Philosophy Word of the Day – Libertarianism

The theory about freedom that despite what has happened in the past, and given the present state of affairs and ourselves just as they are, we can choose or decide differently than we do – act so as to make the future different.  Libertarianism asserts the freedom of the will or origination, and is contrasted with determinism.

Contemporary libertarians cite quantum mechanics as evidence that determinism is false.  Even if this is so, the random behavior of atoms certainly does not by itself make for the freedom and moral responsibility asserted by libertarians.

Roy C. Weatherford, “Libertarianism,” The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (Oxford Univ. Press, 1995), 485.

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2 thoughts on “Philosophy Word of the Day – Libertarianism

  1. I’m no scientist, so I need some enlightenment. But wouldn’t there be a difference between the unpredictable nature of the elements studied in quantum mechanics, and the presence of a governing metaphysic?

    I was under the impression that quantum mechanics demonstrates that atomic behavior was unpredictable, not necessarily ungoverned. But maybe i’m wrong.

    • Hey Sam,

      I’m not a scientist either, so I couldn’t claim any expertise in quantum mechanics. I think someone could argue, though, that maybe there are laws that govern atoms and subatomic particles, but we simply don’t understand them yet (so they’re not really undetermined or ungoverned).

      I’m also not sure an appeal to quantum mechanics would work because, as I understand it, the unpredictable elements only apply at the atomic level, not at the macro level — like at the level of human beings. Although the atomic world might have some imprecision, those things apparently disappear at the macro level — and wouldn’t seem to affect human behavior. That’s my two cents worth.

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