Free Will in the Block Universe

Carl Hoefer has argued that determinism in block universes does not privilege any particular time slice as the fundamental determiner of other time slices. He concludes from this that our actions are free, insofar as they are pieces of time slices we may legitimately regard as fundamental determiners. However, I argue that Hoefer does not adequately deal with certain remaining problems. For one, there remain pervasive asymmetries in causation and the macroscopic efficacy of our actions. I suggest that what Hoefer may have shown us is that causation, not determinism, was the threat to free will all along. Additionally, Hoefer might avoid the problem of the asymmetry of macroscopic efficacy by noting we have a very small region of space-time completely determined by our choices. However, this move implies our freedom to act is freedom to do very little, given that the region is trivial. I suggest that Hoefer should instead claim that we do have pervasive macroscopic efficacy toward the past, though I am unsure of how well this thesis works. Regardless, there remains a problem that the inside-out perspective requires us to see our choices as brute facts or random occurrences. Attempts to resolve this problem seem to require either a theory of agent causation or a traditional compatibilist argument, making Hoefer’s thesis extraneous, unless he can show us that these require the inside-out perspective. However, Hoefer has not yet shown us this, so there is work to be done.


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Published in: Philosophia
2007 35 Pages 207-217


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