Freewill, Determinism, and the Question of our Place in Time


24/04/2023 (Monday)

8.00 - 9.30 pm

The Adelaide

A Talk by Jim Grant

Causal determinism implies (a) that everything we decide and everything we do is determined by our total state prior to the decision or action, and also (b) that that prior state is determined by our total state before that, and so on back ad infinitum. Therefore, it is argued, there is no room in our lives for genuinely free, undetermined choice or action.
However, at the level of linguistic meaning, it seems that what we say later can determine the meaning of what we said earlier. It also seems that something similar applies to thought and feeling – that what we do or say at a later point can clarify, determine what we thought or felt earlier.
I will examine this phenomenon, consider whether it involves the deeply problematic claim that the future can change the past, and also explore the possibility that it poses a challenge to the determinist assumption that a person is always in a definite, determinate state prior to choice or action.
Finally, I want to ask what all this might imply about the way we conceive ourselves in relation to time and the causal order.