Date on Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
College of Arts and Sciences
free will; luck objection; Peter van Inwagen; counterfactuals; indeterminism; Mind objection
For free will theorists, the problem of luck has been a constant source of consternation. Peter van Inwagen presents a version immune to even agent-causal conceptions of free will. However, van Inwagen’s version of the problem can be avoided if there are true propositions taking the form of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. There are good reasons to think that there are, and no comparably good reasons to think that there are not. This defense is also resistant to common attacks based on foreknowledge and the grounding of the truth of these counterfactuals.
Smith, Zach, "The problem of luck and free will : how counterfactuals can help." (2017). College of Arts & Sciences Senior Honors Theses. Paper 140.
We all, most would concede, at least have the illusion of being free creatures. We experience and apprehend a sense of freedom in our actions. We feel as though our actions are not determined by anything other than our own wills. However, this idea is at some odds with our understanding of the universe. We have seemingly good reasons to think that the universe operates either deterministically or probabilistically. Determinism is the idea that the laws of nature determine an exact future. There would be no free will as we understand it because we do not determine our actions; rather, the laws of nature determine our actions. However, we may also have reason to think the universe operates indeterministically, or probabilistically. That is to say, there may be some kind of chance variation in the events of the universe like the kind found in some interpretations of quantum mechanics. There would be no free will on this view either as decisions are not the product of our wills but rather chance, like a cosmic roll of the dice. Both of these, it seems, are incompatible with free will. If this is true, then it seems free will cannot possibly exist. However, we also have seemingly good reasons to think free will does exist. Our experience with moral responsibility and personal decision making leads us to believe free will is necessary for understanding our lives. This is the problem of free will.
In this paper, I will focus on resolving the incompatibility of free will and indeterminism. A prominent philosopher in the field of free will, Peter van Inwagen, provides an argument that seems to show that free will always breaks down into probability. I think that by examining the thought experiment, we can come up with good reasons to think that this will not happen. If there are certain truths about a person’s free decisions (namely their consistency), we will avoid van Inwagen’s objection, and have a reason to think free will is not impossible.