Thursday, 24 December 2009

More on Free Will

Since my March article about free will, I've learned that my position - that having free will is consistent with a mechanistic model of the universe (with or without quantum uncertainty thrown in) - is known as compatibilism.

I recently read Thomas Pink's book, Free Will: A Very Short Introduction (from the excellent Very Short Introduction series put out by OUP) - and so I now fancy myself knowledgeable enough to connect my own casual ponderings with the great web of philosophy.

The position Mike took in his article is known as scepticism (in the context of free will, a combination of incompatibilism and a belief in causal determinism - not to be confused with other, more general forms of scepticism).

Guess who Pink identifies as the first compatibilist? Here's a quote:
A FREE-MAN, is he, that ... is not hindred to doe what he has a will to ... from the use of the word Free-will, no Liberty can be inferred of the will, desire or inclination, but the Liberty of the man; which consisteth in this, that he finds no stop, in doing what he has the will, desire, or inclination to doe.
The quote is from p65 of Pink's book, and it's by 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a Hobbesian - he wrote about more than just this, and I don't know if the whole of his philosophy would appeal to me. But I tend to agree with this quote.

Note that this passage makes no claims about what it means for someone to "have a will to do" something. One thing I like about compatibilism is that it does not rely on a particular model (deterministic, non-deterministic, etc) of the universe.

See also:

Wikipedia article on Free Will.

Image credit:

Image of Hobbes via this collection. (On the topic of this post, check out this fan comic, inspired by the Calvin and Hobbes scene shown here.)

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