'...determinism seems to pose to human free agency. It is hard to see how, if the state of the world 1000 years ago fixes everything I do during my life, I can meaningfully say that I am a free agent, the author of my own actions, which I could have freely chosen to perform differently. After all, I have neither the power to change the laws of nature, nor to change the past! So in what sense can I attribute freedom of choice to myself? Philosophers have not lacked ingenuity in devising answers to this question. There is a long tradition of compatibilists arguing that freedom is fully compatible with physical determinism. Hume went so far as to argue that determinism is a necessary condition for freedom—or at least, he argued that some causality principle along the lines of “same cause, same effect” is required. There have been equally numerous and vigorous responses by those who are not convinced. Can a clear understanding of what determinism is, and how it tends to succeed or fail in real physical theories, shed any light on the controversy?'
Sarah Kliff on the Big Questions
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