The so-called theory of karma is one of the distinguishing aspects of Hinduism and other non-Hindu south-Asian traditions. At the same time that the theory can be seen as closely connected with the freedom of will and action that we humans supposedly have, it has many times been said to be determinist and fatalist. The purpose of this paper is to analyze in some deepness the relations that are between the theory of karma on one side and determinism, fatalism (...) and free-will on the other side. In order to do that, I shall use what has been described as the best formal approach we have to indeterminism: branching time theory. More specifically, I shall introduce a branching time semantic framework in which, among other things, statements such as “state of affairs e is a karmic effect of agent a”, “a wills it to be the case that e” and “e is inevitable” could be properly represented. (shrink)
In a recent article, David Hunt has proposed a theological counterexample to the principle of alternative possibilities involving divine foreknowledge. Hunt claims that this example is immune to my criticism of regular Frankfurt-type counterexamples to that principle, as God’s foreknowing an agent’s act does not causally determine that act. Furthermore, he claims that the considerations which support the claim that the agent is morally responsible for his act in a Frankfurt-type scenario also hold in a G-scenario. In reply, Icontest Hunt’s (...) symmetry claim and also raise a worry whether, given theological fatalism, the agent’s act in a G-scenario can be deemed a free act in the libertarian sense. Finally, I offer an independent argument why in a G-scenario the agent should not regarded morally blameworthy for his act. (shrink)
In this paper I address issues related to the problem of future contingents and the metaphysical doctrine of fatalism. Two classical responses to the problem of future contingents are the third truth value view and the all-false view. According to the former, future contingents take a third truth value which goes beyond truth and falsity. According to the latter, they are all false. I here illustrate and discuss two ways to respectively argue for those two views. Both ways are (...) similar in spirit and intimately connected with fatalism, in the sense that they engage with the doctrine of fatalism and accept a large part of a standard fatalistic machinery. (shrink)
Even though fatalism has been an intermittent topic of philosophy since Greek antiquity, this paper argues that fate ought to be of little concern to metaphysicians. Fatalism is neither an interesting metaphysical thesis in its own right, nor can it be identified with theses that are, such as realism about the future or determinism.
Contingency is the presence of non-actualized possibility in the world. Fatalism is a view of reality on which there is no contingency. Since it is contingency that permits agency, there has traditionally been much interest in contingency. This interest has long been embarrassed by the contention that simple and plausible assumptions about the world lead to fatalism. I begin with an Aristotelian argument as presented by Richard Taylor. Appreciation of this argument has been stultified by a question pertaining (...) to the source of necessity and possibility and a closely related one regarding the nature of metaphysics itself. Answering these questions reveals the crucial issue here, to wit, necessity and possibility in a temporal world. This issue is investigated through an important later criticism of Taylor by David Foster Wallace. Wallace’s critique is significant because it brings to the fore the pivotal notion for understanding contingency in a temporal world, that of synchronic possibility, the idea that incompatible states of affairs are possible at a single moment. This notion provides the basis of distinguishing two systematic accounts of truth, modality and time: two metaphysics of contingency. On one account, Taylor’s Aristotelian argument is straightforwardly valid and compelling; on the other, it is fallacious. In closing, I present reasons why the former account, supporting the Aristotelian views of time and truth, is correct and make some comments to ameliorate this conclusion. (shrink)
Arguments against our free will pose a serious problem. Although there are not very many philosophers who call themselves fatalists, quite a few are convinced that fatalism follows from common assumptions. Assuming that most believe themselves to be free, identifying ways to avoid the conclusion of such fatalist arguments is quite an important task. I begin by dealing specifically with theological fatalism. I present many versions of theological fatalism, but come to the conclusion that only one version (...) constitutes a genuine problem. That version, I argue, is reducible to a deeper fatalist dilemma that follows from assumptions so common that it must be faced by even the atheist: the mutually incompatibility of human freedom, the principle of alternate possibilities and bi-valance. After considering other objections to my argument, I conclude that the only way to avoid the fatalist conclusion is to either deny the principle of alternate possibilities or deny bi-valance. I argue that, although each option is somewhat problematic, denying bivalence is the more defensible of the two options. (shrink)
T In [Rea 2006], Michael Rea presents an argument that presentism is incompatible with a libertarian view of human freedom and the unrestricted principle of bivalence. I aim to show that Rea’s argument fails. The outline of my paper is as follows. In Part I, I briefly explain the above three views and I present Rea’sargument. In Part II, I argue that one of the premises of the argument is unjustified.
