First Year Seminar: Is Free Will an Illusion? (PHIL 076)

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Instructor: John Roberts. This seminar meets Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00-9:50AM.

Most of us believe that we are free to choose what we do, and this belief is extremely important to most of us.  Yet there are many arguments — some of them ancient and some of them very modern, some of them philosophical and some of them scientific — that seem to show that we do not really have free will.  This course will be about those arguments, and how we should respond to them.

No background in philosophy will be presupposed.  We will spend a little time learning some of the basics of formal logic (which turns out to be a very useful tool in evaluating arguments about free will).  We will spend a lot of time reading philosophical texts, including some by Aristotle and some by philosophers who are still alive, and a lot by philosophers who are chronologically in between.  The class will be discussion-driven, and students will be required to give short seminar presentations.  There will also be several short writing assignments.

John Roberts’s webpage