Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem

Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem

Mark Balaguer
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: MIT Press,
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hhhqd
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem
    Book Description:

    In this largely antimetaphysical treatment of free will and determinism, Mark Balaguer argues that the philosophical problem of free will boils down to an open scientific question about the causal histories of certain kinds of neural events. In the course of his argument, Balaguer provides a naturalistic defense of the libertarian view of free will. The metaphysical component of the problem of free will, Balaguer argues, essentially boils down to the question of whether humans possess libertarian free will. Furthermore, he argues that, contrary to the traditional wisdom, the libertarian question reduces to a question about indeterminacy--in particular, to a straightforward empirical question about whether certain neural events in our heads are causally undetermined in a certain specific way; in other words, Balaguer argues that the right kind of indeterminacy would bring with it all of the other requirements for libertarian free will. Finally, he argues that because there is no good evidence as to whether or not the relevant neural events are undetermined in the way that's required, the question of whether human beings possess libertarian free will is a wide-open empirical question.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-25854-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    I will argue in this book for a novel view of free will. Most centrally, I will argue that the metaphysically interesting issue in the problem of free will and determinism boils down to a straightforward (and wide open) empirical question about the causal histories of certain neural events. But it will take a long time to get to this conclusion, and along the way, I will argue for several other controversial theses about free will and determinism.

    In the present chapter, I will do three things. First, in section 1.1, I will formulate the problem of free will (I...

  5. 2 Why the Compatibilism Issue and the Conceptual-Analysis Issue Are Metaphysically Irrelevant
    (pp. 25-64)

    The recent literature on the problem of free will has been dominated by the debate about whether compatibilism is true. I think this is unfortunate, because I think the question of whether compatibilism is true is essentially irrelevant to metaphysical questions about human free will—that is, about the existence or nature of the freedom inherent in human decision-making processes. This view of the compatibilism debate ismetaphysicallysimilar to the views of Kant and James, but I should say here that I would not go along with the dismissiveness of their remarks. I think the question of whether compatibilism...

  6. 3 Why the Libertarian Question Reduces to the Issue of Indeterminacy
    (pp. 65-130)

    We saw in chapter 2 that the metaphysically interesting issue in the problem of free will boils down to the following question:

    The which-kinds-of-freedom-do-we-have question: Which kinds of freedom (or “freedom”) do humans have? That is, do they have L-freedom (i.e., libertarian freedom)?; and do they have Humean freedom?; and do they have Frankfurtian freedom?; and so on.

    We also found, at the very end of chapter 2, that among all the subquestions of this question, the most controversial, and probably the most philosophically interesting, is the question of whether humans are L-free. I won’t claim that this is the...

  7. 4 Why There Are No Good Arguments for or against Determinism (or Any Other Thesis That Would Establish or Refute Libertarianism)
    (pp. 131-170)

    We saw in chapter 2 that (a) the metaphysical issue inherent in the problem of free will and determinism comes down to what I called the which-kinds-of-freedom-do-we-have question, and (b) this question reduces largely, though perhaps not entirely, to the question of whether human beings are L-free, that is, the question of whether libertarianism is true.² Moreover, in chapter 3, we found that (c) the question of whether human beings are L-free comes down to the question of whether some of our torn decisions are undetermined in a certain specific way. In the present chapter, I will argue that there...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 171-184)
  9. References
    (pp. 185-194)
  10. Index
    (pp. 195-202)