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A Brief History of the Concept of Free Will

Ben Bayer

Presented at: OCON 2013

Date: Jul 05, 2013

Do we direct our own lives, or are we merely the pawns of forces beyond our control? How we answer this question makes a significant difference for our views about human nature, morality and even politics. This course surveys the major developments in philosophers’ thinking about free will since the birth of Western philosophy. Dr. Bayer first examines the various philosophical positions which adamantly deny the existence of human free will, followed by those that claim that there is a sense in which we are “free” even if every decision of ours is necessitated. He closes by surveying philosophers who challenge determinism directly, either by rejecting the law of causality as such, or by harmonizing our understanding of causality with human volition. Throughout the course he explores the metaphysical roots of philosophers’ views about freedom, and identifies the philosophical and other cultural consequences of these views.


Parts: 3

Handout: none