Friday, March 27, 2009

Penelope Mackie
part of the Heather and Scott Kleiner Lecture Series
University of Nottingham
Friday, April 3, 2009
3:30 PM, Room 205S
Peabody Hall
Associate Professor and Reader in Philosophy
What is involved in the conception of the future as ‘open’ in contrast to the past as ‘closed’ or ‘fixed’? And is such a
conception in conflict with determinism? In ‘Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow’, David Lewis argued that
the asymmetry between fixed past and open future can be captured in terms of an asymmetry of counterfactual
dependence that is compatible with determinism. A natural response to Lewis’s proposal is to object that no such
asymmetry as the one to which Lewis appeals can be adequate to capture the intuitive notion of the open future that we
care about, perhaps in general, or perhaps in connection with human freedom in particular. In my paper, I defend a
‘weak branching’ conception of the open future that is compatible with determinism, and which is similar to, although in
certain respects different from, Lewis’s conception, and argue that this ‘weak branching’ conception is employed in
much of our thinking about future possibilities. If it is nevertheless insufficiently robust fully to capture the notion of the
open future that we care about, this is for reasons that are largely independent of concerns about human freedom, and
which, I suggest, reflect an instability in our thinking about future possibilities.
“Compatibilism and the Open Future”

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