Chapter Eight

What Is Your Philosophical Perspective On The Issue of Free Will Versus Determinism

Aebischer (C.S.U. Los Angeles): I am an "emergent evolutionist" in 
that I hold the universe as capable of producing novelty, including 
new levels of creativity which are not strictly determined by earlier 
causes. I am a "tychist" in that I hold that there is real "chance" 
operating in experience, and that laws of nature are no more than 
statistical regularities. I am an "indeterminist" in that I hold that 
human consciousness is underdetermined by external influences so that 
it can and sometimes does exhibit uncoerced agency. I believe that 
the directing of our agency to ends that transcend selfish desires is 
the ultimate experience of freedom and the beginning of morality.

Adams (U.C. Los Angeles): Complex. I suppose the first question is 
"Do I think that free will is compatible with determinism?" I think 
my answer to that is that there is different concepts of freedom and 
freedom in some sense is just as compatible with determinism and in 
others is not. I am strongly inclined to believe that determinism is 
false. I think that is greatly important from a theological point of 
view. If determinism were true, we would be something like puppets. 
But in relation to each other, I am inclined to be a compatibilist. 
That is to say, I don't think that I ought to stop praising and 
blaming people and holding people responsible and so forth if I 
became convinced that determinism is true. 

Beckman (Harvey Mudd): Determinism as such is merely theoretical and 
theories are merely advisory. Thus, if a theory suggests that my 
actions are all determined by factors other than my own perceptions, 
conceptions, impulses, etc., I am free to consider its potential 
usefulness to me as well as to discard it as useless. In the 
phenomenal realm, which is the only realm of stable importance, 
freedom of will is obvious.

Churchland, Paul (U.C. San Diego): I think the age old question is 
based on a number of mistakes. I am quite prepared to take part of  
the determinist's side of the argument. I think that human thought, 
human agency, human moral perception is all based in the activities 
of the physical brain. I believe that these things are thoroughly 
described by the laws of nature, of physics, and of chemistry, 
physiology, electricity and so forth. So I accept the physicalist 
view of nature that determines us typically. I accept this because I 
believe that's where the evidence points. On the other hand, I think 
that notions like moral responsibility are perfectly genuine and 
legitimate notions and I think that we can still draw perfectly 
hearty distinctions between people who are morally good and people 
who are morally bad; between people who deserved to be punished and 
people who do not deserve to be punished; between the wicked people 
and between good people and I think we can still find perfectly good 
reasons for punis
ing people who are cruel to their fellow men and for rewarding those 
who are kind. I'm quite prepared to hold people responsible for what 
they do, but I think that understanding how the brain works, 
understanding how character develops and understanding how brain 
chemistry will go wrong will allow us to have a more humane view of 
when we should punish people, whether we should punish people and how 
we should punish people. I think the present system of prisons for 
example is appallingly cruel and we use it only because we don't know 
anything better to do. If we understand better how our brains work in 
the social and the emotional dimension we might be able to have a 
much more humane legal system than the one we got now. But, I am not 
about to give up moral reasoning. I think those things will be with 
us forever.

Cohon (Stanford University): At the moment I don't have a view about 
this issue, because there is a class of arguments I know nothing 
about. I used to think that nature, as understood by science, is 
deterministic, and that metaphysical freedom in the traditional sense 
(not being caused to act by any causes outside oneself) was therefore 
incompatible with the fact that human beings are part of nature. 
Since I thought that we are a part of nature, I concluded that we are 
not metaphysically free. However, there are now philosophers of 
science who deny that a scientific understanding of nature must be 
deterministic, and who, in fact, reject determinism in physics and 
the other sciences. Perhaps this leaves room for metaphysical freedom 
in human actions. I agree with Kant that when we make choices and act,
 we necessarily think of ourselves as being free. But Kant notes, 
this doesn't show that we really are free.

Copp (U.C. Davis): I do not have a fully developed position but I 
would aim to defend a version of compatibilism.

Dreyfus (U.C. Berkeley): That is too hard for me to answer. I think 
that somehow or another we have to do justice to both of them, but I 
don't think that anybody understands how to do justice to both of 
them. I don't even know if there is much I can say.  The Kantian view 
that Donald Davidson defends is pretty attractive, namely that we are 
free under the description as agents and determined under another 
description as objects. But that is not very satisfactory since that 
way it looks like we are not free.  I give up! I don't know.

Dumont (Mt. Saint Mary's College): I think that question is posed in 
the wrong way. Humans are limited in their freedom, but freer than we 
usually think we are. The whole project of life is to become freer by 
wrestling with our pasts and with the temptations to give up, submit 
or conform to outside forces. Intentions, desires, wants, reasons for 
acting, motives are not internal causes--they are not events in the 
ordinary sense. I am not a dualist and I am not sure how to explain 
the metaphysics of free acts but phenomenologically freedom is a 
reality. I also think that the concept of freedom in Western 
philosophy is too individualistic.

