the problem back into the past, till one comes to influences in our childhood — natural endowment, training and education — for which we can hardly be regarded as responsible. Aristotle is not indeed arguing against the background of a determinist system, and it would be a mistake to press his argument too closely so as to extract deterministic implications from it. It seems that he is operating with basically libertarian assumptions, starting from the position that responsibility involves freedom to choose between different courses of action, and dealing with difficulties arising from the determination of action by character only as a subordinate issue. It is true that 'the possibility of choosing otherwise' could be interpreted in a qualified sense which would make it acceptable to a determinist, but there is no explicit indication of this in Aristotle's text, and it seems likely that such ,attempts to reconcile determinism and responsibility only arose later as a reaction to the explicit assertion of the necessity of choosing between determinism and indeterminism. However, Aristotle's treatment is not entirely satisfactory, and its limitations and difficulties do become apparent when later thinkers, and above all Alexander, use it as a basis from which to argue against determinism. It is with Epicurus and the Stoics that clearly indeterministic and deterministic positions are first formulated. Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) claimed that human freedom could only be maintained in the atomist system by the unpredetermined swerve of certain atoms from the paths which they would otherwise follow.As to the thought of Alexander himself, Sharples notes that in his attack on the Stoics Alexander does not name any individual thinkers and makes his arguments very general.
Alexander throughout speaks as if fate and necessity, for the determinists, were identical; the Stoics may indeed have been prepared in certain contexts to say that all things were necessary, but it does not seem that they laid such emphasis on the necessity of all things as does Alexander in stating his opponents' position. But since Alexander finds his opponents' attempts to separate fate and necessity trivial, from his own point of view his presentation of the determinist position is legitimate. It follows, however, that his statements must be used with considerable caution as evidence for the Stoic position. Alexander's own position becomes apparent not only in the constructive argument of de fato but also in his polemic against the determinists, though the structure of his treatise has the consequence that his own position is not always clear — his arguments against the determinists are often dialectical, and he is concerned to refute them on diverse topics rather than to construct a systematic position of his own. One crucial point that is however clear is that Alexander's own conception of responsibility is a libertarian one. He objects not just to determination of our actions by external causes alone, but to that resulting from a combination of internal and external factors; it is not enough that an individual contributes something to the result, if that contribution is predetermined. This shows that his repeated descriptions of responsbility in terms of the power or capacity for opposite courses of action"' are to be understood in terms of an unqualified, unrestricted possibility. At the same time, like Carneades, he claims to avoid the Stoic charge of introducing uncaused motion. Epicurus is nowhere mentioned in the de fato in connection with determinism, but only with reference to his denial of divine providence; possibly consideration of the Epicurean atomic swerve would have exposed difficulties in Alexander's own position. He stresses the connection between responsibility and reason, which shows that his libertarian conception of responsibility is not just one of arbitrary caprice; at the same time, he faces very real difficulties in combining his libertarian position with an account of the rational element in human behaviour, and does not really solve it. (For the Stoics and Neoplatonists, on the other hand, freedom is located not in the possibility for alternatives but precisely in choosing the most rational course of action.)'"
Don FowlerIn his 1983 thesis, "Lucretius on the Clinamen and 'Free Will'," Fowler criticized Furley's limits on the swerve and defended the ancient - but seriously mistaken - claim that Epicurus proposed random swerves as directly causing our actions. This mistaken claim has become common in current interpretations of Epicurus.
[The discussion of the swerve in Book II of De rerum natura] has received brilliant treatment from D. J. Furley in a work which is in many ways a model for the analysis of ancient philosophical texts. Yet it still seems to me that there is more to be said. I want here to try briefly to offer a fresh analysis of the argument of the vital paragraph 251-93, and to situate it within an Epicurean context. Inevitably this will involve criticism of Furley; let me state again at the outset my admiration of his work.(The thesis is reprinted as Appendix A in Lucretius on Atomic Motion, 2002, p.407)
I turn to the overall interpretation. Lucretius is arguing from the existence of voluntas to the existence of the clinamen; nothing comes to be out of nothing, therefore voluntas must have a cause at the atomic level, viz. the clinamen.
A. A. Long and D. N. SedleyIn their great 1987 work The Hellenistic Philosophers (dedicated to David Furley), Long and Sedley discussed Epicurus and the free will problem at length, with references to the principal original Greek and Latin sources. (Long and Sedley did for the Hellenistic philosophers what Diels-Kranz did for the Pre-Socratics. Letter references below are to the fragments in Long and Sedley volume 2. Number references are to sections of volume 1.)
