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Philosophy 107 Class Notes

by: Riley Didier

Philosophy 107 Class Notes PHI 107

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Here are the class note for Philosophy 107 - Theories of Knowledge and Reality. I will update these as needed.
Theories of Knowledge and Reality
Kevan Edwards
Class Notes
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This 8 page Class Notes was uploaded by Riley Didier on Tuesday September 13, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PHI 107 at Syracuse University taught by Kevan Edwards in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 5 views. For similar materials see Theories of Knowledge and Reality in Philosophy at Syracuse University.

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Date Created: 09/13/16
Philosophy 9/2 Free Will and Determinism Introduction  Do you think that in the exact same situation – right down to the position of every atom being the same – you could make a different choice? o We have this ability to make choices The Root Problem  Each of the following three claims have powerful motivations, but they cannot all be true: o There are cases of genuine free will (Determinists) o The world is deterministic (Libertarians) o Free will is incompatible with determinism (Compatibilists)  Different types of people reject certain claims Three Obvious Responses  Libertarians: reject the claim that the world is deterministic  Determinists: reject the claim that there is genuine free will o Thesis of determinism  the second claim o Determinists do not believe in general free will or the second claim  Compatibilists: reject the claim that free will is incompatible with determinism  some cases of free will and some cases of determinism *In all cases, there is a substantial burden to argue for the rejection of the relevant claim Professor Edwards’ Approach: Play Devil’s Advocate  Present the topic in the form of a puzzle: o There are compelling reasons to hold onto each of the three claims o All three of the claims cannot be true o Each of the obvious solutions faces major problems o The issue is too important simply to be set aside Our Challenge  Understand the debate, issues, and positions  Keep eyes open for things he misses, glosses over, treats unfairly  Develop a view about the debate  [Potentially] write a paper on the topic Philosophy 9/7 Free Will and Determinism The Problem in More Detail Free Will  There seems to be an intuitively powerful phenomenon  Free will seems to involve making choices from among available options: o In cases where we act freely, there seems to be some sense in which we could have done otherwise o To the extent that we act freely, we seem to act in the absence of “external” constraints o Free will often seems to involve deliberation  Free will has a close relationship to issues in ethics: o Moral blame/praise o Justification for punishment  we can’t justify punishing someone unless it is a free choice Why Believe in Free Will?  Motivation #1: Powerful intuitions about acting freely o Thinking about particular cases and try to convince yourself that you really had no choice o It is not obvious how we could convince ourselves that our intuitive conception of free will is incorrect  our intuition in nature is also off (not a good argument)  Motivation #2: Important ties between free will and issues in ethics o Acting freely seems to be necessary condition for acting in a way that is subject to moral praise or blame o Acting freely seems to be necessary condition for acting in a way that justifies punishment Determinism What is Determinism?  Every event that occurs is pre-determined by prior events plus the laws of nature o There are underlying structures of reality called the laws of nature o Two different types of determinists  one believes in the thesis and the other believes in the thesis but doesn’t believe in free will (position in the debate and committed to more than just the thesis)  Position in debate and thesis LaPlace’s Demon  Pierre-Simon La Place (1749-1827), French Mathematician, astronomer said the following o We may regard the present state of the universe…. (A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities) In Support of Determinism  Motivation #1: The Argument from Causal Closure o What is Causal Closure?  Every event (everything that happens) has a prior cause and is completely determined by that cause o Why Think Causal Closure is True?  Hard to find obvious counterexamples  Why did you come to class this morning?  Lack of alternatives  Events happening for no reason at all?  