FYS Free Will: Illusion? (PHIL 76/001)

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Instructor: John Roberts. This course meets Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. – 9:50 a.m. in Caldwell 213.

The idea that we have free will seems to be crucial to the way we understand ourselves. The very idea of moral responsibility seems to take it for granted that we have free will, and so does the idea that we can express ourselves through our actions and our lives. But there are a variety of arguments that seem to show that we do not really have free will. Some of these come from modern science, but some come from philosophy and were well-known even to the ancient Greek philosophers. In this seminar, we will make a systematic exploration of the reasons that have been offered for thinking that we don’t have free will, from the 4th century BCE to the present century. We will also critically evaluate these arguments, and try to come to a reasoned and principled view on the question of free will. The seminar will be discussion-based, and each student will have a turn at doing a presentation and leading the discussion. There will be many short writing assignments and one long one.

John Roberts’s webpage