Griesemer (U.C. Davis): Free will versus determinism is too hard a 
problem for me. I guess I'm inclined to say we have free will even if 
the world were determined, but I can't even begin to say why I think 
so. I guess I think the world is not deterministic, but I'm not sure 
that is even a relevant fact in answering the big question. I think 
that we're in trouble whether we're Cartesian dualists and say that 
there are two kinds of substance and free will is a provenance of 
mind (since we have to explain how mind can interact with determined 
matter), or whether we're materialists (since then we have to explain 
all the strange phenomena of qualia, consciousness, etc.). My short 
answer is I just don't have a perspective on this age-old question.

Friedman (U.C. Davis): The best there is only soft determinism. Our 
freedom is compatible with this.
Jubien (U.C. Davis): I have no worked out position. I am really 
inclined toward belief in free will. 

Lloyd (U.C. Berkeley): I believe in free will. I believe that we have 
free will and that the problem as it was set up is misleading because 
it relies on a picture of science which is not accurate. It's not 
true I think that our scientific theories [univocally claim] that the 
world is a deterministic place. I think that our theories don't say 
that.  .  .  .

Matson (U.C. Berkeley): I have some doubts about the truth of 
determinism, though I don't think this issue is really relevant to 
the controversy. I also have some doubts about "the will," which is a 
concept that ancients seems to have gotten along O.K. without; but 
again, I'm not sure this is crucial. I think Hobbes, Locke, and Hume 
are right to point out that the opposite of freedom is compulsion, 
not causation, and that consequently we act freely whenever someone 
or something else doesn't force us to go "against our will."

McGray (University of San Diego): Compatibilism. I see no real 
conflict between the two. Free human conduct has a certain kind of 
causal explanation.

Pippin (U.C. San Diego): I am what is called a compatibilist. I 
believe it is possible to assert that both claims are true and I am 
in sympathy with Hegel's way of explaining how.

Ring (C.S.U. Fullerton): In so far as that is a philosophical 
question about the possibility of free will (for not all us have it 
all the time or in all actions we perform) I hold to the free will 
side of the ledger. But the arguments for that are long and involved.

Shalinsky (U.C. San Diego): As a thorough going materialist, I think 
that all facts are physical facts, and a physical theory will explain 
all and everything that needs to be explained. With respect to human 
psychology, only a neurophysiological theory can explain human 
behavior. This is not to say that our current neurophysiological 
theories adequately explain human behavior; it is only to say, rather,
 that a sufficiently advanced (or completed) neuroscience could do so.
 Applying this view to the free will/determinism debate yields 
somewhat confusing results. On the one hand, commitment to thorough 
going materialism seems to rule out adherence to such notions as 
"will"; on the other hand, it seems to entail commitment to some sort 
of causal determinism. My personal view is that it does not entail 
the latter, and that some sufficiently advanced chaos theory will 
adjudicate the debate one way or another. I will say, however, that 
materialism of the sort I advocate will probably not countenance such 
terms as 
free," "reason," "self," "person," and so on--the typically appealed 
to in free will discussions. It might simply be the case, therefore, 
that this "age old question" is relegated to the graveyard, alongside 
such other "age old questions" as whether the seat of thought is the 
liver, or whether the Earth is flat.

Suppes (Stanford University): I am very much on the side of free will.
 I think that the modern world of physics shows that determinism is 
in general a transcendental question, that is, a question that 
transcends experience. . . .

Wollheim (U.C. Davis): I am not convinced that there is an 
incompatibility between the two. It seems to be possible that free 
action, say, can be explained in terms of a certain kind of causation,
 that is, where the cause is a certain sort of desire belief. Of 
course, free will is a narrower notion than freedom, because it 
introduces the will, which is for me a rather hard to explain notion. 
Because desirable actions that are free are caused by desired beliefs.

Woodruff (U.C. Irvine): I actually think that is a very complicated 
question. Here's what I tell my students what I think is right. I 
think we are machines. We may or may not be deterministic machines. 
That is, quantum effects and absolute probabilities may or may not 
have some role to play in the way we work. But if they do, that 
working has nothing to do with our freedom. It's been clear ever 
since ancient Greece, to people who have thought carefully about the 
problem, that absence of determinism is not freedom either. What is 
wanted is self-determination or autonomy. What I think is in that 
sense we are machines. But we're machines that work in a particular 
way. In that working, we use a certain model of the way the world is. 
The model that we use, in fact, is one that has branches in it, that 
is, one that sees alternate possible futures as real. [It] sees our 
choice mechanism as making a difference in choosing one or the other 
of those. So if I try to decide what to do, then I am considering 
alternate p
ssible futures, and the mechanism in me is producing a choice. Now I 
actually believe that that mechanism is a deterministic mechanism, 
but it works with a picture of the world that is indeterminate. I 
don't think that what I just said is contradictory. In fact, I could 
program a computer to make choices. Of course we know a computer is 
deterministic, but it's running a program that operates on this 
indeterministic model (one that has different alternatives) and 
chooses between them. I think that if that's right, as long as we are 
acting in the way that we programmed by genetics or heredity, we have 
to use this indeterministic model. Determinedly free would be a good 
way to put it. I'm saying we are mechanisms, but our program uses a 
model of the world that would imply that freedom is real. That 
implies there are real alternatives.