In On Interpretation, Aristotle presents the thought experiment of the sea battle in order to grapple with a logical paradox stemming from his commitment to correspondence in truth and the Law of Excluded Middle on the one hand, and his commitment to potentiality in the future, on the other. Given these commitments, if we are to say that there will be a sea battle tomorrow, then two questions (at least) need to be considered.
This essay will attempt an answer to the following question: If determinism is true, is morality an illusion? In other words, if we take the basic fact of causal necessity – the brute physical explanation that every effect has a cause – as a given, can we justify a belief in moral value and normative judgment in the narrow sense of “good” and “bad”? I will argue that there are good reasons to believe in the reality of both moral judgment and moral value in spite of causal necessity.
The question at hand, is whether or not the will can ever be regarded as free. Taken at face value, the obvious answer would be, “of course”. Most people, as a matter of fact, regard their will as “free”, most of the time. So, yes, it both can be, and is. Even neuroscientists like Benjamin Libet seem to think so.1 But the matter-of-fact interpretation of this question is entirely uninteresting, even as an observation.
I am working on crafting a meaningful answer to the question posed in this heading. But I have decided that the question can’t be answered until two subordinate questions can be answered. The first is “What is The Will”? and the second, “What is Freedom”? I am holding off on the latter question, for now. The following, is a compilation of my collected notes and remarks on the will itself. Hopefully, you’ll find it useful, too.
The following is a dialogue between myself and Artur Schopenhauer, in which I basically try to interrogate the text as if I were talking directly to Schopenhauer, in an interview or discussion. All of Dr. Schopenhauer’s responses below come from the text of his essay, either as direct quotes or as slight rephrasing, in order to fit them into the flow of a conversation. It should be noted that I have not read World As Will And Representation (written before this essay), and that I have only a cursory knowledge of Schopenhauer’s biography.
Expound and assess Schopenhauer’s argument that free will is an illusion. Does he succeed in showing what he calls “relative” freedom is not really enough to constitute free will? Schopenhauer does succeed in logically arguing that what he calls “will” is not “free”, as he conceives the terms “will” and “free”. However, he does not succeed in showing that what we commonly understand to be freedom, is in any way undermined by his conception of the will.