This is the web page for 24.211 Metaphysics given by Richard Holton at MIT Fall 2004. This page provides links to papers and other texts that will be useful. It will also provide pdf versions of the handouts and assignments. If you have suggestions for things that might be posted here, please let me know by emailing me at

NB: Links to articles here are mainly provided through the JSTOR database. To get them you will need to use a machine that is licenced to access that database. Any machine that is operating through an MIT server, or has MIT certificates, should work. It turns out though that MIT has configured access to JSTOR so that it has to go through VERA; accessing JSTOR directly on an MIT machine won't work. So I've provided two links for each JSTOR article: the first one for MIT people; the second the standard stable JSTOR url for anyone from outside MIT who might be using this page, and who has JSTOR access. MIT people having problems can access JSTOR on


Course outline and information sheet in pdf


I have ordered four books for the Coop:

Gary Watson (ed.) Free Will Second edition (OUP 2003)
John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza (eds.) Perspectives on Moral Responsibility (Cornell U P 1993)
Daniel Dennett Freedom Evolves (Penguin 2004)
Daniel Wegner, The Illusion of Conscious Will (MIT Press, 2003)

Of these, only the Watson, which is a recent collection of key papers, is really essential to start with. The Fischer and Ravizza provides a number of additional papers that might be interesting; but I wouldn't advise buying it straightaway unless you are very keen. The Dennett and Wegner books raise various issues about the bearing of empirical work; we'll be discussing this towards the end of the course.

In addition I have put a number of other books on reserve:

Robert Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (OUP 2002)
Timothy O'Connor (ed.), Agents, Causes and Events (OUP 1995)
Timothy O'Connor, Persons and Causes (OUP 2000)
Susan Wolf, Freedom Within Reason (OUP 1990)
Robert Kane, The Significance of Free Will (OUP 1996)
Johannes Roessler and Naomi Eilan (eds.), Agency and Self-Awareness (OUP 2003)


Assignment One

Assignment Two

Handouts and Readings

Week One

Wednesday September 8: Introductory session

Week Two

Monday September 13: The Classical Compatibilist account [Handout]

Wednesday September 15: Refining the Consequence Argument and 'Could have done otherwise' [Handout]
    Watson's introduction to his Freewill pp. 1-4
    As much as you feel you can read of van Inwagen, 'An Argument for Incompatibilism' in Watson
    Notes on modal logic and counterfactuals

Week Three

Monday September 20: Denying Closure of unavoidability [Handout]

Wednesday September 22: Lewis on law breaking

Week Four

Monday September 27: Modal Metaphysics [Handout]

Wednesday September 29: More Modal Metaphysics

Week Five

Monday October 4: Libertarianism I [Handout]

Wednesday October 6: Libertarianism II [Handout]

Week Six

Monday October 11: Columbus Day Holiday
Wednesday October 13: Time travel

    Robert Heinlein 'By His Bootstraps'
    David Lewis 'The Paradoxes of Time Travel' American Philosophical Quarterly, 13 (1976) 145-52.

Week Seven

Monday October 18: Frankfurt on Alternate Possibilities [Handout]

Wednesday October 19: Reactions to Frankfurt

Week Eight

Monday October 25 Strawson [Handout]

    'Freedom and Resentment' reprinted in Watson (ed.) Freewill

Wednesday October 27 Reactions to Strawson [Handout]
    Gary Watson 'Responsibility and the Limits of Evil: Variations on a Strawsonian Theme' in Fischer and Ravizza
    Susan Wolf, 'The Importance of Freewill' Mind 90 (1981)

Week Nine

Monday November 1: Frankfurt's Higher Order account [Handout]

Wednesday November 3: Reactions to Frankfurt

Week Ten

Monday November 8: Reason Responsiveness; Wolf [Handout]

    Wolf, 'Sanity and the Metaphysics of Responsibility', in Watson

Wednesday November 10:Choosing; intentions; weakness of will

Week Eleven

Monday November 15: Choice and Freedom [Handout]

Wednesday November 17: Choice and knowledge [Handout]

Week Twelve

Monday November 22: Empirical work: Social psychology I [Handout]

    Wegner and Wheatley 'Apparent Mental Causation' American Psychologist 1999
    Wegner, The Illusion of Conscious Will esp. Chs 1 - 3

Wednesday November 24: No Class

Week Thirteen

Monday November 29: Empirical work: Social Psychology II [Handout]

Wednesday December 1: Addiction [Handout]