John Martin Fischer’s core project in Our Fate (2016) is to develop and defend Pike-style arguments for theological incompatibilism, i. e., for the view that divine omniscience is incompatible with human free will. Against Ockhamist attacks on such arguments, Fischer maintains that divine forebeliefs constitute so-called hard facts about the times at which they occur, or at least facts with hard ‘kernel elements’. I reconstruct Fischer’s argument and outline its structural analogies with an argument for logical fatalism. I then (...) point out some of the costs of Fischer’s reasoning that come into focus once we notice that the set of hard facts is closed under entailment. (shrink)
In this paper I reconstruct David Foster Wallace’s argument against fatalism in his undergraduate honors thesis, “Richard Taylor’s ‘Fatalism’ and the Semantics of Physical Modality”. My goal is to present the argument in a clear and concise way, so that it is easy to see its main line of reasoning and potential power. A secondary goal is to offer clarificatory and critical notes on some of the issues at stake. The reconstruction reveals interesting connections between Wallace’s argument and (...) John MacFarlane’s recent work on relative truth. (shrink)
In the past decade, a number of empirical researchers have suggested that laypeople have compatibilist intuitions. In a recent paper, Feltz and Millan have challenged this conclusion by claiming that most laypeople are only compatibilists in appearance and are in fact willing to attribute free will to people no matter what. As evidence for this claim, they have shown that an important proportion of laypeople still attribute free will to agents in fatalistic universes. In this paper, we first argue that (...) Feltz and Millan’s error-theory rests on a conceptual confusion: it is perfectly acceptable for a certain brand of compatibilist to judge free will and fatalism to be compatible, as long as fatalism does not prevent agents from being the source of their actions. We then present the results of two studies showing that laypeople’s intuitions are best understood as following a certain brand of source compatibilism rather than a “free-will-no-matter-what” strategy. (shrink)
This Introduction has three sections, on "logical fatalism," "theological fatalism," and the problem of future contingents, respectively. In the first two sections, we focus on the crucial idea of "dependence" and the role it plays it fatalistic arguments. Arguably, the primary response to the problems of logical and theological fatalism invokes the claim that the relevant past truths or divine beliefs depend on what we do, and therefore needn't be held fixed when evaluating what we can do. (...) We call the sort of dependence needed for this response to be successful "dependence with a capital 'd'": Dependence. We consider different accounts of Dependence, especially the account implicit in the so-called "Ockhamist" response to the fatalistic arguments. Finally, we present the problem of future contingents: what could "ground" truths about the undetermined future? On the other hand, how could all such propositions fail to be true? (shrink)
This article illustrates in which sense genetic determinism is still part of the contemporary interactionist consensus in medicine. Three dimensions of this consensus are discussed: kinds of causes, a continuum of traits ranging from monogenetic diseases to car accidents, and different kinds of determination due to different norms of reaction. On this basis, this article explicates in which sense the interactionist consensus presupposes the innate?acquired distinction. After a descriptive Part 1, Part 2 reviews why the innate?acquired distinction is under attack (...) in contemporary philosophy of biology. Three arguments are then presented to provide a limited and pragmatic defense of the distinction: an epistemic, a conceptual, and a historical argument. If interpreted in a certain manner, and if the pragmatic goals of prevention and treatment (ideally specifying what medicine and health care is all about) are taken into account, then the innate?acquired distinction can be a useful epistemic tool. It can help, first, to understand that genetic determination does not mean fatalism, and, second, to maintain a system of checks and balances in the continuing nature?nurture debates. (shrink)
