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Vihvelin
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Causation requires (at least the possibility of) contingent counterfactual dependence between events at different times. Contingent counterfactual dependence requires logically irreversible laws connecting those events. But logically irreversible laws only give you contingent counterfactual dependence in one direction. Thus, contingent counterfactual dependence between events is temporally asymmetric. Our actual laws are logically irreversible. Thus, causation is temporally asymmetric. Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Vihvelin.com
Causation is defined as a relation between facts: C causes E if and only if C and E are nomologically independent facts and C is a necessary part of a nomologically sufficient condition for E. The analysis is applied to problems of overdetermination, preemption, trumping, intransitivity, switching, and double prevention. Preventing and allowing are defined and distinguished from causing. The analysis explains the direction of causation in terms of the logical form of dynamic laws. Even in a universe that is deterministic in both temporal directions, not every fact must have a cause and present facts may have no future causes. Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2021 at Vihvelin.com
Causation is defined as a relation between facts: C causes E if and only if C and E are nomologically independent facts and C is a necessary part of a nomologically sufficient condition for E. The analysis is applied to problems of overdetermination, preemption, trumping, intransitivity, switching, and double prevention. Preventing and allowing are defined and distinguished from causing. The analysis explains the direction of causation in terms of the logical form of dynamic laws. Even in a universe that is deterministic in both temporal directions, not every fact must have a cause and present facts may have no future causes. Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2020 at Vihvelin.com
I have argued that even if time travel is logically possible, there are some things a time traveler would not be able to do.; I reply here to critics who have argued that my account entails fatalism about the past or entails that the time traveler is unfree or that she is bound by “strange shackles.” My argument does not entail any sort of fatalism. The time traveler is able to do many of the things that everyone else can do and is as free as any non-time traveler. The time traveler is constrained only as we all are by the laws of nature. My argument shows only how strangely those constraints must operate if those laws permit time travel Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2019 at Vihvelin.com
We think that what happens in the future depends upon what happens now in a way the past does not. Lewis attempted to explain this as in terms of the temporal asymmetry of counterfactual dependence. On Lewis theory, counterfactuals describe worlds with pasts like ours save a miracle-- a violation of our laws-- has made the antecedent true. At our world, he says, the future overdetermined the past. This makes for an "asymmetry of miracles" which explains the counterfactual asymmetry. But Lewis's account fails. His account of counterfactuals is circular and his explanation of asymmetry self-contradictory. Jonathan Bennett's Simple Theory of counterfactuals does not involve miracles: it supposes counterfactuals describe worlds where the antecedent comes about as a result of differences in the past. Because it roots counterfactuals in laws, Bennett's theory allows us to explain temporal asymmetries as the result of the logical irreversibility of natural laws. Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2017 at Vihvelin.com
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... there is widespread confusion about what ‘determinism’ means. Certainly the standard textbook definitions are wrong. Wrong in the way that definitions are wrong: they don't capture what anyone really means by the term. Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2016 at Vihvelin.com
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with Terrance Tomkow Consider this possible world. w1 It’s a world in which signals appear at the left at time t1 and emerge on the right at t2. The dark circles indicate the presence of a signal; an empty circle, the absence. w1 is a very simple world. It is governed by one simple law. (L1) It is nomologically necessary that: (A and B) ≡ C We can describe its workings with a simple truth table using T or F to indicate the presence or absence of a signal. The rows represent all the combinations of events that the Law... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2015 at Vihvelin.com
The Dispositional Compatibilist provides a further, positive argument for commonsense compatibilism by showing how our commonsense beliefs about free will are compatible with our beliefs about the natural world and our place in it, in a way that is not contingent on the falsity of determinism Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2015 at Vihvelin.com
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We've got free will. I'm able to raise my arm -- I just did. Now I'm not doing it. But I'm still able to do it. And it isn't just true that I'm able to raise my arm even when I'm not raising it; it's also true that I'm able to choose to raise my arm even when I'm not choosing to do it. And the same goes for lots and lots of other things that we don't do but can do. We are able to do much more than we actually do. We have unexercised abilities, unexercised powers of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2014 at Vihvelin.com
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Dan Dennett reviews Alfred Mele’s new book Free: Why Science Hasn't Disproved Free Will in October’s Prospect magazine. In the book Mele sets himself the task of explaining in terms accessible to everyone why recent highly publicized discoveries in neuroscience and psychology do not show, as some have claimed that "free will is an illusion". Dennett thinks Mele accomplishes his goal. As Dennett notes, it is an important part of Mele's strategy to demonstrate that one need not take sides on the grand philosophical debate about free will to understand why the scientific "dis-proofs" are bunk. The grand philosophical debate... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2014 at Vihvelin.com
