The first Royal Institute of Philosophy lecture of the new season:

Tuesday 7 October 2008
6:00 PM in the Chancellor’s Building, Room CBA 0.060

Dr. Penelope Mackie
University of Nottingham
Lewis, freedom and the open future

This talk will be about central issues of metaphysics, and philosophy students should definitely not miss it. As Lewis says, his philosophy has met with many ‘incredulous stares’, but few convincing counter-arguments. The talk on Tuesday might be the exception!

EVERYBODY IS WELCOME AND STUDENTS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN BEFORE SHOULD NOTE THAT *FREE WINE* IS SERVED.

Abstract:

What is involved in the conception of the future as ‘open’ in contrast to the past as ‘closed’ or ‘fixed’? And is such a conception in conflict with determinism? In his article ‘Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow’, David Lewis has argued that the asymmetry between fixed past and open future can be captured in terms of an asymmetry of counterfactual dependence that is compatible with determinism. A natural response to Lewis’s proposal is to object that no such asymmetry as the one to which Lewis appeals can be adequate to capture the intuitive notion of the open future that we care about, perhaps in general, or perhaps in connection with human freedom in particular. I shall argue that what I call a ‘weak branching’ conception of the future that is consistent with Lewis’s account does appear to be employed in much of our thinking about future possibilities, and does deserve to be called a conception of the future as open. If it is nevertheless insufficiently robust to capture the notion of the open future that we care about, I suggest that this is for reasons that are largely independent of concerns about human freedom, and which may reflect an instability in our thinking about future possibilities.

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