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Theodore Sider Free Will And Determinism Essays

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Free will and determinism

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Free Will And Determinism Essay Research Paper

Free Will And Determinism Essay Research Paper

Free Will And Determinism Essay, Research Paper

In my paper I will present the argument that without a strong concept of Free Will it makes no sense to say that persons are responsible for their actions. Determinism states that the freedom, which is a condition of moral responsibility, is not compatible with the truth of universal determinism (everything is caused). Universal determinism is true; we do not have the freedom which is a condition of moral responsibility. Free will does not exist.

There are two different types of freedom. Let s call them Freedom A and Freedom B. Freedom A is the freedom of personal realization, it is circumstantial. Freedom B is the freedom of self-determination and power, it is the original cause of the action, the power to choose. Freedom A is necessary for moral responsibility but is not sufficient, you also need freedom B and we don t have freedom B therefore there is no moral responsibility. In life there are countless cases of caused happenings. Some examples would be that wind causes trees to bend, hunger causes people to eat, and biology tells us that hereditary determines what kind of persons we will be. The free-willist position does not agree with this claim, stating that nothing but your own power to choose would cause you to buy a mystery novel instead of watching TV. But everything is caused and the reason that you bought the mystery novel was probably because you liked mysteries, therefore even something simple like this has a cause.

It is legitimate to infer that on the basis of our observations up until now causation is reasonable to believe. For example we know that all human beings will die. This explains random acts; perhaps we just don t have the information or technology to realize the causes of the event. The failure to predict is because of human ignorance.

In the text Free Will and Determinism: A Dialogue the character Fredrick, the free-willist, makes some interesting comments about the term deliberation. Deliberating is the power to choose, think, front alternatives and causes us to be directly aware of ourselves acting freely. We deliberate everyday, I can chose to stay home and read a book instead of going out to go see a concert. But is this really free will? No, because as Daniel, the hard determinist suggests a neurosurgeon or psychologist could manipulate my brain to make me feel as though I was choosing and deliberating even though I am being caused to make the choices I made. Daniel says that we can have deliberation without having choice. Fredrick says that this is not possible and would not be called deliberation because deliberation means free choice.

If someone is free then they could not have chosen otherwise even if everything up to that point stayed exactly the same. Suppose I am walking home from school and there are two ways I could go. Each way is exactly the same: same length, same scenery, and neither one is less dangerous than the other is. There is nothing about one of the ways that would make me decide for it rather than the other. At this point I consciously make a decision about which way to go and am aware of it. I am aware of myself being able to do either one, and when I do chose I am aware that my choice has been free and unhindered. Fredrick suggests that this awareness is the key to free will, and speaks of his theory of introspection. In the dictionary introspection is defined as a looking into one s own mind, feelings, etc. If we can look into ourselves and find and believe in free will then you are free. In other words, if you do not know you are free you do not know anything at all. Introspection is like a 6th sense if you will. It is the experience of looking at yourself from the inside in and has privileged access as to who can see into it. Only I can look into myself and none other. Introspection exists in your mind and consists of no governing rules; it consists of a private language. This private language can recognize when or when not you receive a feeling or are making a choice. Suppose you have a stomachache, your private language would immediately recognize this and name it, let s call it a grube. Suppose later you had another stomachache, the problem is how would this private language be able to distinguish whether or not the pain in your stomach was again a grube? In a non-rule-governed language it would not be possible. Therefore it is impossible to have a private language. Therefore this introspection theory does not hold up too well, because there is no possible way that you could recognize that you have freedom and then be able to recognize it again as the same feeling as the one before.

Free will suggests that blame and punishment would have no legitimate point if universal determinism was true. But this is not the case; by blaming and punishing people we deter them from acting that was again and then deter other people from acting that was at all. It is the same with praise, by praising people for acting in an appropriate way it will cause them and others to act that way again. Free will suggests that if we do not have the power to chose then there is no point in punishing a person if they could not have done otherwise. But blame and punishment do not presuppose that the very action for which a person is blamed could have been avoided, it will cause them in the future not to act that way again.

In conclusion, I shall say again that all events are caused and we do not have the power to choose, therefore we do not have moral responsibility and free will does not exist. The free will theory has too many holes and unfortunately does not have enough evidence to support it.

Sider: grad metaphysics

Syllabus: Metaphysics
  • PHI 650, Spring 2002, Tuesday/Thursday 2:30-3:50
  • Ted Sider, xt. 5817,,
  • Office hours: Wednesday 2:00-3:00; Thursday 1:00-2:00
  • This course will survey some major topics in metaphysics: free will and determinism, causation and laws, possibility and possible worlds, natural kinds, and personal identity over time.

