17 February, Richard Swinburne "Varieties of Libertarian Free Will"

On 17 February Professor Richard Swinburne (University of Oxford) will deliver the first of the HPP-IRC "Persons, Mind and Cosmos" seminar series.


Venue: Blackfriars Hall, Aula

Time: 5pm-6:15pm


This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.


Abstract: An agent has libertarian free will, iff they are not caused necessarily to form an intention (that is, to try) to do one action rather than another. Intentional action is causation by an agent, not by some mental event in an agent. In choosing what to do, agents are causally influenced by their desires and their moral beliefs of different strengths, and choose to which to yield. If the desires, beliefs, and intentions are brain states, we have free will of a first kind iff the physical laws by which desires and beliefs influence intentions are probabilistic, not deterministic. If the desires, beliefs, and intentions are mental states, logically distinct from brain states, but causally influenced by them, we have free will of a second kind iff there are probabilistic psychophysical laws governing how desires and beliefs influence intentions. We have free will of a third kind iff the causal influence of desires and beliefs on our intentions is not governed by laws of any kind. The first and second kinds of free will are open to the objection raised by Van Inwagen that it would be a “chance” matter which intention we will form; but the third kind has the difficulty that we would be unable to make ourselves better or worse people. Hence the desirability of a kind of free will intermediate between the second and third kinds.


Richard Swinburne is a Fellow of the British Academy, and was Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at the University of Oxford from 1985 to 2002. He has written a trilogy on the meaning and justification of theism, The Coherence of Theism, The Existence of God, and Faith and Reason, the main points of which are summarised in a short book, Is there a God? He has written a tetralology of books on the meaning and justification of central Christian doctrines, the main points of which are summarized in a short book Was Jesus God? His book Epistemic Justification discusses the criteria which determine how probable some evidence makes some hypothesis He has written in defence of substance dualism, the view that each of us consists of two parts –a body and a soul, especially in his books Mind, Brain, and Free Will , and his most recent book (2019) Are We Bodies or Souls? He has given many lectures in many countries.

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