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Re: [socratescafe-119] New Meetup: Socrates Cafe December Meetup

From: user 9.
Sent on: Saturday, December 12, 2009 12:34 PM
See you there. Dave E.

-----Original Message-----
From: Andy <[address removed]>
Sent: Dec 10,[masked]:43 PM
To: [address removed]
Subject: [socratescafe-119] New Meetup: Socrates Cafe December Meetup

Announcing a new Meetup for Socrates Cafe!

What: Socrates Cafe December Meetup

When: December 19,[masked]:30 AM

Panera Bread
2535 N Kansas Expy
Springfield, MO 65803

We decided at the end of our last Meetup that, at our next Meetup, we'd consider the timeworn question whether human beings are free (in a metaphysical, not political, sense). In philosophical debates, freedom is usually considered in tandem with the question whether determinism is true. Determinism is the thesis that every state of the universe is determined by the prior state of the universe in conjunction with the laws of nature. If determinism is true, then there is only one possible future. You may think you could have either waffles or pancakes for breakfast tomorrow, but that's an illusion if determinism is true. The denial of determinism, indeterminism, is just the thesis that not every state of the universe is determined. The position that nothing is determined would be a kind of indeterminism, but no serious thinker has held that view. If no states of the universe were determined by prior states of the universe in accordance with the laws of nature, the universe would be utterly chaotic.

There are four basic possible views on freedom and determinism, depending on whether one accepts that determinism is true and that humans are free:

1. Determinism is true; humans are free. This position is called "Soft Determinism." It may seem like an incoherent position to you, but it has a distinguished philosophical pedigree. How could a human being be free if everything she does is determined? We could say that she's free when, and only when, she's able to do as she wills to do. She's free to go for a walk in the park if, should she will to do so, she would be able to do so. She lacks freedom to go for a walk in the park if, should she will to do so, she would be unable to do so (for example, because she's behind bars).

2. Determinism is true; humans are not free. This position is called "Hard Determinism." The Hard Determinist thinks that freedom and determinism are incompatible. Since the Hard Determinism accepts Determinism, he denies that anyone is free.

3. Determinism is false; humans are free. This position is called "Libertarianism." (It's metaphysical Libertarianism, which is distinct from political Libertarianism.) The Libertarian believes that some human actions are free and that they can be free only if they are not determined.

4. Determinism is false; humans are not free. This position doesn't really have an established label, because it has not been a historically popular position. But we might call it "Hard Indeterminism." The typical Hard Determinist believes that every event is either determined or random, and that either way there is no room for freedom.

Discussions of freedom and determinism often shade into discussions of responsibility (and I would not object at all if our discussion were to do so). Is it fair to hold people responsible for their actions, to punish them, if their actions are determined?

Hope to see you at next Saturday's Meetup!

Yours in Socrates,

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