SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Realities of Free Will
(Workshop 4 (Hybrid), )

Free will is something we usually believe in, and something we value. Most philosophers agree that only the agents who have free will are morally responsible and deserve praise and blame. However, there are some reasons to doubt that free will is real. First, we cannot rule out the possibility that physical determinism is true: this is a classical incompatibilist reason to question free will. Second, free will skeptics have argued that contemporary neuroscience has shown that free will is an illusion because all our actions are determined by prior unconscious brain states. The aim of the workshop "Realities of Free Will" is to explore these threats to free will and to show how free will can nevertheless exist in a naturalistic framework.

Workshop beginning: 17.00


17.00-17.45 Maria Sekatskaya, "Supervenient Fixity and Agential Possibilities"
17.45-18.30 Alexander Gebharter, "Probabilistic Supervenience and Agential Possibilities"
18.30-18.45 Coffee-break
18.45-19.30 Sergey Levin, "Free Will and Illusory Experiences"
19.30-20.15 Kenneth Silver, "Determination from Above"


Maria Sekatskaya (DCLPS, HHU Düsseldorf), title: "Supervenient Fixity and Agential Possibilities"

Abstract: Compatibilist libertarianism (CL) has been proposed as an actualist position intended to reconcile physical determinism and an agent's ability to do otherwise. We will argue that at its core, CL is a variant of classical compatibilism rather than a version of libertarianism. We will show that recent objections to CL can be avoided by embracing its compatibilist nature. We will also argue that a slightly modified version of CL is as close to an actualist account of free will in a deterministic world as one can hope for.

Alexander Gebharter (MCMP, LMU Munich), title: "Probabilistic Supervenience and Agential Possibilities"

Abstract: Compatibilist libertarianism proposes a new solution to the problem of an apparent incompatibility of free will and determinism. It drives a wedge between ontological levels and claims that free will is possible as a higher-level phenomenon even if the fundamental physical level is governed by determinism. After highlighting an inconsistency in the current version of compatibilist libertarianism, we discuss how one of its essential metaphysical assumptions (in particular: supervenience) can be modified in order to avoid this problem. Finally, we discuss the pros and cons of pushing the position to the limits in this way.

Sergey Levin (Higher School of Economics, St.-Petersburg), title: "Free Will and Illusory Experiences"

Some people believe that science has proven that free will is an illusion. I propose a thought experiment demonstrating that such view leads to an absurd conclusion, that the term 'free will' can no longer be applied differentially to cases where agents control their bodily movements and cases where they do not. The experiment involves a fictional character, Dr. Strangelove, who suffers from alien hand syndrome in his right hand. He asks another fictional character, Mary to return his free will. Mary is a world-renowned neuroscientist, and she thinks that there is no free will, but merely illusion of it, therefore, she intends to return only the latter to him. To do so, she performs brain surgery that leaves intact the causal roots of the alien hand movements nevertheless creates an illusion of control. Even though Strangelove may be happy with the results, a third-party observer would notice that Strangelove has been tricked into believing that he is in control of the movements of his hand. If the difference between the illusion of control of his right hand and the way he controls his left hand can be spotted and it is practically important, then it is misleading to call free will an illusion.

Kenneth Silver (Trinity College Dublin), title: ``Determination from Above''

Abstract: Whereas many in the free will literature have considered how different views of the laws of nature or causation influence the apparent challenges posed by Determinism, I consider how these conversations are impacted by an acceptance or denial of a levels-ontology. In particular, I suggest that while some threats to freedom are naturally understood in terms of our being upwards determined by physics and neuroscience, our freedom can also be threatened by determination from above. I illustrate how historical materialism and other, less ontologically committed theses with sociology and other social sciences present distinctive threats to our freedom. I show that certain incompatibilist arguments are better framed in terms of downward determination, and I defend the possibility of this threat from the charge that appeals to determination from above constitute instances of bad faith.

Time: 16:30-20:00, 10 September 2021 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.005

Maria Sekatskaya  
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Testability and Meaning deco