The Ockham Society (Thursday - Week 3, HT22)

Ockham Society

There is a famous remark by Spinoza: “experience itself, no less than reason, teaches that men believe themselves free because they are conscious of their own actions, and ignorant of the causes by which they are determined”. 
Although Spinoza doesn’t draw this conclusion explicitly, many who followed him concluded that men (and women) are not free and free will is an illusion that stems from ignorance. This conclusion doesn’t follow directly from Spinoza’s remark. We need to couple his remark with a seemingly innocent principle which I will term ‘The Privilege of Knowledge’ principle (PK). It is something of the sort: 
If when one has full knowledge of the causal order and unlimited cognitive ability one does not believe p, then not-p.
Both compatibilists and libertarians seem to accept this principle without too much attention and to deny Spinoza’s remark. I will take a different path and deny PK, by looking at values that are partially constituted by ignorance (e.g., a good question, a good card game), and examine what’s the implications for the free will debate. This is uncharted territory, and I’m not fully convinced in anything. Hopefully, you could help me make up my mind.

Ockham Society Convenors: Lara Scheibli and Kimon Sourlas - Kotzamanis | Ockham Society Website