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The Consequence Argument: An Essay on an Argument for the Incompatibility of Free Will and Determinism
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This book is a contribution to the debate on free will and determinism. More specifically, it is an examination of Peter van Inwagen’s highly influential “Consequence Argument” for incompatibilism, i.e., the thesis that free will is incompatible with determinism.

The Consequence Argument runs as follows: if determinism is true, then all our present acts are the consequences of events in the remote past together with the laws of nature. But since it is not up to us what went on in the past before we were born or what the laws of nature are, the consequences of these things are not up to us. So if determinism is true, then our present acts are not up to us.

A number of philosophers have argued that the Consequence Argument contains some kind of logical fallacy. In the first part of the book (Chapters Two to Four) I consider various specific objections to this effect and explain why they fail. Perhaps more importantly, I also show that there are several versions of the Consequence Argument that are immune to this type of criticism. These versions show that the compatibilist has to accept the thesis that a deterministic agent is sometimes able to perform an act whose occurrence is incompatible with the whole truth about the past and the laws of nature.

In the second part (Chapters Five to Seven), I discuss various ways for the compatibilist to defend the latter thesis. I argue that neither the idea that the laws of nature are up to us nor the idea that the remote past is up to us is as incredible as it appears at first glance. While the discussion does not identify any clear winner, it does identify the price of the respective positions and the considerations that the debate crucially turns on. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University , 2014. , 189 p.
Keyword [en]
consequence argument, free will, determinism, compatibilism, incompatibilism, Peter van Inwagen, ability, laws of nature
National Category
Research subject
Practical Philosophy
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-101050ISBN: 978-91-7447-862-4OAI: diva2:698543
Public defence
2014-03-22, hörsal 7, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10 D, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2014-02-27 Created: 2014-02-24 Last updated: 2014-02-25Bibliographically approved

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