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Chapter 3

PHIL 201 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Hard Determinism, Compatibilism

Course Code
PHIL 201
C. Kenneth Waters

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Reading Notes
March 11, 2019
Free will by G. E Moore:
Moore presented a version of compatibilist or soft determinist solution to the problem of free
will. Maintain that our actions can be both casually determine and free.
+ We have free will only if we sometimes could have done what we did not do
+ If everything is caused, then we never could have done what we did not do
G. E. Moore's criticism of hard determinism:
Moore's analysis: Hard determinism is the view that if a person does x, that person never
could have done other than x in those circumstances.
For hard determinism to be correct, there must be NO meaning of "could" (or "can")
according to which a person could/can do other than x when the person actually did x.
Since we CAN sometimes do other than x when we actually do x, hard determinism is
If hard determinism is wrong, then soft determinism is a legitimate option. Many human
actions are simultaneously free and determined by context/circumstances.
Three facts against hard determinism:
1. Even when we see that x happened, we know that a second thing, y, could NOT have
happened, while a third, z,
2. could have. And this is often true of human behavior. (This ship is going 15 knots but
COULD go 20 knots, while this second is going 10 knots because it CANNOT go 15.
Since we can distinguish between these two cases, the hard determinist hypothesis is
3. In a certain situation, we see that a person could have acted differently by choosing
differently. The person COULD HAVE ACTED differently, and would have if they had
CHOSEN differently. The action depends on the choice, so people do engage in
choosing. This fact is important, because it is our basis for assigning moral responsibility
to other people.
4. Finally, we sometimes "induce" a particular choice, and thus we sometimes choose to
make a choice. For example, our futures are often INDETERMINATE. Because we
sometimes recognize that we cannot know, in advance, that we would NOT choose
something, we often make choices NOW to reduce the likelihood of making those
choices later. If I do NOT acknowledge that I don't know in advance what I'll do, I am
likely to make choices now that will close off that option. (Example: If I can't imagine
my children graduating from college, I am not likely to care how they do in elementary
school, and thus may help to fulfill my own expectation that they won't graduate from
college.) Or, by reminding myself that I don't know about such situations, I can make
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