(Speakers in alphabetical order; for a timetable please see here.)
1.) Alin Cucu
Title of the talk: Does Energy Conservation Preclude Dualistic Agent Causality?
Abstract: One way to construe agent causality is to view the agent as an immaterial substance endowed with libertarian freedom which acts on the body (or, more specifically, on the brain). Mere
philosophical challenges notwithstanding, some scientific objections have been levelled against
this view, among which the most prominent is the one from energy conservation.
In this paper, I aim to show (1) that the principle of energy conservation (PEC) cannot be used
as an a priori argument against dualistic agent causality; (2) that, rather, PEC constitutes a problem for physicalism because its non-violation requires a complete physical explanation of the pertinent brain events, and finding such an explanation seems doubtful in the light of our current
knowledge; and (3) what would have to be the case in order for an objection from energy
conservation against dualistic agent causality to be successful.
To attain (1), I will first formulate a proper a priori version of the widely shared ‘objection from
energy conservation’ (OEC). Second, I will refute its central premise, namely that energy is
conserved with physical necessity. I then tackle (2) in a twofold way: first, I show from the
neuroscientific literature that, in contrast to widespread physicalist assumptions, there is presently
no evidence that brain events involved in volitional actions (as captured by Libet-style
experiments) have a complete physical explanation (which is required for ensuring energy
conservation); and, second, by canvassing all possible type-versions of a complete physical
explanation of the pertinent brain events, showing that all of them are more or less implausible.
Finally, in addressing (3), I consider how dualists might reply if energy did turn out to be conserved
and construct a scenario that constitutes what physicalists want, namely a successful objection
from energy conservation against dualism.
2.) Barbara Drossel
Title of the talk: ‘How the laws of physics leave room for God’s action’
Abstract: My talk will argue that the laws of physics leave a lot of room for God’s normal, non-miraculous action in the world, such as answering prayers and guiding persons and circumstances. During none of these actions, a law of physics is suspended or violated. The laws of physics are simply not sufficient to determine the course of the world. This is because they are neither complete, nor exact, nor fully deterministic. On the contrary, they are idealizations with a limited range of applicability, and the systems described by them are causally open for top-down influences from higher hierarchical levels within physics (for instance from the classical to the quantum world) and from without physics (for instance from the biological or psychological level), and even from the non-material realm (for instance ideas, goals, rules, and values). This means that even though the laws of physics enable everything, they do not determine everything. At the end of the talk, I will also address the question how central christian miracles, such as the resurrection of Christ, relate to this framework.
3.) Johannes Grössl
Title of the talk: ‘Timeless Reaction – How an Eternal God Reacts to Free Decisions of His Creatures’
Abstract: A timeless God is incapable of interacting with creation – this charge is often stated by proponents of divine temporality. I will demonstrate how eternalism and libertarianism can be made consistent with the view that God interacts with his creatures, for example by answering prayers. To account for divine reaction without postulating temporality in God, I propose to include all divine reactions to any possible event in history as divine contingency plans in the timeless creational decision. Accordingly, the most foundational natural laws should be described as mapping relations of successive world states with possible built-in irregularities.
4.) Christoph Halbig
Title of the talk: ‘Reasons & God’s Discretion’
5.) Lydia Jaeger
Title of the talk: ‘Human liberty between scientific determinism and liberty of creation’
Abstract: Free-will confronts us with a paradox: On the one hand, we experience ourselves of being able (on some occasions) to decide for ourselves which course of action to take. On the other hand, the scientific vision of humans sees them as determined by a set of scientifically describable factors. The present paper examines first the Kantian strategy, and other NOMA-type approaches, to overcome this paradox and finds them wanting. It then argues for radical non-reductionism: each particular science captures a certain dimension, but does not provide a complete description of reality. Even taken together, the natural sciences do not exhaustively describe reality, and therefore cannot exclude free will. According to Steven Horst’s cognitive pluralism, scientific laws describe partial causal contributions. Therefore, however successful any scientific model may be, it cannot preclude the possibility that there are other causal factors at work. Finally, creation is shown to offer a framework which is both coherent and successful in allowing human liberty to find its place in a world described by science. In particular, creation provides key presuppositions underlying the scientific method, while at the same time recognising the multidimensionality of reality and significant human freedom.
