Free Will and Responsibility (Spring 2010)


Could pre-cogs predict your holiday plans next year? Or, could a super-intelligent demon with knowledge of the position and projection of every atom in the universe determine what you will have for breakfast next Tuesday? If so, determinism is true. This does not seem to leave room for freedom. If there is no freedom, how could we be responsible for any of our actions? These are a few of the questions that we will address in this course. We will begin the semester by looking at the significance of determinism for the prospect of free will. Compatibilists think that we can be free and determined. In contrast, libertarians think that determinism is false and point to putative sources of indeterminacy as the locus of free will. But it is just as difficult to see how indeterminate events could help make anyone responsible for their actions. Wouldn't they be an impediment to our control? In addition to libertarian defenses of free will, we will explore the implications of hard determinism. Would praise and blame make sense if we lack freedom? Without freedom, it seems that we would have to radically reform our views of virtue, vice, love, and friendship. Much of value hangs in the balance. If we don't have free will, should we, as some philosophers suggest, actively promote the illusion that we do? Near the end of the semester we will examine some empirically informed arguments that appear to undermine the prospects for free will.


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