Given today's quantum mechanical indeterminacy, Epicurus' intuition of a fundamental randomness in nature was correct. But he did not think the swerves were the direct causes of our actions. He agreed with Aristotle that beyond necessity (άνάyκη) and chance (τυχῆ), there is a third kind of basic cause - agent causes (ἐφ' ἡμῖν or παρ’ ῆμᾶς). How exactly determinism and chance relate to autonomous agent causality is not made clear, but Aristotle and Epicurus should be classed today as "agent-causal libertarians."
The swerve is not even mentioned in the surviving papyrus fragments [B,C] of Epicurus' book on the issue of responsibility from which B and C are drawn But the book still sheds abundant light on the question. In C he conducts a running debate with a Democritean determinist. Democritus himself, we are told, simply failed to see the implications of his determinism for human action (C 13-14). Epicurus' principal target in C 2-12, on the other hand, is someone who consciously applies mechanistic determinism to all human behaviour, including his own. He probably has in mind such fourth-century Democriteans as his own reviled teacher Nausiphanes — the heirs of Democritus derided C 13, as perhaps also implicitly in G. (The early Stoics have sometimes been identified as his target, but cf. 62 with commentary; 'natural philosophers', A 2. would not normally be used of Stoics, in any case.) In C 1 Epicurus is arguing that since we start with a wide range of potentials ('seeds') for character development our actual direction of development is not physically predetermined but 'up to us'. There are physical influences, but we can control them (cf. 15D 7-8). If it were they that controlled us, our moral and critical attitudes to each other would make no sense (C 2). This leads him into his anti-determinist digression, which continues until its express conclusion at C 15. The determinist may simply regard these attitudes as themselves necessitated (C 3). But this does not save him from the charge of self-refutation (C 5, and perhaps already in the very fragmentary C 4): his own critical attitude in this very debate still implies what he wishes to deny, that the parties to the debate are responsible for their own views. The determinist will resort to the defence that he is compelled to behave in this way; when challenged once again for continuing to argue, will repeat the defence; and so on ad infinitum. Epicurus' objection to this infinite regress (C 6) is not that it is in itself vicious, but rather that it leaves the inconsistency untouched: at every stage of the regress the determinist's behaviour in continuing to argue his case as if with a responsible agent contradicts his thesis that everything, including our beliefs, is mechanically necessitated. In the second stage of the digression, C 8-12, Epicurus suggests that determinism cannot amount to a substantive thesis about the world, and that its application of 'necessity' to human agency will turn out to be no more than a change of terminology. First (C 8) comes an appeal to 'preconception' (on which as a criterion, see 17 above). We all share a preconception of our own agency as that which is responsible for our behaviour: to defuse the evidential force of this, the determinist would have to show how the alleged preconception has come to embody a faulty 'delineation' (cf. 17E 2, 5) of the facts. (Compare Epicurus' own grounds for dismissing the alleged preconception of the gods as provident, 23B—C below.) If he cannot, the preconception remains valid and the determinist's contribution is merely a new name for it. Second (C 9), his thesis is pragmatically empty. Since he denies us an internal source of self-determination (an 'auxiliary element or impulse in us') he can never expect his arguments to dissuade us from any action. In this Epicurus contrasts him with someone who has a proper grasp (as recommended in A 1) of the difference between the necessitated and the unnecessitated, and who consequently can expect to dissuade us from actions which would involve resisting necessity (C to) perhaps, for example, dissuade us from a vain desire to evade the inevitability of death, because unlike the determinist he can appreciate that while death is necessary our wishes are up to us. Third (C II), the determinist leaves himself no tools for analysing 'mixed' actions (as they are called by Aristotle, Nicomachean ethics in. I), those performed freely but reluctantly in avoidance of a greater evil, since he is unable to distinguish the voluntary from the necessitated elements in them. The final stage of the argument, C 13-14, is pragmatic, appealing to the disastrous practical consequences that would have ensued had Democritus remembered to apply his thesis of universal necessitation to himself. No illustration is given, but one easy example would be the abandonment of decision-making (cf. 55S). It is remarkable how closely the internal structure of this anti-determinist argument matches that of 16A's anti-sceptic argument, with the sequence of a self-refutation challenge (C 3-7; cf. 16A 1), an appeal to preconception and word-meaning (C 8-12; cf. 16A 2-3), and a pragmatic argument (C 13-14; cf. 16A 9-10). So too its function as a digression added late in the book to justify the preceding positive account of psychological causation matches the role of 16A in relation to Lucretius' preceding positive account of sense-perception. None of this is likely to be mere coincidence. For scepticism and the kind of mechanistic determinism envisaged here were seen as joint consequences of Democritus' reductionist atomism. If phenomenal properties were reducible to mere configurations of atoms and void, it seemed to follow that the atoms and void alone were real while the sensible properties were arbitrary constructions placed upon them by our cognitive organs. The result was scepticism about the sensible world, which had become the characteristic stance of most fourth-century Democriteans (see further, 1 and 16). Similarly, if the 'self' and its volitions were reducible to mere sequences of atomic motion in the soul, human action would easily appear to be mechanistic, fully explicable in terms of primary physical laws, with no additional explanatory or descriptive role left for such psychological entities as belief and volition. And that is just the kind of theory under attack in C (cf. especially C 2, 9). Given the extent of this parallelism between scepticism and determinism, and between Epicurus' respective refutations of them, we might expect his own positive alternatives to them to be similarly comparable. And so they are.Sedley here assumes a non-physical (metaphysical) ability of the volition to affect the atoms, which is implausible. But the idea that the volition chooses (consistent with and adequately determined by its character and values and its desires and feelings - from among alternative possibilities provided randomly by the atoms - is quite plausible.
