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Peter Van Inwagen Determ.

Peter Van Inwagen Determ.

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Published by: aapologetics on Sep 08, 2011
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Peter van InwagenPeter van Inwagen made a significant reputation for himself by bucking the trend among philosophers in most of the twentieth century to acceptcompatibilism, the idea that free willis compatible with a strict causal determinism. Indeed, van Inwagen has been given credit for rehabilitating the idea of  incompatibilism  in the last few decades. He explains that the old problem of whether we have free will or whether determinism is true is no longer being debated. In the first chapter of hislandmark 1983 book,
 An Essay on Free Will 
, van Inwagen says:1.2 It is difficult to formulate "the problem of free will and determinism" in a way thatwill satisfy everyone. Once one might have said that the problem of free will anddeterminism — in those days one would have said 'liberty and necessity' — was the problem of discovering whether the human will is free or whether its productions aregoverned by strict causal necessity. But no one today would be allowed to formulate "the problem of free will and determinism" like that, for this formulation presupposes the truthof a certain thesis about the conceptual relation of free will to determinism that many, perhaps most, present-day philosophers would reject: that free will and determinism areincompatible. Indeed many philosophers hold not only that free will is compatible withdeterminism but that free will entails determinism. I think it would be fair to say thatalmost all the philosophical writing on the problem of free will and determinism since thetime of Hobbes that is any good, that is of any enduring philosophical interest, has beenabout this presupposition of the earlier debates about liberty and necessity. It is for thisreason that nowadays one must accept as a
 fait accompli
that the problem of finding outwhether free will and determinism are compatible is a large part, perhaps the major part,of "the problem of free will and determinism".(Essay on Free Will, p.1)Unfortunately for philosophy, the concept of  incompatibilismis very confusing. It contains two opposing concepts, libertarian free will and hard determinism.And like determinism versus indeterminism, compatibilism versus incompatibilism is afalse and unhelpful dichotomy.J. J. C. Smart once claimed he had an exhaustive description of the possibilities, determinism or indeterminism, and that neither oneneither allowed for free will. (Since Smart, dozens of others have repeated thisstandardlogical argument against free will.)Van Inwagen has replaced the traditional "horns" of the dilemma of determinism -"liberty" and "necessity" - and now divides the problem further:I shall attempt to formulate the problem in a way that takes account of this
 fait accompli
 by dividing the problem into two problems, which I will call the Compatibility Problemand the Traditional Problem. The Traditional Problem is, of course, the problem of finding out whether we have free will or whether determinism is true. But the veryexistence of the Traditional Problem depends upon the correct solution to theCompatibility Problem: if free will and determinism are compatible, and,
a fortiori
, if 
 
free will
entails
determinism, then there is no Traditional Problem, any more than there isa problem about how my sentences can be composed of both English words and Romanletters.(Essay on Free Will, p.2)Van Inwagen defines determinism very simply. "Determinism is quite simply the thesisthat the past
determines
a unique future." (p. 2)He concludes that such a Determinism is not true, because we could not then beresponsiblefor our actions, which would all be simply the consequences of events in thedistant past that were not "up to us."This approach, known as van Inwagen's
Consequence Argument 
, is the perennialDeterminism Objection in the standard argument against free will.  Note that in recent decades the debates about free will have been largely replaced bydebates aboutmoral responsibility. Since Peter Strawson, many philosophers have claimed to be agnostic on the traditional problem of free will and determinism and focuson whether the concept of moral responsibility itself exists. Some say that, like free willitself, moral responsibility is anillusion. Van Inwagen is not one of those. He hopes toestablish free will.Van Inwagen also notes that quantum mechanics shows indeterminism to be "true." He iscorrect. But we still have a very powerful and "adequate" determinism. It is this adequate determinism thatR. E. Hobartand others have recognized we need when they say that"Free Will Involves Determination and is Inconceivable Without It." Our will and actionsare determined. It is the futurealternative possibilities in our thoughts that are undetermined.Sadly, many philosophers mistake indeterminism to imply that nothing is causal andtherefore thateverything is completely random.This is theRandomness Objection in the standard argument.Van Inwagen states his
Consequence Argument 
as follows:"If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature andevents in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, andneither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of thesethings (including our present acts) are notup to us." (
 Essay on Free Will 
, 1983, p.16)Exactly how this differs from the arguments of centuries of Libertarians is not clear, but van Inwagen is given a great deal of credit in the contemporary literature for this obviousargument. See for example,Carl Ginet's article "Might We Have No Choice?" in
 Freedom and Determinism
, Ed. K. Lehrer, 1966.We note that apparently Ginet also thought his argument was original. What hashappened to philosophers today that they so ignore thehistory of philosophy?
 
Van Inwagen offers several concise observations leading up to his ConsequenceArgument, including concerns about the terminology used (which concerns arise largely because of his variations on the traditional problem terminology).Determinism may now be defined: it is the thesis that there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future.Let us now see what can be done about defining free will.I use the term 'free will' out of respect for tradition.When I say of a man that he "has free will" I mean that very often, if not always, when hehas to choose between two or more mutually incompatible courses of action — such thathe can, or is able to, or has it within his power to carry out.It is in these senses that I shall understand 'free will' and 'determinism'. I shall argue thatfree will is incompatible with determinism. It will be convenient to call this thesisincompatibilism and to call the thesis that free will and determinism are compatiblecompatibilism.I have no use for the terms 'soft determinism', 'hard determinism; and 'libertarianism'. I donot object to these terms on the ground that they are vague or ill-defined. They can beeasily defined by means of the terms we shall use and are thus no worse in that respectthan our terms.van Inwagen does not seem to mind that "incompatibilism" lumps together oppositeschools - hard determinists and libertariansSoft determinism is the conjunction of determinism and compatibilism; hard determinismis the conjunction of determinism and incompatibilism; libertarianism is the conjunctionof incompatibilism and the thesis that we have free will.I object to these terms because they lump together theses that should be discussed andanalysed separately. They are therefore worse than useless and ought to be dropped fromthe working vocabulary of philosophers.'Contra-causal freedom' might mean the sort of freedom, if freedom it would be, thatsomeone would enjoy if his acts were uncaused. But that someone's acts areundetermined does not entail that they are uncaused.Incompatibilism can hardly be said to be a popular thesis among present-day philosophers (the "analytic" ones, at any rate). Yet it has its adherents and has had moreof them in the past. It is, however, surprisingly hard to find any arguments for it. Thatmany philosophers have believed something controversial without giving any argumentsfor it is perhaps not surprising; what is surprising is that no arguments have been givenwhen arguments are so easy to give.

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