The Lazy Argument, as it is preserved in historical testimonies, is not logically conclusive. In this form, it appears to have been proposed in favor of part-time fatalism (including past time fatalism). The argument assumes that free will assumption is unacceptable from the standpoint of the logical fatalist but plausible for some of the nonuniversal or part-time fatalists. There are indications that the layout of argument is not genuine, but taken over from a Megarian source and later transformed. (...) The genuine form of the argument seems to be given in different form and far closer to Megarian logical fatalism and its purpose is not to defend laziness. If the historical argument has to lead to a logically satisfactory solution, some additional assumptions and additional tuning is needed. (shrink)
Everyone agrees that we can’t change the past. But what about the future? Though the thought that we can change the future is familiar from popular discourse, it enjoys virtually no support from philosophers, contemporary or otherwise. In this paper, I argue that the thesis that the future is mutable has far more going for it than anyone has yet realized. The view, I hope to show, gains support from the nature of prevention, can provide a new way of responding (...) to arguments for fatalism, can account for the utility of total knowledge of the future, and can help in providing an account of the semantics of the English progressive. On the view developed, the future is mutable in the following sense: perhaps, once, it was true that you would never come to read a paper defending the mutability of the future. And then the future changed. And now you will. (shrink)
Critique of prevailing textbook conception of sufficient conditions and necessary conditions as a truth functional relation of material implication (p->q)/(~q->~p). Explanation of common sense conception of condition as correlative of consequence, involving dependence. Utility of this conception exhibited in resolving puzzles regarding ontology, truth, and fatalism.
This comparative examination of Nietzsche and the Islamic philosopher al-Kindi emphasizes their mutual commitment to the recovery of classical Greek and Hellenistic thought and the idea of philosophy as a way of life. Affiliating both thinkers with the Stoic lineage in particular, I examine the ways in which they appropriate common themes such as fatalism, self-cultivation via spiritual exercises, and the banishing of sorrow. Focusing primarily on their respective conceptions of self and nature, I argue that the antipodal worldviews (...) of al-Kindi and Nietzsche can be understood as a bifurcation of Stoic philosophy. (shrink)
A number of philosophers and theologians have argued that if God has knowledge of future human actions then human agents cannot be free. This argument rests on the assumption that, since God is essentially omniscient, God cannot be wrong about what human agents will do. It is this assumption that I challenge in this paper. My aim is to develop an interpretation of God’s essential omniscience according to which God can be wrong even though God never is wrong. If this (...) interpretation of essential omniscience is coherent, as I claim it is, then there is a logically consistent position according to which God is essentially omniscient, God foreknows what human agents will do, and yet it is possible for human agents to do otherwise. Thus, the argument for theological fatalism fails. (shrink)
In this paper I offer an alternative to the standard, mechanistic/fatalistic account of causal necessity, one compatible with the existence of laws of nature but not deterministic in the way this is usually understood.
Contemporary work on Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy often overlooks a discussion in CP.V.3 of a Peripatetic strategy for dissolving theological fatalism. Boethius’ treatment of this strategy and the lesson it provides about divine foreknowledge requires a reorientation of our understanding of the Consolation text. The result is that it is not foreknowledge nor any other temporally-conditioned knowledge that motivates Boethian concern but divine knowledge simpliciter.