Lucretius' evidence in F does not explicitly state the swerve's relation to volition, although numerous attempts have been made to discover it there. But if the above account of Epicurus' theory is justified by the other testimonia, it becomes clear that F is, at least, fully consistent with it. For the dominant theme of F 1-3 is precisely the evident power of volition to redirect the bodily mass in defiance of its purely mechanical patterns of motion. This is said, in F 1 and 4, to be explicable only if there is an undetermined swerve of atoms, since if impact and weight were the only causes of atomic motion the mind's behaviour would be rigidly mechanistic. Some have also seen in F 1 the further implication that the initiation of every new course of action directly involves the swerve. All this fits the above account comfortably enough. What is missing, of course, is an explanation of the non-physical character of psychological causation — not surprisingly, given that Lucretius' poem is about physics and that his sole object in the context is to complete his account of the laws of atomic motion (cf. 11). One further dimension to the debate emerges from E 1, H and I. Epicurus saw the threat of universal necessitation not only in unbreakable chains of physical causation, but also in the logical principle of bivalence according to which every proposition is either true or false, including those about the future. His solution of denying the principle as far as certain future-tensed propositions are concerned (the denial is slightly garbled in I's version, where 'one or the other is necessary' ought to read 'one or the other is true'; but the example is clearly authentic — Hermarchus was Epicurus' pupil and successor) was essentially that of Aristotle, according to the traditional reading of his celebrated Sea Battle discussion at De interpretatione 9. But Epicurus, like the Stoic with whom he is contrasted in E I (see further, 38G), saw physical and logical determinism as two aspects of a single thesis. The two formulations of determinism tend to be treated as interchangeable, as do the two respective solutions, the swerve and the denial of bivalence (cf. Cicero, On fate 18-19, and perhaps E 1-3). This conflation seems to rest on the assumed equivalence of 'true in advance' with 'determined by pre-existing causes'; cf. also the telling comment at the end of I. The interpretation of the swerve theory adopted above may help explain how it could be thought interchangeable with the denial of bivalance. Neither doctrine is involved in analysing the nature of volition itself (as many have thought the swerve to be). Their shared function is to guarantee the efficacy of volition, by keeping alternative possibilities genuinely open.
Walter EnglertIn his 1987 book, Epicurus on the Swerve and Voluntary Action, Walter Ebnglert agreed with Furley that Epicurus did not introduce the swerve to explain "either free or deliberate choice, but rather to prevent human character from being rigidly fixed at birth." (p.3) Englert argues that fundamentally Epicurus wanted to defend moral responsibility. Ironically, this is the same thing Democritus was trying to achieve with his idea of determinism, namely, to convince humans that they have the reponsibility, not gods arbitrarily interfering in human actions.
Earlier scholars have not thought it significant that our ancient sources differ in reporting what Epicurus was attempting to account for with the swerve. I have argued that the Lucretius passage presents Epicurus' analysis of how the swerve preserves τὸ ἐκούσιον, voluntary action, and Plutarch in one passage specifies τὸ ἐκούσιον as the reason Epicurus posited the swerve. But several other passages from Plutarch, Cicero, and Philodemus report that Epicurus sought to account for τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῖv, τὸ παπ’ ἡμᾶς, and in nostra potentate with the swerve. All three expressions are equivalent and refer to the topic treated in the preceding chapter, τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῖv "that which depends on us", or simply, "moral responsibility". I take it that for Epicurus, as for Aristotle, τὸ ἐκούσιον is the broader classification of which τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῖv is a sub-class. All living creatures (including the horses in the Lucretius passage) can act voluntarily (τὸ ἐκούσιο), but only human beings are responsible for their actions (τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῖv). What I will try to show in this section is how Epicurus, once he had developed the theory of the swerve and applied it to the problem of voluntary action, also made use of it in his defense of moral responsibility.
