Do we have free will and what does this even mean? Is free will possible within a deterministic universe? What about an indeterministic universe? Does the concept of free will even make sense to begin with? And what are the implications for morality and the value of life? Could we actually live our lives on the assumption that free will is an illusion? These are some of the questions which are discussed in this program.

Free will is one of the most absorbing philosophical problems, debated by almost every great thinker of the last two thousand years. In a universe apparently governed by physical laws, is it possible for individuals to be responsible for their actions? Or are our lives simply proceeding along preordained paths? Determinism – the doctrine that every event is the inevitable consequence of what goes before – seems to suggest so. Many intellectuals have concluded that free will is logically impossible. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza regarded it as a delusion. Albert Einstein wrote: “Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free agents but are as causally bound as the stars in their motion.” But in the Enlightenment, philosophers including David Hume found ways in which free will and determinism might be reconciled. Recent scientific developments mean that this debate remains as lively today as it was in the ancient world.

This is from the BBC radio program “In Our Time”. Melvyn Bragg discusses the problem of free will with Simon Blackburn (University of Cambridge), Helen Beebee (University of Birmingham), and Galen Strawson (University of Reading).