This paper argues, through conceptual analysis, against an objection to the disapproval of banks for the 2007-8 crisis: the idea that they could not have acted otherwise (at least not rationally) and that no one should be blamed for a fact one could not have avoided. If true, it would threaten the justification of corporate social responsibility and the legal liability of managers. Identified as the ‘inevitability thesis’, this objection is illustrated by an analysis of the film Margin Call (2011) (...) and associated with other investigations on ethics and responsibility. The target thesis stems from a confusion between different notions of responsibility (for a task, for a decision, for causing an event and for repairing it) and leads to an incoherent form of fatalism. Finally, it is suggested that the invocation of ‘inevitability’ may be a way of rationalizing the decision, obscuring reasons to the contrary. (shrink)
On Jaakko Hintikka’s understanding of Aristotle’s modal thought, Aristotle is committed to a version of the Principle of Plenitude, which is the thesis that no genuine possibility will go unactualized in an infinity of time. If in fact Aristotle endorses the Principle of Plenitude, everything becomes necessary. Despite the strong evidence that Aristotle indeed accepts that Principle of Plenitude, there are key texts in which Aristotle seems to contradict it. On Hintikka’s final word on the matter, Aristotle either endorses the (...) Principle of Plenitude or Aristotle is simply inconsistent. Without challenging Hintikka’s interpretation of the relevant texts, I show how Aristotle may accept a form of the Principle of Plenitude that allows for genuine unactualized possibilities in the world. What allows me to reconcile the seemingly inconsistent data is to show how Aristotle is only committed to a de re version of the Principle of Plenitude. After I lay out my proposal, I show how it opens up new ways in which we might understand Aristotle’s attempt to reject fatalism in his De interpretatione 9. (shrink)
There are arguments for determinism. Admittedly, this is opposed by the fact of everyday experience of autonomy. In the following, it is argued for the compatibility of determinism and autonomy. Taking up considerations of Donald MacKay, a fatalistic attitude can be refuted as false. Repeatedly, attempts have been made to defend the possibility of autonomy with reference to quantum physical indeterminacy. But its statistical randomness clearly misses the meaning of autonomy. What is decisive, on the other hand, is the possibility (...) of knowledge, which opens up opportunities for planning, freedom of choice and ultimately 'self-choice'. Results of neurobiological research, especially Benjamin Libet's and more recently John-Dylan Haynes', seem to refute this: Actions are unconsciously initiated before conscious decision. But, as Libet has also shown, consciousness always has the possibility of a veto – and thus also of knowledge-driven action control. Ultimately, the idea of possible self-choice can thus become the determining condition. Only such a form of rational self-determination establishes a spiritual identity and at the same time represents the maximum of autonomy possible for human beings. (shrink)
We lay out the fatalist’s argument, making sure to clarify which dialectical moves are available to the libertarian. We then offer a more robust presentation of Ockhamism, responding to obvious objections and teasing out the implications of the view. At this point, we discuss presentism and eternalism in more detail. We then present our argument for the claim that the libertarian cannot take Ockham’s way out of the fatalism argument unless she rejects presentism. Finally, we consider and dispense with (...) objections to our argument. In the end, it ought to be clear that the libertarian must make a choice between Ockham’s way out and presentism. (shrink)
There seems to be a minimal core that every theory wishing to accommodate the intuition that the future is open must contain: a denial of physical determinism (i.e. the thesis that what future states the universe will be in is implied by what states it has been in), and a denial of strong fatalism (i.e. the thesis that, at every time, what will subsequently be the case is metaphysically necessary).1 Those two requirements are often associated with the idea of (...) an objective temporal flow and the non-reality of the future. However, at least certain ways to frame the “openness” intuition do not rely on any of these. Branching Time Theory (BTT) is one such: it is compatible with the denial that time flow is objective and it is couched in a language with a (prima facie) commitment to an eternalist ontology. BTT, though, urges us to resist certain intuitions about the determinacy of future claims, which arguably do not lead either to physical determinism or to fatalism. Against BTT, supporters of the Thin Red Line Theory (TRL) argue that their position avoids determinism and fatalism, while also representing the fact that there is a future which is “special” because it is the one that will be the case. But starting with Belnap and Green 1994, some have objected to the tenability of TRL, mainly on metaphysical grounds. In particular, those argue that “positing a thin red line amounts to giving up objective indeterminism,”2 and that “has unacceptable consequences, ranging from a mistreatment of actuality to an inability to talk coherently about what would have happened had what is going to happen not taken place.”3 In this paper, we wish to reframe the.. (shrink)
