The Problem of Free Will (Peter Van Inwagen)

source: Philosophical Overdose    2013年2月28日
Peter Van Inwagen discusses the problem of free will. On the one hand, if the universe is deterministic, then everything that happens is causally necessitated by events of the distant past which took place long before we ever were even born. But we have no power over what took place in the distant past, so how can we have control over the future if it is necessitated by such?! On the other hand, however, if determinism is false, some events will be without any sufficient cause or reason which explains why they happened rather than something else. But such causal and explanatory gaps involve nothing more than sheer chance and randomness; and introducing chance and randomness in actions hardly makes them count as "free". Therefore, it seems that free will is impossible either way, regardless of whether determinism is true or not. It's hard to see how the concept of free will is even coherent!
"Among the grandest of philosophical puzzles is a riddle about moral responsibility. Almost all of us believe that each one of us is, has been, or will be responsible for at least some of our behavior. But how can this be so if determinism is true and all our thoughts, decisions, choices, and actions are simply droplets in a river of deterministic events that began its flow long, long before we were ever born? The specter of determinism, as it were, devours agents, for if determinism is true, then arguably we never initiate or control our actions; there is no driver in the driver's seat; we are simply one transitional link in an extended deterministic chain originating long before our time. The puzzle is tantalizingly gripping and ever so perplexing — because even if determinism is false, responsibility seems impossible: how can we be morally accountable for behavior that issues from an "actional pathway" in which there is an indeterministic break? Such a break might free us from domination or regulation by the past, but how can it possibly help to ensure that the reins of control are now in our hands?"
This talk is part of the Faraday Institute lectures from Cambridge University.

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