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Core Concepts

Adequate Determinism
Alternative Possibilities
Causa Sui
Causal Closure
Chance Not Direct Cause
Chaos Theory
The Cogito Model
Comprehensive   Compatibilism
Conceptual Analysis
Could Do Otherwise
Default Responsibility
Determination Fallacy
Double Effect
Either Way
Emergent Determinism
Epistemic Freedom
Ethical Fallacy
Experimental Philosophy
Extreme Libertarianism
Event Has Many Causes
Frankfurt Cases
Free Choice
Freedom of Action
"Free Will"
Free Will Axiom
Free Will in Antiquity
Free Will Mechanisms
Free Will Requirements
Free Will Theorem
Future Contingency
Hard Incompatibilism
Idea of Freedom
Illusion of Determinism
Laplace's Demon
Liberty of Indifference
Libet Experiments
Master Argument
Modest Libertarianism
Moral Necessity
Moral Responsibility
Moral Sentiments
Paradigm Case
Random When?/Where?
Rational Fallacy
Same Circumstances
Science Advance Fallacy
Second Thoughts
Soft Causality
Special Relativity
Standard Argument
Temporal Sequence
Tertium Quid
Torn Decision
Two-Stage Models
Ultimate Responsibility
Up To Us
What If Dennett and Kane Did Otherwise?


Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
George Berkeley
Isaiah Berlin
Richard J. Bernstein
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
Michael Burke
Lawrence Cahoone
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Herbert Feigl
Arthur Fine
John Martin Fischer
Frederic Fitch
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Nicholas St. John Green
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Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
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Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
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David Hume
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William James
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Robert Kane
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Jaegwon Kim
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Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Christoph Lehner
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
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John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
Thomas Nagel
Otto Neurath
Friedrich Nietzsche
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Derk Pereboom
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David Widerker
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Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf


Michael Arbib
Walter Baade
Bernard Baars
Leslie Ballentine
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Mara Beller
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Gregory Chaitin
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
Francis Crick
E. P. Culverwell
Antonio Damasio
Olivier Darrigol
Charles Darwin
Richard Dawkins
Terrence Deacon
Lüder Deecke
Richard Dedekind
Louis de Broglie
Stanislas Dehaene
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Gerald Edelman
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Philipp Frank
Steven Frautschi
Edward Fredkin
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A. O. Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Mark Hadley
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Donald Hebb
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Art Hobson
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Martin J. Klein
William R. Klemm
Christof Koch
Simon Kochen
Hans Kornhuber
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Leopold Kronecker
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
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Ernst Mach
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Max Tegmark
William Thomson (Kelvin)
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Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
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Steven Weinberg
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John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
Stephen Wolfram
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek
Konrad Zuse
Fritz Zwicky


Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium

Free Will Axiom
Many philosophers and scientists claim that one cannot work at all without the assumption of freedom. To do otherwise is to admit that we have no control over anything that happens, because it is "happening to us", not happening because it "depends on us."

René Descartes famously divided the world into mind (the ideal realm of thoughts) and body (the material world). The physical world is a deterministic machine, but our ideas and thoughts can be free (undetermined) and can change things in the otherwise pre-determined material world (through the pineal gland in the brain, he thought).

Descartes wrote in 1644

The freedom of the will is self-evident.

There is freedom in our will, and that we have power in many cases or withhold our assent at will, is so evident that it must be counted among the first and most common notions that are innate in us.
(Principles of Philosophy, Part One, Section 41, trans. Haldane and Ross, 1911, p.235)

In his 1874 book Principles of Science, the great logician and economist William Stanley Jevons is unequivocal that scientists have a freedom to hypothesize. In a section entitled Freedom of Theorizing, he declares

It would be a complete error to suppose that the great discoverer is one who seizes at once unerringly upon the truth, or has any special method of divining it. In all probability the errors of the great mind far exceed in number those of the less vigorous one. Fertility of imagination and abundance of guesses at truth are among the first requisites of discovery; but the erroneous guesses must almost of necessity be many times as numerous as those which prove well founded. The weakest analogies, the most whimsical notions, the most apparently absurd theories, may pass through the teeming brain, and no record may remain of more than the hundredth part. There is nothing intrinsically absurd except that which proves contrary to logic and experience. The truest theories involve suppositions which are most inconceivable, and no limit can really be placed to the freedom of framing hypotheses.

We know that William James read Jevons. In 1880, he credited Jevons with explaining the creativity of the genius as dependent on random hypotheses. James said,

"To Professor Jevons is due the great credit of having emphatically pointed out how the genius of discovery depends altogether on the number of these random notions and guesses which visit the investigator's mind. To be fertile in hypotheses is the first requisite, and to be willing to throw them away the moment experience contradicts them is the next."

But James said explictly that he learned to affirm his freedom as a starting point from the French philosopher Charles Renouvier. In an 1876 review of Renouvier's Essais de Critique Générale, James quoted Renouvier, "Let our liberty pronounce on its own real existence," and said

{Freedom] and necessity being alike indemonstrable by any quasi-material process, must be postulated if taken at all.
He quoted Renouvier again,
"I prefer to affirm my liberty and to it by means of my liberty. . . .My moral and practical certitude begins logically by the certitude of my freedom, just as practically my freedom has always had to intervene in the constitution of my speculative certitude."
So for James it was an axiom, a starting point, that his will was free. As his first act of freedom, he said, he chose to believe his will was free. In his diary entry of April 30, 1870, he wrote,
"I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of Renouvier's second Essais and see no reason why his definition of free will — 'the sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other thoughts' — need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate, I will assume for the present — until next year — that it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will."

The philosopher John Searle says:

The problem of free will is unusual among contemporary philosophical issues in that we are nowhere remotely near to having a solution. I can give you a pretty good account of consciousness, intentionality, speech acts and of the ontology of society but I do not know how to solve the problem of free will.

Well, why is that important? There are lots of problems we do not have solutions to. The special problem of free will is that we cannot get on with our lives without presupposing free will. Whenever we are in a decision-making situation, or indeed, in any situation that calls for voluntary action, we have to presuppose our own freedom.
(Freedom and Neurobiology, p.11)

The scientist Nicolas Gisin says:

I know that I enjoy free will much more than I know anything about physics. Hence, physics will never be able to convince me that free will is an illusion. Quite the contrary, any physical hypothesis incompatible with free will is falsified by the most profound experience I have about free will.

The scientist Antoine Suarez says:

Free Will is an axiom, like the Free Will Theorem of Conway and Kochen.

Conway and Kochen claim that if experimenters have free will, then so do the elementary particles (of which experimenters are made). This is the reverse of Arthur Stanley Eddington, who said that the freedom (quantum indeterminacy) of the elementary particles cracked opened a door for human freedom. Eddington said,

"The revolution of theory which has expelled determinism from present-day physics has therefore the important consequence that it is no longer necessary to suppose that human actions are competely predetermined. Although the door of human freedom is opened, it is not flung wide open; only a chink of daylight appears."
(New Pathways in Science, 1935, p.87)

American philosopher Henry Allison said,

"To take oneself as a rational agent is to assume that one's reason has a practical application or, equivalently, that one has a will. Moreover, one cannot assume this without already presupposing the idea of freedom, which is why one can act, or take oneself to act, only under this idea. It constitutes, as it were, the form of the thought of oneself as a rational agent."
("We Can Act Only under the Idea of Freedom," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association, 71:2; pp.39-50)
For Teachers
For Scholars

Chapter 3.7 - The Ergod Chapter 4.2 - The History of Free Will
Part Three - Value Part Five - Problems
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