Motivation #2: The Argument from Physics o Physics describes reality as deterministic o Physics gives us our very best theories of the fundamental nature of reality o Physics is complete: in principle, physics gives us a description of the world that does not leave out anything o Therefore, everything in the world is deterministic Problems with the Argument from Causal Closure (Motivation #1)  Problem #1: counterexamples? o Counterexample: Big Bang Theory  Problem #2: philosophical problems with the notion of causation o Famous British Philosopher: David Hume (doesn’t believe in causation)  Problem #3: cause and effect in basic physics o At a minimum, it would be better to have an argument for determinism that doesn’t rely on something as fraught as causation Philosophy 9/8 Free Will and Determinism In Support of Determinism  Motivation #2: The Argument from Physics o Physics describes reality as deterministic [qualifications to be noted] o Physics gives us our very best theories of the fundamental nature of reality o Physics is complete: in principle, physics gives us a description of the world that does not leave out anything o Therefore, everything in the world is deterministic  Possible Worries with The Argument from Physics: o Problem #1: Physics leaves things out; so it can’t be complete…  Quantum Mechanics, String-Theory, etc. do not mention tables, chairs, people, etc.  Responses: Physics has an alternative vocabulary, but it isn’t clear that it leaves anything out… o Problem #2: Physics is not perfect; and maybe it is just wrong…  Response:  Present day physics versus physics in principle  Low-level physical theories are by far the best accounts we have ever had about the basic nature of reality  General virtues of scientific theories that are manifest by low-level physical theories:  Scope and generality (universal)  Simplicity (e.g. a small number of fundamental particles and laws)  Precision and accuracy of predictions o Problem #3: What about Quantum Indeterminacy!  Quantum Mechanics tells us that in some cases the best way we can say is that such and such even has a certain probability of occurring:  Radioactive decay  2-slit experiment Philosophy 9/12 Free Will and Determinism Response (to worries stemming from quantum indeterminacy)  Let’s accept that physics tells us that the world is partly indeterministic: to some extent, the fact that one event occurs rather than another is a matter of probability rather than something that is strictly determines  But, whatever free choices are, they are not just random acts determined by chance  So, embracing the probabilistic of quantum indeterminacy does not help to leave room for free will Summary (of determinism)  Every event is pre-determines by prior events and the laws of nature  Motivations o The Argument from Casual Closure faces problems o The Argument from Physics provides strong support for the thesis; denying determinism amounts to claiming that our very best scientific understanding of the world is deeply misguided o Quantum indeterminacy? Beside the point: QM might show that the laws of nature are probabilistic, but this does not help to create any room for genuine free will. The Incompatibility of Free Will and Determinism  Determinism  no free will o Choosing among options? o Could have done otherwise?  Free Will  determinism is false o Couldn’t we choose to violate otherwise “deterministic” laws? Philosophy 9/12 Different Views Libertarianism  Accepts that we have genuine free will  Accepts that free will and determinism are incompatible  Rejects the claim that the world is deterministic Problems with Libertarianism  Problem #1: Denying determinism flies in the face of our best scientific understanding of the world o How do genuine free choices fit into an otherwise successful scientific picture of reality? o Why don’t we have evidence of violations?  Problem #2: Can we even make sense of the idea of a free choice? o A kind of power? o Is there a middle ground between determinism and randomness? o Why aren’t reasons for actions determining causes? Determinism  Accepts the claim that the world is deterministic  Accepts that free will and determinism are incompatible  Rejects that we have genuine free will Problems with Determinism  Problem #1: The sheer force of our intuitions about acting freely o Can we hope to convince ourselves that we are not acting freely? o Contrast with other “error-theories”  Problem #2: Moral responsibility/justification for punishment o Give up free will  give up on our standard notion of moral responsibility? Compatibilism  Accepts that we have free will  Accepts that the world is deterministic  Rejects the claim that free will and determinism are incompatible (Humean) Compatibilism  David Humean  Accepts Determinism: all actions are determined o Some actions are determined by an agent’s own internal intentions (mental states: beliefs, desire, etc.) o Some actions are determined by external constraints (being forced to do something, tied up, etc.)  There is free will in the following sense: One acts freely insofar as one’s actions are determined by one’s internal intentions and not by external constraints Motivations for (Humean) Compatibilism  (Purports to) avoid the problems of each of the other two positions: o Versus Libertarianism  Does not fly in the face of contemporary science (physics)  Does not require a strange kind of power o Versus Determinism  (Purports to) accord with our intuitions about acting freely  (Purports to) be able to make sense of moral responsibility


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