24.211 Metaphysics: Free Will

This is the web page for 24.211 Metaphysics given by Richard Holton at MIT Fall 2004. This page provides links to papers and other texts that will be useful. It will also provide pdf versions of the handouts and assignments. If you have suggestions for things that might be posted here, please let me know by emailing me at holton@mit.edu

NB: Links to articles here are mainly provided through the JSTOR database. To get them you will need to use a machine that is licenced to access that database. Any machine that is operating through an MIT server, or has MIT certificates, should work. It turns out though that MIT has configured access to JSTOR so that it has to go through VERA; accessing JSTOR directly on an MIT machine won’t work. So I’ve provided two links for each JSTOR article: the first one for MIT people; the second the standard stable JSTOR url for anyone from outside MIT who might be using this page, and who has JSTOR access. MIT people having problems can access JSTOR on http://libraries.mit.edu/get/jstor.


Course outline and information sheet in pdf


I have ordered four books for the Coop:

Of these, only the Watson, which is a recent collection of key papers, is really essential to start with. The Fischer and Ravizza provides a number of additional papers that might be interesting; but I wouldn’t advise buying it straightaway unless you are very keen. The Dennett and Wegner books raise various issues about the bearing of empirical work; we’ll be discussing this towards the end of the course.

In addition I have put a number of other books on reserve:


Assignment One

Assignment Two

Handouts and Readings

Week One

Wednesday September 8: Introductory session

Week Two

Monday September 13: The Classical Compatibilist account [Handout]

Nagel, ‘Freedom’ (in Watson) Hobbes Leviathan Ch. XXI

Wednesday September 15: Refining the Consequence Argument and ‘Could have done otherwise’ [Handout]

Watson’s introduction to his Freewill pp. 1-4 As much as you feel you can read of van Inwagen, ‘An Argument for Incompatibilism’ in Watson Notes on modal logic and counterfactuals

Week Three

Monday September 20: Denying Closure of unavoidability [Handout]

Michael Slote ‘Selective Necessity and the Free-Will Problem’ Journal of Philosophy 79 (1982) [JSTOR from outside MIT]

Wednesday September 22: Lewis on law breaking

David Lewis, ‘Are we free to break the laws?’ in Watson For background on this have a look at his ‘Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow’ Nous 13 (1979) 455-76 [JSTOR from outside MIT]

Week Four

Monday September 27: Modal Metaphysics [Handout]

Robert Stalnaker ‘Possible Worlds’ Nous 10, 1976 [JSTOR from outside MIT] Additional Reading: Gideon Rosen, ‘Modal Fictionalism’ Mind 1990 JSTOR from outside MIT

Wednesday September 29: More Modal Metaphysics

Lewis’s footnote on impossible worlds

Week Five

Monday October 4: Libertarianism I [Handout]

Randolph Clarke ‘Toward a Credible Agent-Causal Account of Free Will’ Nous 27 (1993)

Wednesday October 6: Libertarianism II [Handout]

Robert Kane ‘Two Kinds of Incompatibilism’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50 (1989)

Week Six

Monday October 11: Columbus Day Holiday Wednesday October 13: Time travel

Robert Heinlein ‘By His Bootstraps’ David Lewis ‘The Paradoxes of Time Travel’ American Philosophical Quarterly, 13 (1976) 145-52.

Week Seven

Monday October 18: Frankfurt on Alternate Possibilities [Handout]

Harry Frankfurt Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility

Locke’s anticipation of Frankfurt occurs in his _Essay Concerning Human Understanding_, Book II, Chapter XXI, Section 10

Wednesday October 19: Reactions to Frankfurt

Week Eight

Monday October 25 Strawson [Handout]

‘Freedom and Resentment’ reprinted in Watson (ed.) Freewill

Wednesday October 27 Reactions to Strawson [Handout]

Gary Watson ‘Responsibility and the Limits of Evil: Variations on a Strawsonian Theme’ in Fischer and Ravizza Susan Wolf, ‘The Importance of Freewill’ Mind 90 (1981)

Week Nine

Monday November 1: Frankfurt’s Higher Order account [Handout]

Harry Frankfurt Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person Journal of Philosophy 68 (1971)

Wednesday November 3: Reactions to Frankfurt

Gary Watson ‘Free Action and Free Will’, Mind 96 (1987)

Week Ten

Monday November 8: Reason Responsiveness; Wolf [Handout]

Wolf, ‘Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility’, in Watson

Wednesday November 10:Choosing; intentions; weakness of will

Richard Holton, “Intention and Weakness of Will”

Week Eleven

Monday November 15: Choice and Freedom [Handout]

Wednesday November 17: Choice and knowledge [Handout]

David Velleman, Chapter Five of Practical Rationality

Week Twelve

Monday November 22: Empirical work: Social psychology I [Handout]

Wegner and Wheatley ‘Apparent Mental Causation’ American Psychologist 1999 Wegner, The Illusion of Conscious Will esp. Chs 1 - 3

Wednesday November 24: No Class

Week Thirteen

Monday November 29: Empirical work: Social Psychology II [Handout]

Dancy Arguments From Illusion, Philosophical Quarterly 1995 Alex Byrne, “Some Like It HOT: consciousness and higher-order thoughts”

Wednesday December 1: Addiction [Handout]

Gideon Yaffe, Recent Work on Addiction and Responsible Agency Philosophy and Public Affairs 30 (2002)

Robinson, T.E. & Berridge, K.C. Addiction. Annual Review of Psychology, v. 54, pp. 25-53, 2003

Berridge and Robinson ‘The Mind of an Addicted BrainCurrent Directions in Psychological Science 4(3) (1995)G. Watson, ‘Excusing AddictionLaw and Philosophy 1999