Who's Afraid of Determinism? Rethinking Causes and Possibilities

Christopher Taylor and Daniel Dennett

in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Who's Afraid of Determinism? Rethinking Causes and Possibilities

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Incompatibilism, the view that free will and determinism are incompatible, subsists on two widely accepted but deeply confused theses concerning possibility and causation: (1) In a deterministic universe, one can never truthfully utter the sentence “I could have done otherwise;” and (2) In such universes, one can never really take credit for having caused an event, since in fact all events have been predetermined by conditions during the universe's birth. This article reexamines the foundations of possibilities and causes, to understand why theses (1) and (2) look so compelling. It shows that the desires incompatibilists describe—to have powers and to effect changes—can be satisfied without any recondite appeals to quantum indeterminacy. The suspicions to the contrary lose their force once we begin to untangle, with the aid of a little formalism, the complexities of the underlying concepts.

Keywords: incompatibilism; determinism; possibility; causation

Article.  9358 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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