6.) Peter Jedlička
Title of the Talk: ‘Neurodeterminism and Free Will’
Abstract: Belief in neurodeterminism is one of the reasons for denial of free will in current neurophilosophy. In my talk, I will be arguing that neurodeterministic view of the brain as a complex machine is challenged by novel findings in neurobiology and in the rising field of quantum biology. First, I will define neurodeterminism and then briefly describe the consequence argument of Christoph Jäger for the incompatibility of moral responsibility and determinism. Next, I will argue that the existence of probabilistic processes in the human brain is necessary for freedom of will and moral responsibility. In this context, I will discuss the hypotheses and available evidence for such probabilistic mechanisms including the quantum brain hypothesis. After describing two major arguments against the quantum brain hypothesis I will provide two counter-arguments supporting the view that quantum events may play a nontrivial role in the nervous system. I will argue that the brain is a nonlinear complex system, in which nanoscopic quantum fluctuations may be amplified and thereby influence its activity.
7.) Timothy McGrew
Title of the talk: ‘The Formal Epistemology of Testimony: Beyond Hume and Earman’
Abstract: Recent work on the epistemology of testimony concerning miracles has focused on the cogency of the Babbage/Holder/Earman critique of Hume’s famous argument in his essay “Of Miracles.” Working within a Bayesian framework, this paper extends that discussion in three directions: it argues that the standard Humean reason for assigning a low prior probability to a miracle is untenable, it points out an unresolved issue with Arif Ahmed’s criticism of the Babbage/Holder/Earman argument, and it places the question of testimonial evidence in a wider context of richer evidential considerations.
8.) Uwe Meixner
Title of the talk: ‘Miracles With and Without Free Will – Free Will Without and With Miracles’
Abstract: This paper argues for a particular concept of miracle and for a particular concept of free will, contrasting them with other such concepts. On the basis of the favored concepts, it argues (1) that, rationally, it is an open question whether there are miracles, and (2) that it is not unreasonable to suppose that there is free will. Finally, the paper explores the logical relationship between the favored concept of free will and the favored concept of miracle. It is seen that a hyperbolic concept of free will is needed if it is to be logically possible that the result of an actuation of free will is a miracle. However, also in keeping with the favored, non-hyperbolic concept of free will some actual events, though far from miracles, may plausibly be regarded as results of divine free action.
9.) Timothy O’Connor
Title of the talk: ‘How Do We Know That We Are Free?’
Abstract: We human beings are naturally disposed to believe of ourselves and others that we are free: that what we do is often and to a considerable extent ‘up to us’ via the exercise of a power of choice to do or to refrain from doing one or more alternatives of which we are aware. In what follows, I will probe the source and epistemic justification of our ‘freedom belief’ and propose an account that does not lean heavily on our first-personal experience of choice and action. I will then consider possible replies available to incompatibilists to the contention made by some compatibilists that the ‘privileged’ epistemic status of freedom belief (which my account endorses) supports a minimalist, and therefore compatibilist view of the nature of freedom itself.
10.) Dietmar von der Pfordten
Title of the talk: ‘Freedom as partial, inherent, higher mental, relative non-necessity’
Abstract: Freedom seems to be linked first and foremost to modalities. However, how? My main thesis will be that freedom should be best understood as non-necessity. Non-necessity can be not only possibility but also reality. Additional qualifications are: relative, partial, inherent and higher mental non-necessity. I will explain all these additional qualifications. In a second part I will draw conclusions for that element of our mental process, which we call “willing”. In a third part I will ask if Gods actions are free and what the consequences for his creation are.