    Metaphysics is the study of the ultimate nature of reality. Unfortunately, this cryptic formulation is nearly useless. One can simply delve into metaphysics to learn what it is; but perhaps a bit more can be said beforehand.

    Think of metaphysics as involving theory and location. Metaphysics aspires to give a comprehensive theory of reality. Such a theory will include an ontology. a theory of what exists. as well as an ideology. a specification of the sorts of things we can say about the objects in the ontology. As for location, since the theory is supposed to be comprehensive, we investigate where (and whether) the things in which we ordinarily believe can be located in the theory.

    The search for a comprehensive theory often leads to the following dilemma. For one reason or another, metaphysicians often propose a fairly meager metaphysics, a theory with a slender ontology or ideology. It can then be difficult to fit all of the elements of our everyday conceptual scheme into this meager metaphysics. Perhaps we have left no room for persons, or thought, or ordinary physical objects! Faced with this dilemma, a particularly severe metaphysician might become an eliminativist ; she might choose to follow her theory and claim that there simply are no persons, thoughts, or ordinary physical objects. Alternatively, she might be a reductionist. and claim that there is room after all for persons, thoughts and ordinary physical objects in her metaphysical theory, provided one accepts an appropriate understanding of what persons, thoughts and ordinary physical objects are. A final option is antireductionist. one can give up the theory responsible for the dilemma in favor of a richer theory in which the elements of our ordinary conceptual scheme may be located.

    The problem of free will and determinism is that of integrating a belief most of us have, that people sometimes act freely and are morally responsible for what they do, with a scientific picture of the world that most of us also accept, according to which any person's actions have causes that lie beyond his or her control. This is an instance of the sort of dilemma mentioned in the previous paragraph; accordingly the literature on free will contains instances of the eliminativist, reductionist and antireductionist responses. Eliminativists about free will are known as "hard determinists"; they say that free will does not exist. Reductionists are called "compatibilists"; they recommend reinterpreting free will so that it does not conflict with the scientific picture. The antireductionists are the "libertarians", who advocate giving up part of the scientific picture in order to make room for free will.

    The problem of laws and causation is finding room for causal notions in our overall theory of the world. Causal notions involve a certain kind of necessity -- an object dropped does not merely happen to fall; it must fall; its falling is causally necessary, given that it was dropped. Philosophers typically distinguish two causal notions: laws of nature and causation. Laws of nature are general patterns scientists seek to formulate, whereas statements of causation concern particular events: we say that this striking of a match caused this event of the match lighting. The core question here is what the necessity of laws and causation amounts to.

    The topic of possibility and necessity concerns necessity of a different, broader sort. Though it is a law of nature that dropped objects fall, we can imagine a world in which this does not happen; the laws of nature could have been different. In a broader sense, then, it is not necessary that dropped objects fall. What is necessary in this broader sense? Alleged examples of necessary truths include 'all bachelors are unmarried', 'No one is taller than himself' and 'Ted is human'. We will investigate what it is for a proposition to be necessary, and whether necessity attaches only to propositions (de dicto necessity) or to things as well (de re necessity).

    Humans group some objects together as similar, and consider others dissimilar. Do these groupings reflect genuine similarities in nature, or merely human interests? What are the ramifications elsewhere of giving either answer? This is the problem of natural kinds.

    Our final topic, personal identity, concerns the continued existence of persons over time. We ordinarily assume that persons continue to exist over time -- that the very same person that existed in the past is present before us now. Otherwise it would make no sense to blame persons for their past acts or to plan for the future. And yet, persons change over time, both psychologically (we accumulate memories and our characters change) and physically (the body periodically recycles its matter). Moreover, we think of some changes as resulting in the destruction of the person: imagine the "change" that occurs in a person when her body is vaporized by a bomb. So: in what does continuing over time consist, and what is the difference between changes a person survives and changes that destroy?

    Metaphysics includes many other topics we will not have time to investigate, for example the philosophy of time and space (ontology of the past and future; tense; direction of time; substantivalism); persistence over time (artifact identity, material constitution); other topics concerning causation and laws of nature (events, states of affairs, the nature of chance); other topics involving possibility and possible worlds (counterfactuals, supervenience, two-dimensionalism, essentialism); realism/antirealism; truth; Sellars manifest image/Jackson's placement problem (color); ontology (abstract entities, mereology, meta-ontology).

