Free Will (Fall 2011)

Freedom: Free Will and Moral Responsibility

PHIL 262-04 | ID 11212 | TR 2:00-3:50 | Room: Craig-Lee 202 | Fall 2011

Course Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Aaron Smuts | | office hours: 219 Alger Hall, 12:00-12:30 TR


Could pre-cogs predict your holiday plans next year? 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?

Just what is free will? Can we make sense of the notion? We will begin the semester by looking at the significance of determinism for free will and moral responsibility. Is determinism true? And if so, is free will compatible with determinism?

Some 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 the next part of the course, 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. If no one is responsible for their actions, what justifies punishment? If we don't have free will, should we, as some philosophers suggest, actively promote the illusion that we do?

We will critically examine some psychological research that appears to undermine the prospects for free will. We’ll be talking about Ouija boards, diving rods, split brains, hypnosis, subliminal suggestion, drug addicts, psychopaths, and love potions.


First Exam

Final Exam