September 28, 2021 - October 2, 2021
University of the Basque Country

Facultad de Educación, Filosofía y Antropología
San Sebastián

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The appearance of the idea of natural necessity, added to the postulate that such necessity is knowable, opened the doors to the discipline of those thinkers that Aristotle called "physicists" (hoi physikoi), which effectively constituted the embryo of Physics. Within it theories emerge that seem to leave some place to chance (as in Democritus), although chance can be interpreted as the absence of finality, rather than as designative of processes that we now call stochastic.

However, the problem of making this need compatible with the requirement that humans could be held responsible for their actions, which means they have freedom of choice, arises. The problem is even accentuated with the idea of a creator God, because then the free action of man implies not only autonomy considering natural condition, but also considering the providence of its creator. From Bocaccio to Spinoza, through Luis de Molina and Descartes, Philosophy has not stopped reflecting on the subject. As for science, it abstracts the problem of free will, concentrating on the elucidation of the laws of mechanics, with an ontological presupposition that finds greater expression in the radical determinism of Laplace.

It is known that a radical break of the scheme arises when quantum physics finds reasons to speak of true chance, of authentically stochastic processes. This leads a scientist like Arthur Stanley Eddington not only to question the determinism he had up to then defended, but to argue that science withdraws its opposition to the idea of free will. An inverse version in Physics is that of the Free Will Theorem, or Theorem of Free Volition, -ideas coming from the minds of the mathematicians John Conway and Simon Kochen- that comes to support: if in the act of arranging the instruments for a certain measurement relative to the spin, the experimenter obeys exclusively to his will (and not to external events or imperatives, of which he may have had information), then the response given by the particle can not be determined by the information it receives from the past; that is, such response is also "free".

The polarity between natural determinism and free will also touches on research that is at the intersection of palaeontology, genetics and linguistics. Does the common matrix of man with other species, reflected in the degree of genetic homology with them, suppress the singular character we attributed to human language, considered as irreducible to the functions of a signal code? And obviously, this matter also emerges when we talk about the possibility that the brain can be moulded to the point that there is no more desire, will and even capacity for elucidation than that which is created from the outside. Some of the concerns that artificial intelligence causes go in this direction: if a human being can create an intelligent machine, why is he/she not going to be able to mould it until that unrecognizable being is already intelligent? But immediately an objection arises: the being that moulds is not a result of such being moulded, that is, the purpose of ending the alleged autonomy of a human being is perhaps the result of a free decision of another human being...

These and other questions will be addressed at the XIV International Ontology Congress, trying to establish the state of the art, with the help of philosophers and scientists, and under the Presidence of Honour of the Nobel Prize in Physics Gerardus ‘t Hooft.


Nevertheless, the issue of determinism can also be raised in other ambits:


Kant established a tripartition within the reason, manifested in the existence of three types of judgments: first, cognitive judgments (in which the eventual agreement between the subjects is based on something objective); second, the moral judgments, based on an imperative inherent in the beings of reason; third, aesthetic judgments, in which the intersubjective agreement transcends the objective. 

It seems quite evident that the artistic task, which gives rise to the judgments of the third type, is a privileged framework to raise the problem of necessity and its eventual overcoming. The very fact that the term "creation" is used in this respect is absolutely significant. The work of a sculptor who works with stone or iron overlaps in part with the work of the artisan, and even with the work of the scientist (good for that sculptor is the rigorous knowledge of the resistance of materials) and yet... the artist does another thing. This does not mean that it is done as a result of conscious will and conscious deliberation. There are many reasons to suspect that rather the conscience comes into play little in the work of creation (what there is, is much thought and effort), being on the contrary omnipresent at the moment of recognition or failure. The fruit of the work of art is perhaps not so much evidence of agency as of emergency in the strong sense, that is, the absence of reduction of what arises from what has already been given. In the debates of this edition of the congress, an attempt will be made to establish the state of the art.

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July 1, 2021, 5:00am CET

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