    • Gary Watson, Free Will ("W" below)
    • W. V. O. Quine, From a Logical Point of View
    • Saul Kripke, Naming and Necessity
    • David Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds
    • Ernest Sosa and Michael Tooley, Causation ("S&T")
    • D. M. Armstrong's What is a Law of Nature
    • 75%: take-home exams for each section of the course.
    • 25%: paper, 8-12 pages, due May 9.
    Freedom and Determinism

    Libertarianism Chisholm, "Human Freedom and the Self" (W); Clarke, "Toward a credible agent-causal account of free will"

    Soft determinism/compatibilism Ayer, "Freedom and Necessity" (W); Frankfurt, "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person" (W)

    Incompatibilism Peter van Inwagen, "The Incompatibility of Free Will and Determinism" (W); Lewis, "Are We Free to Break the Laws?"

    Possibility and necessity

    Quine "Two Dogmas of Empiricism", "Reference and Modality", both in From a Logical Point of View

    KripkeNaming and Necessity

    LewisOn the Plurality of Worlds 1.1-1.2, 1.6-1.9; chapter 2; 4.1, 4.4-4.5.

    Laws of nature and causation

    Regularity theory of laws Armstrong, What is a Law of Nature?. chapters 1-5; Lewis, Counterfactuals pp. 73-74; Lewis, Philosophical Papers, vol 2. pp. 121-124; Lewis, "Humean Supervenience Debugged"

    DTA theory of laws Armstrong, What is a Law of Nature?. chapters 6-8; Lewis, introduction to Philosophical Papers, vol 2. p. xii; van Fraassen, Laws and Symmetry. pp. 94-103.

    Laws are necessary Shoemaker, "Causal and Metaphysical Necessity"

    Skepticism about laws Van Fraassen, Laws and Symmetry. part II.

    Covering law analysis of causation Mackie, "Causes and Conditions" (S&T)

    Counterfactual theory of causation Lewis, "Causation (S&T) (plus postscripts from Philosophical Papers, vol 2 .

    Primitivism about causation Anscombe, "Causality and Determination" (S&T)

    Causation and probability Christopher Hitchcock.

    Natural kinds

    Eliminativism Quine, "Natural Kinds"

    Anti-reductionism Putnam, "On Properties", Lewis, On the Plurality of Worlds pp. 59-69; Lewis, "New Work for a Theory of Universals"

    Personal identity

    Body theory Introduction to Perry, Personal Identity ; Shoemaker & Swinburne, Personal Identity. pp. 1-8.

    Memory theory S&S, pp. 8-13; Thomson, "People and their bodies"

    Duplication problem S&S, pp. 13-21; Lewis, "Survival and Identity"

    Dualism S&S, pp. 22-34; 49-66.

    Selected further reading Freedom and Determinism
    • Frankfurt, Harry. 1969. "Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility", Journal of Philosophy. 829-839.
    • O'Connor, Timothy. 1995. Agents, Causes, and Events: Essays on Indeterminism and Free Will. (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
    • Pereboom, Derk. 1995. "Determinism Al Dente", Noûs 29 :21-45.
    • Van Inwagen, Peter. 1983. An Essay on Free Will. (Oxford: Clarendon Press)
    Possibility and necessity
    • Armstrong, D. M. 1989. A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility. (New York: Cambridge University Press).
    • Burgess, John P. 1997. "Quinus ab Omni Naevo Vindicatus", in Ali A. Kazmi, ed. Meaning and Reference. Canadian Journal of Philosophy Supplementary volume 23: 25-65.
    • Plantinga, Alvin. 1974. The Nature of Necessity. (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
    • Sider, Theodore. Forthcoming. "Reductive Theories of Modality", in Michael J. Loux and Dean W. Zimmerman, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics (Oxford University Press).
    Laws of nature and causation
    • Cartwright, Nancy. 1983. How the Laws of Physics Lie. (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
    • Lewis, David. 2000. "Causation as Influence", Journal of Philosophy 97: 182-197.
    • Mackie, J. L. 1974. The Cement of the Universe. (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
    • Tooley, Michael. 1987. Causation: A Realist Approach. (New York: Clarendon Press).
    Natural kinds
    • Elgin, Catherine Z. 1995. "Unnatural Science", Journal of Philosophy 92: 289-302.
    • Goodman, Nelson. 1972. "Seven Strictures on Similarity", in Problems and Projects (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company), pp. 437-446.
    • Hirsch, Eli. 1993. Dividing Reality. (New York: Oxford University Press).
    • Lewis, David. 1984. "Putnam's Paradox". Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62: 221-236.
    Personal identity
    • Chisholm, Roderick. 1998. "Which Physical Thing Am I? An excerpt from 'Is there a Mind-Body Problem?'", in Dean Zimmerman and Peter van Inwagen, eds. Metaphysics: The Big Questions (Malden, Ma: Blackwell),291-296.
    • Dancy, Jonathan. ed. 1997. Reading Parfit (Oxford: Blackwell).
    • Parfit, Derek. 1984. Reasons and Persons. (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
    • Perry, John. (ed.) 1975. Personal Identity. (Berkeley: University of California Press).
    • Sider, Theodore. 2000. "Recent Work on Identity Over Time", Philosophical Books 41: 81-89.

    Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics by Earl Conee

    Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics

    The riddles of metaphysics are the deepest and most puzzling questions we can ponder. What are the basic ingredients of reality? What is their ultimate nature? Could reality have been different? And where do human beings fit into reality? Indeed, whyMore The riddles of metaphysics are the deepest and most puzzling questions we can ponder. What are the basic ingredients of reality? What is their ultimate nature? Could reality have been different? And where do human beings fit into reality? Indeed, why does reality contain anything at all?
    Riddles of Existence is the first book ever to make metaphysics genuinely accessible and fun. Its lively, informal style brings these questions to life and shows how stimulating it can be to think about them. Earl Conee and Theodore Sider offer a lucid discussion of the major topics in metaphysics. What makes me the same person I was as a child? Is everything fated to be exactly as it is? Does time flow? How fast does it flow, and can one travel back in time, against the current? Does God exist? Why is there anything at all rather than nothing? If our actions are caused by things science can predict and control, how can we have free will? The authors approach these topics in an open-minded and undogmatic manner, giving readers a full sense of the issues involved. They don't try to convince us of their point of view. Instead, they hope that, by reading this book, we will come to appreciate the importance of such problems and develop reasoned opinions of your own.
    Riddles of Existence shows that philosophy can be exciting and important, and understandable by anyone. No philosophical background is required to enjoy this book: anyone who has thought about life's most profound questions will find plenty to provoke and entertain them here. Less

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    Community Reviews

    Steve Cann rated it liked it

    over 3 years ago

    Ever wondered why there is something, instead of nothing? Or why humans supposedly have free will? Or what part of you is actually 'you'? Or could god really exist?
    All these classic metaphysical questions (& a great deal more besides) are tackled in 10 bite-sized port. Read full review

    Rishiyur Nikhil rated it did not like it

    about 4 years ago

    Very annoying book. Trying to show "logical" arguments for and against existence, God, Free Will and Determinism, Constitution, Universals, Possibility and Necessity, etc. but the whole discussion seems confused and misguided by a lack of formalism. They get wrapped arou. Read full review

    Anthony rated it liked it

    about 7 years ago

    Recommends it for: the metaphysically curious, the analytically inclined

    For a review of the central questions of analytic metaphysics, this book is surprisinly readable. It's also not enough to get you through a metaphysics comprehensive exam, but that shouldn't be held against it. The chapters are alternately written by Sider and Conee; pers. Read full review

    DJ Thompson rated it liked it

    over 9 years ago

    A good read for those with questioning minds. Authors C and S did a good job explaining some pretty difficult concepts in straightforward, colloquial language (particularly in the section on Freedom and Determinism).

    My only qualm with ROE is that in some chapters it went. Read full review

    Jason rated it it was ok

    almost 7 years ago

    Made bearable by the other author, Sider. Would have been single-starred otherwise. Conee became much too technical at times, and his phrasing of things could have been more clear. Helpful if you want a decent grounding in metaphysics, but it can be quite confusing at tim. Read full review

    Ryan Dwyer rated it liked it

    about 3 years ago

    A useful introduction to various metaphysical topics. Occasionally the authors try to present too much in one chapter, but as an introduction, it's useful. Rather than provide a lengthy bibliography, the authors suggest a few titles for each topic, which is great for thos. Read full review

    Ryan Dwyer rated it liked it

    almost 5 years ago

    A useful introduction to various metaphysical topics. Occasionally the authors try to present too much in one chapter, but as an introduction, it's useful. Rather than provide a lengthy bibliography, the authors suggest a few titles for each topic, which is great for tho. Read full review

    Kyle Muntz rated it liked it

    about 4 years ago

    another nice survey of metaphysics. covers all the main topics competently and accessibly though not transformatively. of course, every time i read something like this i can't help but feel metaphysics is the most futile area of philosophy, but i suppose that's just part. Read full review

    Blake rated it really liked it

    over 4 years ago

    For persons looking for a clear introduction to many hot topics in contemporary Analytic metaphysics, Sider and Conee offer probably one of the best books around.

    sheena rated it liked it

    about 5 years ago