This paper is about the open future response to fatalistic arguments. I first present a typical fatalistic argument and then spell out the open future response as a response to that argument. Then I raise the question of how the open future response can be independently justified. I consider some possible ways in which the response might be defended, and I try to show that none of these is a plausible, non-question-begging defense. Next I formulate what I take to be (...) the only plausible, nonquestion-begging defense of the open future response. This defense involves both (i) the claim that the laws of nature are indeterministic and (ii) a certain version of the correspondence theory of truth. Finally, I argue that there is a very surprising consequence of justifying the open future response by making the defense in question, namely, that the past is sometimes open. Fatalism is the view that whatever will happen in the future is inevitable, due to certain considerations about truth and time. Fatalism, in turn, is normally taken to imply that there is no such thing as genuine, human free will. Suppose that I am an anti-fatalist. Suppose I believe that Joe Montana is free to choose what he will have for lunch tomorrow, and suppose I take this case to be a paradigmatic example of one involving both evitability and human free will. Now suppose that I meet a fatalist, who presents the following argument.1.. (shrink)
In this paper, I analyze the disruptive impact of Darwinian selectionism for the century-long tradition in which the environment had a direct causative role in shaping an organism’s traits. In the case of humans, the surrounding environment often determined not only the physical, but also the mental and moral features of individuals and whole populations. With its apparatus of indirect effects, random variations, and a much less harmonious view of nature and adaptation, Darwinian selectionism severed the deep imbrication of organism (...) and milieu posited by these traditional environmentalist models. This move had radical implications well beyond strictly biological debates. In my essay, I discuss the problematization of the moral idiom of environmentalism by William James and August Weismann who adopted a selectionist view of the development of mental faculties. These debates show the complex moral discourse associated with the environmentalist-selectionist dilemma. They also well illustrate how the moral reverberations of selectionism went well beyond the stereotyped associations with biological fatalism or passivity of the organism. Rereading them today may be helpful as a genealogical guide to the complex ethical quandaries unfolding in the current postgenomic scenario in which a revival of new environmentalist themes is taking place. (shrink)
Over the past few decades, scholars have reassessed the role of amour-propre in Rousseau’s thought. While it was once believed that he had an entirely negative valuation of the emotion, it is now widely held that he finds it useful and employs it to strengthen moral attachments, conjugal love, civic virtue and moral heroism. At the same time, scholars are divided as to whether this positive amour-propre is an antidote to the negative or dangerous form. Some scholars are confident that (...) ‘inflamed’ amour-propre can be overcome while others adopt a more fatalistic view. While mindful of Rousseau’s pessimism in his most famous works, this essay seeks to identify a middle position. By contending Rousseau’s discussion of amour-propre is largely concerned with the problems surrounding identity construction in commercial, urban societies, it will be argued that amour-propre can be lessened to manageable levels in more rural societies, that is, agrarian provincial life. (shrink)
There is a familiar debate between Russell and Strawson concerning bivalence and ‘the present King of France’. According to the Strawsonian view, ‘The present King of France is bald’ is neither true nor false, whereas, on the Russellian view, that proposition is simply false. In this paper, I develop what I take to be a crucial connection between this debate and a different domain where bivalence has been at stake: future contingents. On the familiar ‘Aristotelian’ view, future contingent propositions are (...) neither true nor false. However, I argue that, just as there is a Russellian alternative to the Strawsonian view concerning ‘the present King of France’, according to which the relevant class of propositions all turn out false, so there is a Russellian alternative to the Aristotelian view, according to which future contingents all turn out false, not neither true nor false. The result: contrary to millennia of philosophical tradition, we can be open futurists without denying bivalence. (shrink)