11.) Thomas Pink
Title of the talk: ‘Reason – human and divine: the Jesuits on motivation’
Abstract: It is often supposed that to be rational is to be susceptible being moved by reason. But what does being moved by reason involve? Francisco Suarez and other Jesuits of the early seventeenth century argued that human rationality, as rationality in created form, involved subjection to various kinds of normative power – the power of truth or goodness to move us, the power of goodness being understood in terms of Aristotelian final causation. Normative power was vital to Jesuit ethical and political theory, and was fundamental to their theory of nature and grace – and it met with the skeptical opposition of Thomas Hobbes, who initiated a modern project of understanding ethical and political theory without a metaphysics of directive reason. The paper examines these Jesuit theories of reason and the consequences of their rejection for later philosophy.
12.) Josef Seifert
Title of the talk: ‘Do Divine Attributes and Actions Render Possible and Foster Human Free Will or Destroy it?’
Abstract: There are no doubt actions that have been attributed to God that would render impossible or destroy human free will: Thus Calvin and other reformers have taught a kind of pre-determination of all human acts or of making some persons good, others evil, pre-determining some for eternal beatitude, others for damnation in such a way that they could not act differently nor be different, nor avoid hell. If God in such a way determined and predetermined men and angels, obviously human free will would be denied or destroyed. Plus, God, being responsible for all evils in the world, would Himself be evil, a super-demon.
My paper will consider, however, mainly other divine attributes and actions which are not just alleged of God but are true divine attributes and divine acts that are conditions of human free will, but have been considered by some obstacles to it. For example divine omnipotence and creation of man from nothing have been considered by some atheists and by some theist philosophers incompatible with human free will. For if God creates our whole being from nothing and everything in us depends on His omnipotent will, how can we be free?
My paper shows that the creative action of an omnipotent free being is the condition of human free will. No finite human or angelic power could cause a free being. Moreover, not all types of causing are necessitating their effect: a causa fatalis is distinct from a causa non fatalis. God can create a free being precisely and only because He is omnipotent.
Others claim that if God is omniscient, the act of His foreknowledge of future human free acts would eliminate free will because it would be necessary that everything will happen just as He foresaw it. Moreover, God’s omniscience is thought to be incompatible with future human free acts because these are absolutely unknowable. If they are foreknown, they are not free.
Some replies: The necessity that everything God foreknows will happen is a kind of necessity that is not incompatible with human free will because it foreknows the free acts as what they are: free acts, not acts being caused and determined by divine will or knowledge.
To deny God’s foreknowledge of future free acts contradicts essential divine attributes and actions: God’s eternity, His perfection, and His providential will.
In conclusion, some distinctions between different kinds of causes and different kinds of necessity help to refute the claim that certain divine attributes and actions are incompatible with human free will or that one has to conceive of God as partly impotent and lacking knowledge in order to save human free will.
13.) Richard Swinburne
Title of the talk: ‘Phenomenological evidence of libertarian free will’
Abstract: There is psychological evidence that it seems to most people that when they make choices to perform intentional actions of certain kinds, no causes totally determine how they will choose. By the principle of credulity that things are probably as they seem to be in the absence of counter-evidence, that makes it probable that humans have libertarian free will -in the absence of any contrary evidence from neuroscience. Objectors claim that it is evident that many different causes of which we are ignorant influence our choices. But in our choices of intentional actions, causes influence us only by affecting the strengths of our different desires, and we are able to judge by introspection the strengths of different desires and to recognise that we can sometimes act contrary to our strongest desire. Van Inwagen’s “rollback argument” against libertarian free will fails, because it unjustifiably assumes that the chance of each indeterministic choice has a particular numerical value. But indeterminism does not entail fixed numerical chances; and the desires which influence our choices, being conscious events, do not have particular numerical degrees of strength.
14.) Daniel von Wachter
Title of the talk: ‘Agents Can Initiate Causal Processes’
Abstract: Starting from some features of the phenomenology of action, this talk will spell out how agents can initiate causal processes. Some theories of agent causation take it to be sufficient for free will that the action has no sufficient preceding cause. But we only have the control over our actions that we seem to have if we can bring about events that have no preceding cause. This does not require the existence of probabilistic processes.