Epicurus, given his very different views about the nature of the universe, its physical structure, and the nature of the gods, could not take refuge as the Stoics did in divine providence. In the Letter to Menoeceus (section 134) he clearly states his view on necessity:For, indeed, it were better to follow the myths about the gods than to become a slave to the destiny of the natural philsophers; for the former suggests a hope of placating the gods by worship, whereas the latter involves a necessity which knows no placation. (C. Bailey's translation)Epicurus, who believed that the gods existed but took no interest in human affairs or in running the universe, could not, as the Stoics did, offer comfort to people by teaching that the world of which we are a part is ruled by the providence of a divine being.
If our actions are simply parts of a much larger causal nexus, the notion of τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῖv, "what depends on us", becomes very problematical. On Epicurus' account our actions would not be part of an overall divine plan, but simply necessary events in what is ultimately analyzable as an atomic chain of causation. If true, in what sense could actions be up to us? How ultimately could we be sure that we can control our lives, and thus attain happiness? Epicurus developed the means to avoid the alternative the Stoics preferred. Rejecting the theory of eternal chains of causation, and the principle of bivalence which he felt depended on it, he was able to maintain that τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῖv and related terms used to express the concept of moral responsibility were meaningful. The main evidence for how he attempted to preserve moral responsibility is found in Cicero's De Fato, in Plutarch, and in the fragments from a book of Epicurus' On Nature.Englert cites Cicero's understanding of Epicurus,
Nor, since these things are so, is there a reason for Epicurus to be so frightened at fate, and seek protection [sc. against fate] from the atoms, and lead them from their the path [= the swerve]...Englert says that Cicero made it clear that Epicurus's swerve was precisely to provide human freedom and responsability.
Epicurus introduced this theory [sc. of the swerve] for the following reason. He feared that, if the atom is always carried along by natural and necessary weight, nothing would be free for us, since the mind is moved as it is forced by the motion of atoms.
Julia AnnasIn her 1992 book, The Hellenistic Philosophy of Mind, Annas finds it hard to see how random swerves can help to explain free action. But she sees clearly that randomness can provide alternative possibilities for the will to choose from. She says, "there would be no point in having free will if there were no genuinely open possibilities between which to select," anticipating the two-stage model of free will.
...since swerves are random, it is hard to see how they help to explain free action. We can scarcely expect there to be a random swerve before every free action. Free actions are frequent, and (fairly) reliable. Random swerves cannot account for either of these features. This problem would be lessened if we could assume that swerves are very frequent, so that there is always likely to be one around before an action. However, if swerves are frequent, we face the problem that stones and trees ought to be enabled to act freely. And even in the case of humans random swerves would seem to produce, if anything, random actions; we still lack any clue as to how they could produce actions which are free. An influential modern line of thought avoids these problems by arguing that our evidence does not demand that there be a swerve for each free action [Furley]. Rather, swerves explain the fact that people have characters capable of change and reaction that goes beyond mechanical response to stimuli. We act freely because we have characters that are flexible and spontaneous, and this is because we are composed of atoms which swerve occasionally. On this account, swerves do not have to be frequent, since they are not part of any mechanism of action; one swerve in your soul is enough for the kind of character flexibility that is required. Such an account avoids the problems attaching to any account that brings swerves into free action, but at the cost of not answering very closely to the evidence; the Lucretius passage certainly suggests that swerves are in some way relevant at the point of action. Another kind of suggestion is that swerves are not the causes of free actions at all. Rather, they come into the process whereby free actions are brought about. Swerves are supposed to explain something about the nature of free agency and how it works, but they do not cause free actions (by cutting across causal chains, for example). This suggestion can be developed in several ways. The boldest version holds that swerves do not explain the existence of free volitions at all; [Sedley] rather Epicurus holds anyway that volitions are nonphysical, "emergent" entities.
Jeffrey PurintonIn a 1999 Phronesis article, Purinton agrees with Fowler that random swerves directly cause volitions and actions. The ideas of Furley and Fowler do not do justice to Epicurus' libertarianism, he says, "since they do not make volition itself a fresh start of motion, and Sedley's view does not do justice to his atomism...It seems to me, therefore, that there is no good reason to reject the thesis that Epicurus held that swerves cause volitions from the bottom up. And there are a number of good reasons to accept it."
Chrysippus, for the compatibilism of freedom with causal determinism.