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On p. 162 of Causation: A User's Guide, Paul and Hall present a neuron diagram which they call a 'black-box case' and use it to argue that it refutes Lewis's Influence account and also teaches important lessons about causation. (The lessons: Don't jump to conclusions about causation until you know there are no further facts about internal causal structure. Don't assume that what is presented as a case of trumping is what it claims to be, rather than a case of overdetermination.) I don't dispute their second claim; I think they are right to challenge the assumption that the "trumped"... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2014 at Vihvelin.com
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ABSTRACT: Some philosophers who defend the claim that there is a morally significant difference between killing and letting die (doing and allowing harm) rest their arguments on a controversial claim in the metaphysics of causation: that omissions cannot be causes. Not wanting to let our moral theory be thus hostage to metaphysics, Tomkow and I defended an account of "the Dif" which does not assume this. We did not deny that when Baker stands by, twiddling his thumbs while a child drowns, his failure to save the child may be an action, an event, and a cause of the drowning.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2014 at Vihvelin.com
I was recently asked, by Sofia Bonicalzi, to answer seven questions about free will and moral responsibility as part of a forthcoming special issue of a new online philosophy journal, Methòde . She has invited 29 philosophers to share their views, so it should be quite interesting! The issue will be published in October; my answers to the questions can be found below. 1. Much of the recent discussion concerning the problem of free will has been centered on the compatibilism/incompatibilism dichotomy. Do you think the central role attributed to this dichotomy is well deserved? If so, which of the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2013 at Vihvelin.com
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The impulses that tempt us to think that determinism robs us of free will are mistakes -- mistakes about the metaphysics of causation, mistakes about the nature of laws, and mistakes about the logic of counterfactuals. Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2012 at Vihvelin.com
David, thanks for your comment. I think the case of the perfect prophet is different from time travel. I agree that the person who tries, unsuccessfully, to refute his laundry list predictions may be justified in believing, not only the indicative but also the counterfactual. But this doesn't show that the counterfactual is true, nor does it show that we, who know better, are justified in believing that the counterfactual is true. I've written about this in a book I've just finished writing about the free will/determinism problem and I will do a post on it soon.
Toggle Commented Oct 9, 2011 on Time Travel: Horwich vs. Sider at Vihvelin.com
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... confusing counterfactual with indicative conditionals can muddle our thinking about time travel. In this post I offer, as a case in point, Ted Sider’s criticisms of Paul Horwich and me. Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2011 at Vihvelin.com
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My argument is that a Time Traveler cannot kill her baby self, even if she travels back in time, heavily armed and finds her baby-self undefended, right in front of her, even if, that is anyone else similarly armed in the same position could kill the baby. Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2011 at Vihvelin.com
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1) No one can do something (i.e. has the ability to do that thing) if it is always true that: if they tried to do it they would fail. 2)It is always true of Suzy, the Time traveller, that if she had tried to kill herself as a baby, she would fail. Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2011 at Vihvelin.com
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I defend my argument that the Time Traveller cannot kill her baby self I want to explain why it wouldn't matter -- so far as the possibility of time travel is concerned -- if I turned out to be guilty, as charged, of fatalism. Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2011 at Vihvelin.com
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There are two different objections to time travel that are not always distinguished (or not distinguished carefully enough). I call these objections the 'Changing the Past' objection and the 'Freedom Contradiction' objection. Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2011 at Vihvelin.com
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I'm interested in the philosophically interesting kind of time travel, by which I mean time travel to the one and only actual past, and, in particular, to your past, to the time when your parents were children, or to the time when you were a baby. Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2011 at Vihvelin.com
Hi Cihan, Thanks for reading! I have five (or maybe even six) more blog posts on this topic coming up. Stay posted!
Frankfurt noted that all parties to the traditional debate about the compatibility of free will and moral responsibility with determinism had subscribed to a common assumption. They had assumed the truth of something Frankfurt called “the Principle of Alternate Possibilities”, which he expressed as follows: (PAP) A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. In the traditional debate incompatibilists had argued that if determinism is true, then no one could ever have done otherwise, while compatibilists argued that there is a morally relevant sense in which even a deterministic agent could... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2010 at Vihvelin.com
Why does it matter whether we have free will? Common sense and tradition say that it matters because free will is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition of having the kinds of choices that we care about. Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2010 at Vihvelin.com
Thanks to all who attended the Pacific APA session on “Classic Compatibilism” with myself, Bernard Berofsky, Randy Clarke, and Al Mele, and thanks especially to Joe Campbell for organizing and chairing. As always at these things, there wasn’t enough time so I thought I’d use the blogosphere to round out... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2010 at Flickers of Freedom