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A Can of Worms


Hoza, William Michael (2016) A Can of Worms. Other, California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z3F4-DW30.


In "The Incompatibility of Free Will and Determinism" [1], Peter van Inwagen argues that if the universe is deterministic, then free will does not exist. (He is silent about whether the universe is in fact deterministic and about whether free will in fact exists.) This is in contrast to the compatibilist position, which holds that free will and determinism are not contradictory. Briefly, van Inwagen's argument is that when an agent with free will performs some action, she (by definition of "free will") could have performed a different action. But in a deterministic universe, acting a different way requires either altering the past or violating the laws of physics. So van Inwagen concludes that the free agent could have either altered the past or violated the laws of physics. Finally, van Inwagen says that it is obvious that nobody can alter the past, and by definition of the phrase "law of physics", nobody can violate the laws of physics either. So our hypothetical free agent in a deterministic universe cannot exist.

Item Type:Thesis (Other)
Subject Keywords:Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize ; Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize - Philosophy ; Hixon Writing Center
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Philosophy
Awards:Frederick J. Zeigler Memorial Award, 2014. Bhansali Prize in Computer Science, 2015. Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize - Philosophy, 2016.
Thesis Availability:Restricted to Caltech community only
Group:Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize, Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize - Philosophy, Hixon Writing Center
Defense Date:2016
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10312016-140806399
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9967
Deposited By: Leslie Rico
Deposited On:02 Nov 2016 16:42
Last Modified:29 Sep 2020 20:36

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