In her book and a 1998 article in Phronesis (Vol. 43, No. 2 (May, 1998), pp. 133-175), Bobzien identified several variations on the theme of human freedom that were important in antiquity. Three of them are indeterminist freedoms, by which she means the decision is partly or wholly a matter of chance, and does not involve the character and values of the agent:
1) freedom to do otherwise: I am free to do otherwise if, being the same agent, with the same desires and beliefs, and being in the same circumstances, it is possible for me to do or not to do something in the sense that it is not fully causally determined whether or not I do it.Then in 2000 Bobzien challenged Pamela Huby's 1967 assertion that Epicurus discovered the "free will problem." She did not mention that Long and Sedley shared that view.
In 1967 Epicurus was credited with the discovery of the problem of free will and determinism. Among the contestants were Aristotle and the early Stoics.Bobzien is of course right that Epicurus did not think that our decisions were made at random with no regard for our character and values, or for our feelings and desires. This is a straw argument put up by critics of Epicurean philosophy, notably the Stoic Chryssipus and the Academic Skeptic Cicero. But Bobzien is wrong to suggest that Epicurus did not see a problem between human freedom and the causal determinism of his fellow atomist Democritus, and that his atomic swerve was not his proposed solution to that "free will problem." She notes that
Whether Epicurus discussed free will depends on what one means by 'free will'. For example, if one intends 'free will' to render Lucretius "libera voluntas," and to mean whatever element of Epicurus' doctrine Lucretius meant to capture by this phrase, then Epicurus evidently was concerned with free will. My concern is only to show that he did not discuss a problem of free will that involves a conception of freedom of decision or choice as adumbrated in the main text. [namely, "extreme" libertarianism in which chance is the direct cause of action.]necessitated.
My own thesis is that Epicurus' main concern is not with justified praise and blame, but with preserving the rationality and efficacy of deliberating about one's future actions, although he thinks that determinism is incompatible with both. The reason for this is that a necessary condition on effective deliberation is the openness and contingency of the future, and determinism makes the future necessary. Furthermore, even though Epicurus posits the swerve in order to render causal determinism false, the sort of deterministic argument that Epicurus is concerned to rebut is the fatalist argument given in de Int. 9 and by the Megarians, which moves from considerations of future truth, to the fixity of the future, to the pointlessness of deliberation. Epicurus thinks that, if the Principle of Bivalence (the principle that every statement either is true or is false) held universally, this would make the future fixed in a way such as to render us helpless. (And so we can call my view the 'bivalence' interpretation.) Epicurus thinks that both logical and causal determinism are incompatible with the contingency of the future, and the swerve renders both false, since logical and causal determinism are mutually entailing. do otherwise than he does, much less that he conceived of this two-way ability in libertarian terms. Libera voluntas is often translated `free will,' but depending on the context, it can mean something like 'unfettered impulse.' After all, Cicero is willing to describe even the compatibilist Chrysippus, who certainly did not have a two-sided libertarian conception of freedom of will, as wanting to free (libero) our minds from necessity of motion and to accommodate the views of those who think that the movements of our minds are voluntary (voluntarius)." (For this reason, I will usually translate voluntas as 'volition,' since it is not potentially misleading in the way 'will' is, and while I think that the Epicurean theory of libera voluntas actually ends up being something like a theory of 'unfettered impulse,' using that as a translation would be highly tendentious.) Likewise, Epicurus says that how we act and develop "depends on us" (παρ’ ῆμᾶς) and that our actions arise through us ourselves or from us ourselves (δι’ ἡμῶν αὑτῶν or ἑξ ἡμῶν αὑτῶν). That our actions are παρ’ ῆμᾶς is compatible with them simply being caused by us (e.g., that I caused myself to walk, so that my walking "depended on me"), and need not imply that, however we act, it is "up to us" whether to act one way rather than another (e.g., that it was up to me whether or not to walk). In fact, Bobzien argues at length, and I think convincingly, that to say our actions are παρ’ ῆμᾶς is more naturally read as indicating that we are causally responsible for our actions (what she calls a 'one-sided causative' παρ’ ῆμᾶς and has no implications about free choice." To say that actions are δι’ ἡμῶν αὑτῶν or ἑξ ἡμῶν αὑτῶν also has no implications of free choice. In fact, Chrysippus defends the thesis that certain things originate "from us" (ἑξ ἡμῶν), and when the Stoics are concerned to describe precisely what type of agency we do have and are at pains to deny the thesis that freedom is a matter of having free