Free Will and Methodology

June 6, 2019 - June 7, 2019
Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven, Belgium

Kardinaal Mercierplein 2
Leuven 3000

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

Keynote speakers:

London School of Economics
University of California, San Diego
University of British Columbia
University of Southern California


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The main focus of this conference is to systematically investigate the free will problem(s) from a methodological perspective. Three research questions lie at the heart of the contemporary debate on free will and moral responsibility.  First, it investigates whether free will (or moral responsibility) is compatible with determinism.  Compatibilists answer ‘yes’; incompatibilists answer ‘no’.  Second, there is a debate as to whether the ability to do otherwise is necessary for moral responsibility.  This discussion centers primarily around the so-called Frankfurt-type examples.  Third, philosophers investigate the nature of moral responsibility and aim to develop theories that capture the nontrivial conditions for being morally responsible.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in methodological questions concerning the nature of metaphysics and its proper methods. Given that the free will problem is often characterized as a metaphysical problem, the debate between deflationists (who argue that metaphysical debates are not substantial) and hard metaphysicians (who argue that metaphysical debates are substantial) seems directly relevant.  Next to this, the metaphilosophical literature on the role of intuitions, ordinary language and thought-experiments promises to shed light on and can perhaps offer help in overcoming some impasses in the literature.  Of course, not only philosophers in the free will debate may benefit from such metaphilospohical reflections; the free will problems may also enhance our understanding of the nature of a philosophical problem in general. The aim of this conference is to try to bring these two debates closer together in the hope that considerations and ideas found in one area of debate can be illuminating in the other debate and vice versa.

There are a variety of important questions that are to be addressed: is the free will problem a metaphysical problem, and if so, does it amount to a substantial problem?  What is the role of conceptual analysis in contemporary discussions on free will and moral responsibility?  What is the role of thought experiments in the debate on Frankfurt-type examples?  Should discussions of moral responsibility be more historically orientated?  Is there a difference between an investigation into the nature of moral responsibility and the concept of moral responsibility?  What is the role of intuitions in these debates?  Is the philosopher’s task merely to describe our ordinary responsibility practices or should she offer revisions as well?  What can literature teach us about philosophical investigations about obligation, punishment and responsibility?

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May 15, 2019, 9:00am CET

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