Trolley problems have been used in the development of moral theory and the psychological study of moral judgments and behavior. Most of this research has focused on people from the West, with implicit assumptions that moral intuitions should generalize and that moral psychology is universal. However, cultural differences may be associated with differences in moral judgments and behavior. We operationalized a trolley problem in the laboratory, with economic incentives and real-life consequences, and compared British and Chinese samples on moral behavior (...) and judgment. We found that Chinese participants were less willing to sacrifice one person to save five others, and less likely to consider such an action to be right. In a second study using three scenarios, including the standard scenario where lives are threatened by an on-coming train, fewer Chinese than British participants were willing to take action and sacrifice one to save five, and this cultural difference was more pronounced when the consequences were less severe than death. (shrink)
This chapter considers Kant's relation to Hume as Kant himself understood it when he wrote the Critique of Pure Reason and the Prolegomena. It first seeks to refine the question of Kant's relation to Hume's skepticism, and it then considers the evidence for Kant's attitude toward Hume in three works: the A Critique, Prolegomena, and B Critique. It argues that in the A Critique Kant viewed skepticism positively, as a necessary reaction to dogmatism and a spur toward critique. In his (...) initial statement of the critical philosophy Kant treated Hume as an ally in curbing dogmatism, but one who stopped short of what was really needed: a full critique of reason, to establish the boundaries of metaphysical cognition. Kant found fault with Hume's analyses of cognition and experience, and specifically his failure to see the crucial importance of synthetic a priori cognition in metaphysics. In particular, he held that Hume's empiricist account of cognition could neither explain the synthetic a priori cognition actually found in mathematics and natural science, nor provide a principled account of the limits on what can be known--and what can be thought--through the pure concepts of the understanding. According to Kant, Hume therefore failed in his attempt to determine the limits of metaphysics, whereas he was able to succeed because his transcendental philosophy provided a thorough account of cognition, its structure and limits. In the Prolegomena and the B Critique Kant distinguished his position more sharply from Hume's. He also adopted a more negative attitude toward "skeptical idealism" than before; but he attributed such skepticism to Descartes, not Hume. Prior to the B Critique Kant did not see Hume as attacking natural science or ordinary cognition. In none of the three works was Kant's main aim to "answer the skeptic." His primary aim was to firmly establish the boundary of metaphysics, by discovering the elements of human cognition and fixing its proper domain. His purported discoveries about the limits of metaphysical cognition meant that the traditional objects of metaphysical knowledge, God, the soul, and the world as it is in itself, are unknowable, hence that traditional metaphysics itself is impossible. Besides settling the possibility or impossibility of metaphysics, his findings would also prevent the illegitimate extension of principles of sensibility to God and the noumenal self, an extension that would threaten the metaphysics of morals by incorrectly denying the thinkability of noumenal freedom, and that might otherwise lead to "materialism, fatalism, atheism, and freethinking unbelief" (B xxxiv). (shrink)
My topic is how to make decisions when you possess foreknowledge of the consequences of your choice. Many have thought that these kinds of decisions pose a distinctive and novel problem for causal decision theory (CDT). My thesis is that foreknowledge poses no new problems for CDT. Some of the purported problems are not problems. Others are problems, but they are not problems for CDT. Rather, they are problems for our theories of subjunctive supposition. Others are problems, but they are (...) not new problems. They are old problems transposed into a new key. Nonetheless, decisions made with foreknowledge teach us important lessons about the instrumental value of our choices. Once we've appreciated these lessons, we are left with a version of CDT which faces no novel threats from foreknowledge. (shrink)
This article illustrates in which sense genetic determinism is still part of the contemporary interactionist consensus in medicine. Three dimensions of this consensus are discussed: kinds of causes, a continuum of traits ranging from monogenetic diseases to car accidents, and different kinds of determination due to different norms of reaction. On this basis, this article explicates in which sense the interactionist consensus presupposes the innate?acquired distinction. After a descriptive Part 1, Part 2 reviews why the innate?acquired distinction is under attack (...) in contemporary philosophy of biology. Three arguments are then presented to provide a limited and pragmatic defense of the distinction: an epistemic, a conceptual, and a historical argument. If interpreted in a certain manner, and if the pragmatic goals of prevention and treatment are taken into account, then the innate?acquired distinction can be a useful epistemic tool. It can help, first, to understand that genetic determination does not mean fatalism, and, second, to maintain a system of checks and balances in the continuing nature?nurture debates. (shrink)