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LSE PhD Student Session: Nicolas Cote & David Kinney

18 October, 5:30 pm7:00 pm

Nicolas Cote (LSE): “Weakness of Will and the Measurement of Freedom”

Abstract: Weakness of will often seems to get in the way of free choice. In a wide range of situations, ranging from serious cases of depression and drug addiction to more mundane cases of weakness of will, it is clear that deficiencies of willpower make certain courses of actions much harder to choose over their alternatives. Yet this volitional challenge that certain options present when weakness of will gets involved has been ignored by most models that have been proposed for measuring the degree of freedom of choice offered by different sets of alternatives. I will argue that this is a serious mistake, as it leads those models to overestimate how much freedom of choice certain sets of alternatives offer, or to judge to be equally free individuals who are anything but. This will demonstrate the need to revise the way in which we measure freedom to include considerations of willpower. I take up this task by proposing a new way of individuating alternatives, as well as four conditions which a rule for measuring degrees of freedom must satisfy in order to generate accurate measures. These four conditions will then be shown to be jointly satisfiable.

David Kinney (LSE): “A Dilemma for Multi-Level Humeans”

Abstract: Special science laws pose a challenge for David Lewis’ Humean “best systems” account of laws of nature. According to Lewis’ account, the laws of nature in a given world are just the set of axioms for deriving facts about that world, where this set of axioms achieves an optimal combination of strength, simplicity and fit compared to other candidate sets.  Cohen and Callender (2009) have argued that if the laws of nature must be formulated using a pre-stipulated vocabulary of “perfectly natural” predicates, then some sets of special science laws will lack the requisite simplicity to be included among the laws of nature. Cohen and Callender’s solution to this problem is to index the notion of lawhood to a particular special science, or “level of description”. I call this view “multi-level Humeanism”. One consequence of multi-level Humeanism is a commitment to chance pluralism, i.e. the view that the same event can have different chances at different levels of description. Using List and Pivato’s (2015) formal account of chance pluralism, I argue that combining a best systems account of lawhood with chance pluralism places the multi-level Humean in a difficult position in cases of Simpson’s Paradox




18 October
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Event Category:




LAK 2.06
Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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