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Front. Phys. | doi: 10.3389/fphy.2017.00064

Can Physics Make Us Free?

  • 1Department of Philosophy, King's College London, United Kingdom
  • 2Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Finland

A thoroughly physical view on reality and our common sense view on agency and free will seem to be in a direct conflict with each other: if everything that happens is determined by prior physical events, so too are all our actions and conscious decisions; you actually have no choice but to do what you are destined to do. Although this way of thinking has intuitive appeal, and a long history, it has recently began to gain critical attention. A number of arguments have been raised in defence of the idea that our will could be genuinely free even if the universe is governed by deterministic laws of physics. Determinism and free will have been argued to be compatible before, of course, but these recent arguments seem to take a new step in that they are relying on a more profound and concrete view on the central elements of the issue, the fundamental laws of physics and the nature of causal explanation in particular. The basic idea of this approach is reviewed in here, and it is shown how a careful analysis of physics and causal explanation can indeed enhance our understanding of the issue. Although it cannot be concluded that the problem of free will would now be completely solved (or dissolved), it is clear that these recent developments can bring significant advancement to the debate.

Keywords: causation, compatibilism, determinism, Fatalism; Free will, Incompatibilism, indeterminism, Laws of Nature, mental causation, Naturalism, Reductionism

Received: 06 Jun 2017; Accepted: 20 Nov 2017.

Edited by:

Alex Hansen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Reviewed by:

Lamberto Rondoni, Politecnico di Torino, Italy
Eirik G. Flekkøy, Univeristy of Oslo, Norway  

Copyright: © 2017 Pernu. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Tuomas K. Pernu, King's College London, Department of Philosophy, London, United Kingdom, tuomas.pernu@helsinki.fi