Course Offerings


Freedom and Determinism

Is freedom an illusion?  What are the consequences for our self- and social-understanding if we are only determined and driven by necessity?  These questions take us to the core of what it means to be(come) human.  They are neither quickly nor easily answerable because of their connection to every aspect of our living and because freedom and determinism elude empirical proof or disproof.  In the course of our deliberations, we will need to clarify the concepts themselves.  What is freedom, and what kind of determinism are we concerned with?  Complicating our discussion is that neither freedom nor determinism themselves are anything that we can directly touch, taste, smell, hear, or see.  The circumstances of our experience of freedom and determinism are perceptible (to a degree) in the senses, but we can only come to an indirect understanding of freedom and determinism themselves through our experience of perceptible circumstances because they refer to causes, not effects.  The conclusion with respect to freedom and determinism, then, has something basic to do with our understanding of causality.  What are the causes of our actions?  This is why the issues here touch on every aspect of our lives from the natural sciences, to personal decision making, to religion.

Douglas McGaughey

Course taught by

Douglas McGaughey