Freedom and Reponsibility (Spring 2014)

PHIL 262: Freedom and Responsibility

PHIL 262-05 | ID 20932 | TR 2:00-3:50 | Room: Whipple 204b | Spring 2014

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

Course Syllabus


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? We will evaluate ancient, medieval, and contemporary answers to these questions.

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.


There is just one required text for this course:

  1. Joseph Bedier (Author), Hilaire Belloc (Trans). The Romance of Tristan and Iseult. Vintage, 1994. ISBN-10: 0679750169. [RTI] *Buy this version.

There are six recommended books:

  1. Robert Kane. A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will (Oxford UP, 2005). ISBN-10: 019514970X. [CI]

  2. Gary Watson, ed. Free Will (Oxford Readings in Philosophy) (Oxford UP, 2003). ISBN-10: 019925494X. [GWFW]

  3. Derk Pereboom, ed. Free Will. Hackett, 2009. ISBN-10: 1603841296. [DPFW]

  4. Robert Kane, ed. Free Will (Blackwell Readings in Philosophy). Blackwell, 2009. ISBN-10: 0631221026. [RKFW]

  5. Sophocles, Theban Plays. Peter Meineck and Paul Woodruff (trans). Hackett, 2003. ISBN-10: 0872205851. [TP]

  6. Andrew Lawrence Roberts. The Thinking Student's Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education. University Of Chicago Press, 2010. ISBN-10: 0226721159.

All of the readings, except for Tristan and Iseult will be posted on Blackboard [BB]. But it will be easier for you to simply buy the recommended books. Otherwise you'll need to print out the articles. You'll get the most bang for your buck by buying the two Kane books, CI and RKFW. And the Sophocles is cheap; you should own it.


There will be two different forms of coursework: (best 20 out of 27) daily quizzes and three take-home examinations. I will give a short quiz at the beginning of each class that will require a one or two sentence answer. The quizzes are closed-book, but open-note. The bulk of your grade comes from the take-home exams. All assignments must be completed to pass the course.

Quizzes (10%) + first exam (30%) + second exam (30%) + final exam (30%).

I encourage students who are doing well to write a term paper in place of the final exam. If you chose this option, please let me know two weeks before Spring Break. I'll help you refine your topic and develop an outline. You must give me an abstract and a rough outline one month before the final exam period. I will not accept a term paper otherwise.

Attendance Policy

Although I record every class meeting, attendance is required. If you miss 6 or more classes, you will receive a 0 for your quiz grade. If you miss 12 or more classes, you will receive an F for the course. (There are no excused or unexcused absences. But please talk to me if something major comes up that dramatically effect your attendance.)

Tardiness Policy

If you are more than 5 minutes late, I will not accept your daily quiz and you will be marked absent. Come to class on time. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will not be admitted to class.

Leaving Early Policy

No matter the reason, if you leave early, I will not accept your daily quiz and you will be marked absent. It doesn't matter if you have a court date, a doctor's appointment, or if you have to get to work. If you leave early, you will be marked absent.

Classroom Etiquette Policy

Pay attention; don't have distracting side conversations with other students; don't read newspapers or do crossword puzzles in class; don't sleep; don't text; don't sigh loudly with displeasure. This kind of behavior is disruptive. Be civil. Be courteous. This isn't high school. If your behavior is disruptive, I will ask you to leave. If I have to ask you to leave twice, you will receive an F in the class.

Laptop Policy

Laptop use is prohibited. The same goes for tablet computers and smartphones. Consider this rehab for Facebook addiction. You should print the articles posted on Blackboard and bring them to class.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism—claiming someone else’s ideas or written work as your own—will not be tolerated. The tests are not collaborative. All sources must be cited. Anyone caught cheating will be given a failing grade in the course. I am also required to report you to the Vice President of Academic Affairs. But I would report you even if it was optional. Plagiarism is a serious offense.

Class Schedule

* The readings for each class are nested under the date. You should do the readings before class. There will be a short quiz every class.

  • Week 1

    • C1 (T: 1/21) Introduction

      • Readings

        • Kane, ch.1 "The Free Will Problem" [CI]

      • Further Reading

        • Solomon, "On Fate and Fatalism" [BB]

Topic I: Fate, Predestination, Foreknowledge, and Causal Determinism

    • C2 (R: 1/23) Fate

      • Readings

        • Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus [TP]

      • Further Reading

        • Lucian, "Zeus Cross-Examined" [BB]

  • Week 2

    • C3 (T: 1/28) Predestination and Divine Foreknowledge

      • Readings

        • Kane, ch. 13 "Divine Foreknowledge, and Free Will" [CI]

        • Augustine, "Divine Foreknowledge, Evil, and the Free" [RKFW]

      • Further Reading

        • Hasker, "God, Time, Knowledge and Freedom" [RKFW]

    • C4 (R: 1/30) Divine Foreknowledge

      • Readings

        • Pike, "Divine Omniscience and Voluntary Action" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Taylor, "Fate" [BB]

  • Week 3

    • C5 (T: 2/4) Causal Determinism and Classical Compatibilism

      • Readings

        • Kane, Ch. 2 "Compatibilism" [CI]

        • The Stoics, selections [DPFW]

        • Laplace, Essay on Probabilities, ch.2 [BB]

Topic II: Compatibilism

    • C6 (R: 2/6) Classic Compatibilism

      • Readings

        • Hume, selections from the Treatise and the Enquiry [BB]

        • Skinner, "Walden Two" (excerpt) [RKFW]

