Philosophy Series, Part 6: Freedom and Freewill

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The philosopher Spinoza confidently declared, “Men are deceived if they think themselves free.” A lot of men have been deceived then, none more so than Samuel Johnson, who refused even to discuss “the perplexed question of fate and free will,” saying “we know our will is free, and there’s an end on’t.”

Philosophy has been trying to determine whether we are free or not, and what it means, since the time of the Greeks. Socrates reasoned that knowledge is freedom, ignorance is bondage. Christian thinkers like Augustine of Hippo worried that Man’s freedom limited God’s power. If God knows all things before they come to pass, how could we be free?

Yet without Free Will, how to deal with Evil in the world? Ethics, the philosophy of right and wrong, would seem to require Free Will. But doesn’t the new science of sociobiology argue that we are puppets on the strands of our DNA? We must somehow choose our notion of free will.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Simon Blackburn, Cambridge University

author of The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy and Think.
Susan Wolf, Chair of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University

author of Freedom Within Reason.