PH 380 - Aspects of the Free Will Debate
The purpose of this course is to introduce one of the oldest and most exciting philosophical problems – the problem of free will and moral responsibility. The topic is complex: it is closely connected to metaphysical questions about causation, determinism, and human agency; has obvious moral significance; and has been challenged by scientific research throughout the centuries. On one hand, the belief in free will seems to be one of our most persistent intuitions about ourselves as moral agents. On the other, it is often treated as an esoteric, unscientific (or outright incoherent) concept, as a remnant of a bygone age. While the course highlights the philosophical answers to the various challenges, its goal is not to defend the concept of free will, but to give the students the necessary means to be able to critically reflect on the philosophical arguments, as well as on the relevant scientific findings. To this end, the first half of the course focuses on the main philosophical positions and aims to clarify the most important terms. In the second half, the goal is to utilize this knowledge and take a stand on related issues. Although the course focuses on the contemporary Analytic discussion of the problem, several historical aspects of it are going to be taken into account, in addition to insights from the Continental tradition, in order to give a diverse and more complete picture about the topic.