Sunday, April 15, 2007

Determinism and Free Will

Over on First Things, Robert Miller argues that physical determinism does not imply that people lack free will because people are driven by spiritual forces (i.e. souls) and those forces are not governed by the laws of physics (link). Thus, Miller concludes, whether quantum theory leaves room in the physical universe for free will is irrelevant. Even deterministic physics allows for free will. (This is in contrast to Dr. David Novak's point about Darwinism allowing for free will, mentioned in recent post.) In response, Joseph Bottom points out that this argument doesn't make sense (link):

The central proposition—if the laws of physics are fully deterministic, then human beings often violate those laws—is clearly a hypothetical impossible to fulfill. Human beings may be “not purely physically systems,” but they are at least partially so, and if their physical actions violate the laws of physics, then the laws of physics aren’t fully deterministic.
Perhaps Miller's point is precisely that, absent quantum theory, the laws of physics are fully deterministic except when, and only when, a person interjects with his free will.

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