Foreknowledge, fate and freedom
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 15:33 authored by Stephanie Rennick
"Foreknowledge, fate and freedom" is concerned with diagnosing and debunking a pervasive and prevalent folk intuition: that a foreknown future would be problematically, and freedom-hinderingly, fixed. In it, I discuss foreknowledge in and of itself, but also as a lens through which we can examine other intuitions and concepts ; the apparent asymmetry of future and past; worries about fate and free will; notions of coincidence and likelihood; assumptions about God, time travel and ourselves.This thesis provides the first philosophical map of a region of conceptualised space visited often by the folk and popular culture, and as a result ties together a host of disparate threads in the literature. I make three central claims: 1. The folk intuition is wrong in rejecting foreknowledge wholesale on the basis that it entails a problematically fixed future, and thereby undermines our freedom. 2. Foreknowledge gives rise to new problems, and sheds new light on old ones, but none of these are insurmountable. 3. The same paradoxes thought to plague backwards time travel can arise in foreknowledge cases, and can be defused in the same way. I conclude that foreknowledge is puzzling, but possible: it neither inevitably entails fatalism nor precludes free will. While its consequences may be strange, they are not sufficient to vindicate the folk intuition.