6 thoughts on “Joint Session 2020

  1. Lots of this sounds like a reductio of the view that we need actual alternative possibilities. I buy that to be free we need a two-way capacityto either act or refrain from acting. And I buy that the existence of future events makes me passive rather than active. But I don’t see why the future being predictable is a problem for freedom. When I go to the doctor, I think they have a two-way capacity to kill or cure, but I go fairly confident that they will in fact decide to cure. They don’t seem more free if it’s genuinely unpredictable what they will decide. They just seem like a terrible doctor.

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    1. Ah for some reason my first reply is not visible. So here again (hopefully):

      Thanks for the comments, Graeme!

      I agree that alternative possibilities in that strong sense might just be hard to come by – but I am not sure that this is a reductio of the criterion of alternative possibilities. You might have independent reason to hold on to that criterion for freedom, in which case you just have to accept that we’re not free if the future is settled.

      You seem to be going for some capacities-based compatibilist view here, which seems to be the way to go if you care about capacities.

      Just as a side note on predictability: I didn’t intend to give predictability any special role here. I agree that predictability is a poor indicator for whether the future is settled or not, which is the only relevant issue for the question of whether there are alternative possibilities in the strong sense I introduced in the talk. So when I say, e.g., that the laws and the state of the universe at one time imply the state of the universe at a later time, I do not mean to say that someone is also actually epistemically able to make that implication.


      1. It is a bad habit of mine is to talk about predictability: I mean in principle predictability (i.e. determinism).

        And yes, a capacities based compatibilism is what I inclined towards.


  2. Thanks for giving this wonderful talk. I have a question about the whole project. I think that these determinism, laws of nature, and open future things have been discussed by Elizabeth Barnes and Ross Cameron (2009). In their paper ‘The open future: bivalence, determination, and ontology’, they have argued that determinism is not sufficient to rule out freedom (actually they say open future), and they also discuss the open future and temporal ontology. So, what is more in you project?


    1. Thanks for your great comment!

      Barnes and Cameron 2008 is definitely something that I need to discuss in a longer version of this paper. While they make a very similar point regarding determinism and the open future, I don’t agree on all counts with them. I don’t, for example, fully agree with the idea that any standard form of eternalism could be compatible with a suitably robust version of the open future thesis, which is a claim they appear to be making.

      But the bigger issue I am after is to integrate this into the free will debate: I don’t think that many philosophers of time would be too shocked that determinism doesn’t necessarily imply a fixed future, and vice versa. The important issue is to see what this does with the debate on freedom: even in a world with deterministic laws, we can uphold a strong version of the principle of the power to do otherwise, depending on 1) what we take the laws to be, and 2) what temporal ontology we propose.


      1. Oh, that’s a really cool project. I’m super interested in this issue. I currently work on the open future view. I also disagree with Barnes and Cameron’s (2008) argument on the compatibility between eternalism and the open future. My project is based on the theory of truth and ground together with temporal ontology against their view.

        But I doubt that if determinism is truth, there is any space for one to do otherwise. I mean there are no genuine alternatives in a deterministic world. Unless, it is a no-futurism view of the world.


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