It seems we are physical organisms entirely in the grip of the laws of nature, so that someone sufficiently knowledgeable of how things stand before our birth could, in principle, predict with complete accuracy everything we will ever say. But then, in what sense, if any, can we still be ‘free’? Surely we are no more free than a falling rock, or a planet circling the sun, for what we say and do is determined by the very same laws. Those who argue that freewill is actually compatible with the truth of determinism often argue that freewill sceptics have misunderstood what ‘free action’ really means. But is that true?
After setting out the prominent versions of the main positions on freewill – libertarianism, compatibilism and freewill scepticism – and outlining the main arguments, we will then explore in more detail issues in the metaphysics of freewill, focusing particularly on the research of Prof. Helen Steward and her book A Metaphysics for Freedom. The day also considers whether animals can be said to possess freewill.