choice between opposite actions, they say repeatedly that what is up to us is what happens through us (δι’ ἡμῶν)" The passages which report the Epicurean views on determinism and freedom indicate that Epicurus is concerned about defending something like the view that we have moral responsibility. The much later Epicurean Diogenes of Oinoanda claims that all censure and admonition would be abolished if fate controlled what we did, and Cicero, in reporting the worry that motivates the various parties to the fate and free volition debate, says that if fate were operative, there would be no justice in either praise or blame. Epicurus, likewise, when arguing that some things 'depend on us,' says praise and blame properly attach to such things, and in his anti-fatalist argument in On Nature 25, he asserts that our practices of rebuking, opposing and reforming each other presuppose that the cause of actions is 'in ourselves.' However, even more prominent in Epicurean thought is the theme that determinism would render us helpless. When Lucretius describes the libera voluntas that the swerve snatches from the fates, he says nothing about responsibility, praise, or blame. Instead, libera voluntas is what allows each animal to go where pleasure leads it and the mind to move itself (DRN 2 257-260). Although Lucretius' later discussions of voluntas do not mention the swerve, they do confirm that it is voluntas that allows us to act as we wish to act — to visualize what we wish to visualize, to move our limbs as we desire, etc. (DRN 4 777-780, 877-880) So, if determinism threatens this voluntas, the implication is that determinism would render us unable to act as we wish to act, to move our limbs as we will, etc. A similar concern with fatalism lurks in Epicurus' discussion of the "fate of the natural philosophers" in Ep. Men. 133-134. Epicurus contrasts what is ἁνάγκη, which is ἁνυπεύθυνος; — 'unanswerable' or 'beyond human control' — with what is παρ’ ῆμᾶς, which is ἁδέσποτος; — 'without master' or 'autonomous.' He then goes on to say that it would better to believe in the meddling Olympian gods than to be a 'slave' to the fate of the natural philosophers, since at least one can try to placate the Olympian gods, whereas the necessity of the natural philosophers is inescapable. In On Nature 25, the target of Epicurus' argument is a fatalist: this person denies that our decisions make any difference; what we do is not a cause or explanation (aitia) of what happens.' Finally, Cicero's discussions of the Epicurean and Stoic positions in the De fato show that a major concern of theirs was whether, if what will occur in the future has always been true and always been causally determined, the future is necessary in a way that makes all deliberation and action pointless. Now, before going through the texts, let's step back and ask: given Epicurus' ethics and his psychology, what sort of freedom should he be worried about? Epicurean ethics is egoistic and hedonistic. In every choice, one should strive to attain the 'goal of nature,' pleasure (KD 25).O'Keefe, following Bobzien (and probably with his own mentor, Robert Kane in mind), makes libertarian freedom a will that ignores character and values, desires and feelings. Actions that are the direct result of random chance were never in Epicurus's picture of what actions are "up to us".
Ricardo SallesIn 2005, Salles published The Stoics on Determinism and Compatibilism. In it, he makes the strongest possible case that the doctrine of Chrysippus provides enough control for agents to claim that our actions are "up to us." His evidence comes from Cicero , Alexander of Aphrodisias, and Nemesius of Emesa. Salles discusses several aspects of Stoicism that seem to demand complete determinism.
The philosophical question addressed is whether this `internality requirement', as I shall call it, can be met in a world governed by determinism. One major objection against compatibilism turns on this issue. The objection (henceforth the 'externalist objection') is that, if every state and event is determined by prior causes, then everything we do is in fact fully determined by external factors alone. In consequence, the internality requirement cannot be met and causal determinism would remove any possible ground for the justified ascription of responsibility. But is the externalist objection cogent? A central compatibilist argument developed by Chrysippus was designed to rebut it. On his view 'everything is determined by prior causes' does not have to imply that we are always at the mercy of purely external forces. The internality requirement, which is a necessary condition for responsibility (either legal or moral, as Aristotle claims), can in some relevant cases be perfectly met in a world governed by determinism. (Salles, p.33)Can Salles possibly make this "perfect" case for Chrysippus' compatibilism? In fact, he says the argument contains some of the same intuitions put forward by the modern compatibilist Harry Frankfurt. The dual capacity to do something or to do otherwise is not needed, he says. But Chrysippus requires more than just automatic acceptance of an impression (φαωτασία) and assent to the impulse. What is required is critical reflection (κρίσις), similar to Frankfurt's second-order desires.
