Monday March 12, 2012
Grading of papers is well underway…
B.B. grades will appear first…
This Week: Free will and Determinism.
(One of the most ancient ‘problems of philosophy’)
What is Freedom?
2 concepts of liberty: Isaiah Berlin.
Negative liberty = What am a being blocked from doing?
Positive Liberty = What capacities do I actually have?
If I am penniless, then I’m not really free to travel to India. Even though, negatively
speaking, no one is stopping me.
How we think of “rights” is going to depend on how we answer this question:
Freedom is a complicated concept, giving rise to many puzzles.
Is Freedom a moral notion or a descriptive one or both?
Mr. Morgan’s Yaught…
1 The famous free-will determinism controversy arises in a different way.
It’s about “metaphysical freedom” not merely political or legal freedom.
(e.g.) We might be metaphysically unfree even if we are not being blocked from
doing more or less what we want.
It was supposed in the past that the omniscience of God renders us unfree:
(1)God is all knowing (omniscient)
(2)God knows what you are going to do, before you do it.
(3)Therefore, freedom is illusory.
What do you make of this argument?
There is too much terminology and too many positions to sort out here. A few
INCOMPATIBILSM = Free will and Determinism are not compatible. We have to give up
one or the other
Among the incompatibilists we have:
Hard Determinism = The view that determinism is true; thus, there is no free-will.
Metaphysical Libertarianism = The view that determinism is false that there is (at
least the possibility of) free-will
2 COMPATABILISM = Free will and determinism are compatible
There are several brands of compatibilism. We’ll be looking at David Hume’s version
It is hard to reason our way out of our own freedom!
We see ourselves as agents; who freely make choices. Even if hard
determinism were true, that’s certainly not how we experience the world.
The case for Hard Determinism:
Recall: This view states that future events are necessitated by past and present
events on the one hand and the laws of nature on the other.
3 Causal Determinism:
The Thought Experiment of Laplace’s Demon:
Imagine an entity that knows all facts about the past and the present, and knows all
natural laws that govern the universe. If the laws of nature were determinate, then
such an entity would be able to use this knowledge to foresee the future, down to
the smallest detail
“We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the
cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces
that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed,
if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would
embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe
and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and
the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.”
—Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities
March 14, 2012
4 Reminder: no class on Monday, March 19.
Perhaps we should also cancel the 1-hour counterpart on Wednesday?
Our time is alas winding down:
The rough schedule ahead:
Mon. 26; Wed. 28 Problems of the ‘Self” and The politics of recognition
Mon. April.2; We. April 4 (Essays due on the 4 ) The Political Philosophy of
Mon. April 9; Wed. 11 Karl Marx… Wrap up…
ALSO: If you haven’t already done so, please take some time to complete an on-line
John Searle writes:
“Every event that occurs in the world has antecedently sufficient causes. The
sufficient causes of an event are those that, in a particular context, are sufficient to
determine that the event will occur. When we say that the causes were sufficient we
mean, given that those causes occurred, in that hist