Degrees of Freedom

Synthese 198 (11):10207-10235 (2021)
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Human freedom is in tension with nomological determinism and with statistical determinism. The goal of this paper is to answer both challenges. Four contributions are made to the free-will debate. First, we propose a classification of scientific theories based on how much freedom they allow. We take into account that indeterminism comes in different degrees and that both the laws and the auxiliary conditions can place constraints. A scientific worldview pulls towards one end of this classification, while libertarianism pulls towards the other end of the spectrum. Second, inspired by Hoefer, we argue that an interval of auxiliary conditions corresponds to a region in phase space, and to a bundle of possible block universes. We thus make room for a form of non-nomological indeterminism. Third, we combine crucial elements from the works of Hoefer and List; we attempt to give a libertarian reading of this combination. On our proposal, throughout spacetime, there is a certain amount of freedom that can be interpreted as the result of agential choices. Fourth, we focus on the principle of alternative possibilities throughout and propose three ways of strengthening it.

Author Profiles

Pieter Thyssen
Université Catholique de Louvain


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