  • Week 4

    • C7 (T: 2/11) Contemporary Compatibilism - Frankfurt

      • Readings

        • Kane, ch. 9 "Higher-order Desires, Real Selves and New Compatibilists" [CI]

        • Frankfurt, "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person" [GWFW]

    • C8 (R: 2/13) Contemporary Compatibilism - Wolf

      • Readings

        • Wolf, "Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility" [GWFW]

  • Week 5

    • C9 (T: 2/18) Some Worries

      • Readings

        • Rosen, "Culpability and Ignorance" [BB]

    • C10 (R: 2/20) Contemporary Compatibilism - Watson

      • Readings

        • Watson, "Free Agency" [GWFW]

  • Week 6

    • C11 (T: 2/25) Incompatibilism

      • Readings

        • Kane, ch. 3 "Incompatibilism" [CI]

        • van Inwagen, "An Argument for Incompatibilism" [GWFW]

Topic III: Libertarianism

    • C12 (R: 2/27) Indeterminism

      • Readings

        • Kane, ch.4 "Libertarianism, Indeterminism, and Chance" [CI]

        • Lucretius, "On the Nature of Things" (excerpt) [BB]

        • van Inwagen, "The Mystery of Metaphysical Freedom" [RKFW]

      • Further Reading

        • Kaye, "Why the Liberty of Indifference is Worth Wanting" [BB]

  • Week 7

    • C13 (T: 3/4) Agent Causation and Personal Identity

      • Readings

        • Kane, ch. 5 "Minds, Selves, and Agent Causes" [CI]

        • Reid, selections [BB]

    • C14 (R: 3/6) Agent Causation

      • Readings

        • Campbell, "Has the Self 'Free Will'?" (excerpt from On Selfhood and Godhood) [BB]

  • Week 8 ***SPRING BREAK*** (3/10-14)

  • Week 9

    • C15 (T: 3/18) Agent Causation, cont.

      • Readings

        • Kane, ch. 6 "Actions, Reasons, and Causes" [CI]

        • Chisholm, "Human Freedom and the Self" [RKFW]

      • Further Reading

        • Kane, "Responsibility, Luck, and Chance" [GWFW]}

        • O'Connor, "Agent Causation" [GWFW]}

        • Clarke, "Agent Causation and Event Causation" [DPFW]}

Topic IV: Free Will Skepticism

    • C16 (R: 3/20) Hard Determinism

      • Readings

        • Kane, ch.7 "Hard Determinists and Other Skeptics" [CI]

        • Galen Strawson, "The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility" [GWFW]

      • Further Reading

        • Edwards, "Hard and Soft Determinism" [RKFW]

        • Pereboom, "Determinism al Dente" [DPFW]

  • Week 10

    • C17 (T: 3/25) Neuroscience and Free Will

      • Readings

        • Libet, "Do We Have Free Will?" [BB]

        • Wegner, "Brain and Body" [BB]

    • C18 (R: 3/27) Psychology of Conscious Choice

      • Readings

        • Wegner, "The Experience of Will" [BB]

Topic V: Alternative Possibilities and Reasons Responsiveness

  • Week 11

    • C19 (T: 4/1) Alternate Possibilities

      • Readings

        • Kane, ch. 8 "Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities" [CI]

        • Frankfurt, "Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility" [GWFW]

    • C20 (R: 4/3) Tracing Accounts

      • Readings

        • Fischer, "Frankfurt-Style Compatibilism" [GWFW]

        • Pereboom, "Determinism al Dente" (sections I-II) [DPFW]

  • Week 12

    • C21 (T: 4/8) Reasons Responsiveness

      • Readings

        • Arpaly, "Moral Worth" [BB]

Topic VI: Ethics and Free Will

    • C22 (R: 4/10) Ethics and Free Will

      • Readings

        • Kane, Ch. 10 "Reactive Attitude Theories" [CI]

        • Peter Strawson, "Freedom and Resentment" [DPFW]

      • Further Reading

        • Dennett, "I Could Not Have Done Otherwise - So What?" [RKFW]

  • Week 13

    • C23 (T: 4/15) Determinism and Ethics

      • Readings

        • Pereboom, "Determinism al Dente" (section VII) [DPFW]

      • Further Reading

        • Pereboom, "The Contours of Hard Incompatibilism" [BB]

    • C24 (R: 4/17) Punishment

      • Readings

        • Pereboom, "Hard Incompatibilism and Criminal Behavior" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Levy, "The Responsibility of the Psychopath Revisited" [BB]

Topic VII: Love, Freedom, and the Meaning of Life

  • Week 14

    • C25 (T: 4/22) Love and Freedom

      • Readings

        • Bedier, The Romance of Tristan and Iseult (pp. 1-108) [RTI]

      • Further Reading

        • Schopenhauer, on love [BB]

    • C26 (R: 4/24) Love and Freedom

      • Readings

        • Bedier, The Romance of Tristan and Iseult (pp. 109-203) [RTI]

        • Pereboom, "Hard Incompatibilism and the Meaning of Life" (pp. 199-204) [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Smuts, "Love and Free Will" [BB]

  • Week 15

    • C27 (T: 4/29) Illusionism

      • Readings

        • Smilansky, "Free Will, Fundamental Dualism, and the Centrality of Illusion" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Vohs, "The Value of Believing in Free Will" [BB]

    • C28 (R: 5/1) Free Will and the Meaning of Life

      • Readings

        • Frankl, "Logotherapy in a Nutshell" [BB]

        • Pereboom, "Hard Incompatibilism and the Meaning of Life" (pp. 187-199) [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Wielenberg, "The Meaning of Life" [BB]