Pizhūhish/hā-yi Falsafī- Kalāmī (Sep 2021)

Libertarian Free Will, Naturalism, and Science

  • Stewart Goetz

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 23, no. 3
pp. 157 – 172


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If we have libertarian free will, then it is plausible to believe that the occurrences of certain physical events have irreducible and ineliminable mental explanations. According to a strong version of (metaphysical) naturalism, everything in the physical world is in principle explicable in nonmental terms. Therefore, the truth of naturalism implies that libertarian choices cannot explain the occurrences of any physical events. In this paper, I example a methodological argument for the truth of naturalism and conclude that the argument fails. I then consider additional concerns raised against the reality of libertarian freedom. First, I examine the claim that if a physical event E is not causally determined to occur by another physical event, then there is no way to account for the difference between E’s occurring randomly and E’s being causally determined to occur by a mental event. Second, I consider the assertion that the affirmation of libertarianism is a mind-of-the-gaps version of the God-of-the-gaps objection to a divine explanation of a physical event. Third, I take up the question of whether the inability of libertarians (or anyone else) to pinpoint precisely where the initial physical effects of libertarian choices occur is a good reason for rejecting libertarianism. Fourth, I examine the claim that belief in the existence of the soul or immaterial mind is the result of an explanatory hypothesis to account for how libertarian free choices can causally produce physical effects. Fifth, I look at the traditional objection to substance dualism from the impossibility of causal interaction between a soul and its body.