Macquarie University
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The "loose thread" in the problem of free-will

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posted on 2022-11-01, 06:04 authored by Jamie Burns

This thesis aims to convince the reader that Heidegger’s understanding of the relationship between being and time might offer a significant contribution towards resolving the problem of (in)compatibility between free will, determinism, indeterminism, and moral responsibility, which besets the problem of free will as understood within contemporary analytical metaphysics: the Compatibility Problem. In 1930 Heidegger proposed that the Compatibility Problem has its roots in an ontological level to the problem of freedom. As a result of how being and time are understood, the essence of free will is understood as a kind of causation, and this underpins the manifestation of the problem as the Compatibility Problem. However, in order to convince the most sceptical reader of Heidegger that this proposal warrants further investigation, rather than focus on Heidegger’s writings the strategy of this thesis is to convince the reader that the ontological level to the problem that interested Heidegger can be made transparent through the very problems arising within the contemporary understanding of it. This thesis draws these problems out by taking up van Inwagen’s suggestion in 2018 that a debate on the ambiguity in the definition of “free will” might be the only way forwards. The question this thesis focuses the debate on is whether the ambiguity within the concept of “free will” is a “bug” or a “feature”? It is argued that the “loose thread” might be time.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1 - The problem of free-will -- 2 - Definitional level -- 3 - Ontological level: Heidegger's analysis of Kant's account of the problem of freedom -- Concluding thoughts on a "loose thread" -- Bibliography


A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Research on 15 December 2021

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis MRes, Macquarie University, Department of Philosophy, 2022

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Neil Levy

Additional Supervisor 1

Robert Sinnerbrink


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




52 pages