Free Will and Determinism

Course summary

  • Mon 09 Oct 2017 to Mon 11 Dec 2017
  • 7:00-9:00pm 10 meetings
  • Room 108, Building 22, London Road Campus, University of Reading, RG1 5AQ
  • From £173.00
  • 10 CATS points
  • Course code R17P270PHW
  • +44 (0)1865 280892
  • Course ended

Free Will and Determinism


Questions concerning the level of human freedom are very old, and efforts to solve the problem of free will and determinism have preoccupied many of the greatest minds.

If we are free to do as we like then how do we fit into the causal chain of events, and if we are not then how can we be held morally responsible or be given credit for what we do? We certainly seem to feel free at least to some extent and would be alarmed to lose that sense, but we also know that as humans we are definitely limited to some extent - for example, we cannot fly or live beyond 120 years. We experience ourselves as physical beings constrained by a physical world which is subject to the laws of cause and effect.

Should we consider ourselves as perhaps both, determined in some ways and also genuinely free in other ways? Are freedom and determinism in fact compatible?

In this course we shall search for answers, explore our intuitions, and critically examine the concepts of free will and determinism, and the conditions for human autonomy and responsibility.

Programme details

Term Starts:   9th October    

Week 1:          Introduction

Week 2:          Compatibilism and incompatibilism

Week 3:          Indeterminism and chance

Week 4:          Minds, selves, agents

Week 5:          Actions, reasons, causes

Week 6:          Hard determinism

Week 7:          Alternate possibilities and responsibility

Week 8:          Free will and modern science

Week 9:          Divine foreknowledge

Week 10:        Are we free after all?


Background Reading:

Robert Kane Free Will

Alfred Mele Free: Why Science Hasn't Disproved Free Will

Derk Pereboom (ed.) Free Will

Peter van Inwagen An Essay on Free Will

Gary Watson (ed.) Free Will

E. Jonathan Lowe Personal Agency: The Metaphysics of Mind and Action

If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to do so.


Course Fee: £173.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Julia Weckend

Julia has taught at the Universities of Southampton and Reading before joining the OUDCE in 2014. She has taught a wide range of courses, amongst others on human nature, free will, theory of mind, perception, truth and metaphysics.

Course aims

The aim is to give a balanced and foundational introduction to the problem of free will and related subject matters such as moral responsibility, coercion, compulsion, autonomy, agency, and such.

Course Objectives:

1. to explain and develop some of the central views on free will and determinism

2. to discuss and evaluate some of the solutions on offer 

3. to engage with, examine and extract key information from texts that have shaped the debate on whether we are free, determined, or somehow both perhaps.

Teaching methods

Powerpoint presentations accompanied by handouts leaving plenty of space for questions and discussion. Students will be asked to read a certain amount of chosen literature in preparation for each session.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected:

1. to expand one's  grasp of many of the key conceptions on freedom and determinism

2. to enable students to express and evaluate respective views and philosophial arguments on the possibility of freedom

3. to be able to support with argument one's own views on whether it is reasonable to think that we are free

Assessment methods

Either one essay of 1500 words to be produced at the end of the course, or 3-4 small essays throughout the course, which each will receive written feedback and which count accumulatively.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)