Michael Esfeld

Natural laws and free will

What is a law of nature? Is it something that exists in nature and that somehow acts on the objects in nature, forcing them to move in certain ways? Or do laws of nature have only a descriptive role, revealing the salient patterns or regularities of motion that there are in nature? In this talk, I argue for the latter view, showing how it accounts for scientific explanations. The benefit of this view then is that there is no conflict between natural laws, even if they are deterministic, and free will: physical, biological, or neurophysiological determinism does not infringe upon free will, because it is merely descriptive. It does not predetermine anything. Finally, I show how formulating, testing and justifying scientific theories presupposes human freedom and how this leads to an argument against mind-brain reductionism.



Michael Esfeld is professor of philosophy of science at the University of Lausanne since 2002. His main research area is the metaphysics of science, in particular physics, and the philosophy of mind. Latest book publication: A minimalist ontology of the natural world (with Dirk Deckert, New York: Routledge 2017). He currently works on a book manuscript on Science and Freedom. Homepage: www.michaelesfeld.com