Chaos, Indeterminism, and Free Will

Robert C. Bishop

in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780195178548
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Chaos, Indeterminism, and Free Will

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This article begins with a discussion of modern efforts to clarify and define the meaning of physical determinism. It distinguishes four features of the Laplacean vision of physical determinism—differential dynamics, unique evolution, value determinateness, and absolute prediction—and the relevance of each to free-will debates. It then turns to the role of indeterminism in quantum mechanics and discusses current philosophical debates about the nature of indeterministic or probabilistic causation. It also considers debates about the possible relevance of chaos theory and nonlinear dynamics in physical systems to free will as well as the possible relevance of recent research on far-from equilibrium physical systems pioneered by Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine. The article concludes with some general remarks about the causal completeness of physical explanations and the possibility of emergent phenomena in physical systems.

Keywords: physical determinism; free-will debates; differential dynamics; unique evolution; value determinateness; absolute prediction; quantum mechanics; chaos theory; Ilya Prigogine

Article.  6092 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Philosophy of Science

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