Frankfurt and Chrysippus explain moral responsibility by appealing to factors that are substantially the same. In Frankfurt's theory, the responsibility for the action derives from the agent's decision to perform it, but also from that decision's being based on a previous all-things-considered practical reflection. Similarly, the responsibility for the action in Chrysippus derives from the agent's exercise of an impulse for it (or his assenting to the impression where the action is presented as valuable), but also, and crucially, from the impulse's being fully rational, which involves a reflection concerning the all-things-considered desirability or appropriateness of the action. It is noteworthy that in some of his later works Frankfurt's account lays a certain emphasis on second-order desires: To be responsible for Φ-ing, it is sufficient to desire having the desire to Φ, provided that the former, second-order, desire is based on a previous practical reflection concerning the desirability of the latter: the agent is responsible because he came to have the desire to desire to Φ as a result of a reflection about whether the desire to Φ is worth having. Therefore, the question addressed in the reflection is mainly 'should I desire to Φ?' Its focus is a desire — whether or not one should have it. In the Chrysippean account, by contrast, the focus of the reflection is on action. As we have seen, the question it addresses is 'Is it appropriate for me to Φ (given the present circumstances)?' (Salles, p.66)Salles discusses the difficulty that Chrysippus may have inconsistently argued, for metaphysical reasons, that alternative possibilities for action (or specifically the possibilities of assenting or not assenting) exist and that these possibilities are consistent with causal determination (p.86). Chrysippus held that though the future is causally determined and fated, it may not be logically necessitated in all senses. In spite of determinism, an individual action may be contingent. The agent may or may not perform it at a specific time. (p.69) Salles analyzes the denial of necessity as the result of two senses of necessity in Chrysippus
I Φ is capable of being true if I am fit, or strong, enough to Φ; and it is capable of being false if I have the physical strength to refrain from Φ-ing. As for the other condition — being or not being prevented by external factors (τὰ ἐκτός) from being true or false — it refers to the presence or absence of factors external to us that either prevent us from acting in a certain way or force an event or state to take place at us. In contrast with the former condition, the latter is an innovation of Chrysippus. The non-necessity of a proposition in this modal system is compatible with there being necessitating causes for the event in question. Consider a situation where my action is to stand still. I now have the intrinsic fitness required for walking and nothing external prevents me from doing so. Therefore, the proposition I stand still now is non-necessary in the sense envisaged by this modal system. Yet, my standing still is causally necessitated, namely by the whole rational process by which I came to the conclusion that I should remain still and that caused me to act accordingly. In other words, the proposition I stand still now is non-necessary in Chrysippus' modal system, even though my action is, at the same time, necessary in a causal sense. In fact, as has been hypothesized in recent scholarship, there seems to be two kinds, or at least senses, of necessity in Chrysippean Stoicism. One sense is that required by the modal system just described, whose aim, as I shall argue in some detail later on in this section, is twofold: (i) to establish that some states and events that are counterfactual at all times are nevertheless possible; (ii) to preserve the interdefinability of the four central modal notions. It follows from (i) and (ii) that a factual action whose opposite is counterfactual at all times but possible is, thereby, non-necessary. The other sense of necessity is that required by Stoic causation, according to which an effect is necessitated by its cause — an idea that Chrysippus never contradicted and that goes back, as we know, to Zeno: 'it is impossible that the cause be present yet that of which it is the cause not obtain' (ἀδύνατον δ’ εἴναι τὸ μὲν αἴτιον παρεῖναι, οὖ δέ ἐστιν αἴτιον μὴ ὑπάρχειν). Thus, a factual event necessitated by its cause may nevertheless be non-necessary from the point of view of Chrysippus' modal system. There is no contradiction as long as we bear in mind that these are two different kinds or senses of necessity that were not meant by Chrysippus to be equivalent to each other. (Salles, pp.82-84)
Dorothea FredeFrede examined the comments of Alexander of Aphrodisias in an article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. She says that Alexanders' treatise On Fate (which should be compared to Cicero's work On Fate) is "the most comprehensive surviving document in the centuries-long debate on fate, determinism, and free will that was carried on between the Stoics, the Epicureans and the Academic Skeptics." Frede makes the case that Alexander was first "libertarian." She writes,
It is unclear whether there had been a genuinely Peripatetic contribution to this debate before Alexander. If there was not, Alexander clearly filled a significant gap. Though Aristotle himself in a way touches on all important aspects of the problem of determinism — logical, physical, and ethical — in different works, he was not greatly concerned with this issue, nor does he entertain the notion of fate (heimarmene) as a rational cosmic ordering-force (as do the Stoics). In De interpretatione 9, he famously proposed to solve the problem of ‘future truth’ by not assigning truth-values to statements in the future tense about individual contingent events. In his ethics he deals with the question of whether individuals have free choice, once their character is settled. As Aristotle sees it, there is little or no leeway in moral decision, but he holds individuals responsible for their actions because they at least collaborated in the acquisition of their character (EN III, 1-5). In his physical works Aristotle limits strict necessity to the motions of the stars, while allowing for a wide range of events in the sublunary realm that do not happen of necessity but only for the most part or by chance (Phys. II, 4-6). Though he subscribes to the principle that the same causal constellations have the same effects, he also allows for ‘fresh starts’ in a causal series (Metaph. E 3). Given these various limitations, Aristotle had no reason to treat determinism as a central philosophical problem either in his ethics or in his physics. The situation changed, however, once the Stoics had established a rigorously physicalist system ruled by an all-pervasive divine mind. It is this radicalization of the determinist position that sharpened the general consciousness of the problematic, as witnessed by the relentless attacks of the Stoics’ opponents, most of all the Academic skeptics and the Epicureans, which lasted for centuries. This long-standing debate prompted Alexander to develop an Aristotelian concept of fate by identifying it with the natural constitution of things, including human nature (On Fate, ch. 2-6).
