Free Will

Course details

From £205.00
10 CATS points

22 Jan 2019 - 26 Mar 2019
Day of week

Free Will


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 - 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 what the conditions for human autonomy and responsibility may be.

Programme details

Term Starts: 22nd January     

Week 1:          Introduction to the issues

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 contemporary science

Week 9:          Divine foreknowledge

Week 10:        Are we free after all?


Background Reading

Robert Kane., Free Will

Derk Pereboom (ed.)., Free Will

Gary Watson (ed.)., Free Will

Robert Kane (ed.)., Oxford Handbook of Free Will

Peter van Inwagen., Essays on Free Will

Alfred Mele., Free Will and Luck


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 and we will try to ensure that as many titles as possible are available in the Library by the start of each term. 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


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

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

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. 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.


Course fee: £205.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Julia Weckend

Julia has taught philosophy at the Universities of Reading and Southampton before joining the OUDCE as a tutor in 2014.

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 to:

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)