John DudleyIn his definitive 2011 monograph Aristotle's Concept of Chance, Dudley makes it clear that Aristotle rejects determinism. He says that Aristotle offers three causes (ἀιτία) that are not themselves caused. These are human free choice (ἐφ' ἡμῖν), accidents (συμβεβεκός), and chance (τυχή for humans, and ταὐτόματον for animals and nature). These uncaused causes break the chain of "necessary" causes (ἀνάγκη), explain future contingency, and make the future inherently unpredictable (p.268). He says in conlusion,
It may be said, then, that Aristotle not only was not a determinist, but that he provided an epistemological and metaphysical explanation for the inadequacy of determinism. He argued profoundly not only that human free choices are not the only exception in an otherwise determined world, but that all events on earth are in the final analysis contingent, since they can all be traced back to a contingent starting-point. This contingent starting-point can be a free choice or a [sc. unusual] accident or chance, which can be based on both. Science is only possible to the extent that accidental causes can be excluded from predictions. The scope of science is, therefore, very limited. Science is dependent on the reduction of events to per se causes. However, per se causes are not sufficient to account for events. Events are, therefore, contingent. For Aristotle it is not legitimate to view the present condition of the world as the outcome of the interaction of chains of necessary causes, as many contemporary scientists and philosophers would hold. For Aristotle the human intellect can only trace back one chain of causes at a time, and will always have to stop the process when it reaches a free choice or a [.. unusual] accidental cause, both of which introduce contingency into chains of causes, since the effect of free choices and [sc. unusual] accidents on the course of events is inherently unpredictable. While the intellect is tracing one chain of causes, the outcome or final member of any other relevant chain of causes has the status of an accident in relation to the chain of causes under construction. Thus Aristotle's rejection of determinism due to unusual causes is based on the working of the intellect in tracing individual chains of causes. If pushed to its logical conclusion, Aristotle's objection to the determinist standpoint — based on his view as set out above — would have to be of a rather Kantian nature, namely that the vision of "the world" as "the outcome of the interaction of chains of necessary causes" is an invalid mental construction, since it does not take account of [sc. unusual] accidents.
So Who Was First?
The First Determinist was Democritus
The First Indeterminist was Aristotle
The First Incompatibilist was Epicurus
The First Agent-Causal Libertarian was Aristotle, followed by Epicurus, then Carneades
The First Event-Causal Libertarian was Epicurus, according to the untrustworthy accounts of the Epicurean Lucretius and the anti-Epicurean Sceptic Cicero
The First Compatibilist was Chrysippus
Epicurus' view of chance as uncertain (unsteady, unstable)
ἄστᾰτος, ον, (ἵσταμαι) never standing still, unresting, τὸ κύκλῳ σῶμα Arist.Metaph.1073a31; ἄ. τροχός Mesom.Nem.7. Adv. -τως, φορεῖσθαι Ph.1.181, cf. Vett.Val.27.1.2. unsteady, unstable, τύχη Epicur.Ep.3. p.65 U., cf. Phld.Rh.1.166 S. (Sup.), Ph.1.230, al., Diog.Oen.18, Diogenian.Epicur.2.60, Plu.2.103f; of persons, ἄ. τὴν διάνοιαν Onos.3. 3; τύχῃ δ᾽ ὡς ἀστάτῳ πιστευτέον ἑταίρᾳ Iamb.Protr.2; ἄ. αἰών IG7.2543; θνητῶν βίος Epigr.Gr.699, cf. Ph.1.651; of a house, ruinous, PLond.ined.2194.Source: Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; Jones, Henry Stuart; McKenzie, Roderick: A Greek-English Lexicon. Rev. and augm. throughout. Oxford; New York : Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, 1996, S. 260