Birmingham Salon

Does Free Will Really Exist?

Takes place on Thursday 8th March 2018, 7.30pm to 9.00pm at The Woodman, New Canal Street, Birmingham B5 5LG (near Millennium Point)

When you make up your mind to do something – whether it be trivial or life-changing – is it really you who decides?  

Free will is at the core of our being.  But aren’t some events in the universe simply caused by earlier events rather than happening of their own accord? 

In what sense then do we have free will to make our own independent choices? Philosophers and scientists have spent more than 2,000 years debating this question and no definitive answer is in sight.  Are their debates just a pointless exercise in philosophical navel gazing, a waste of intellectual energy, or does the free-will debate have deeper implications in our lives? 

From the 18thcentury Enlightenment onwards, Western thinkers saw free will as distinguishing us from other animals, and gave all of humanity a common identity.  However constrained one person’s freedom might be compared with another, we all must make choices. This allows us to recognise all people as beings who share the same sort of internal lives as ourselves. 

Recent surveys show up a widening gulf between professional philosophers, scientists and graduate students on the one hand and the general public on the other. Less than 14% in the first group believe in free will, whereas over 70% do. Are we commoners deluding ourselves by holding on to a belief which implies that we are special, or it is the experts who have got it wrong?

Chrissie Daz is a school teacher, cabaret performer and author on transgender and gender variant identity. 

Dr Greg Scorzo is a director and editor of the online magazine Culture on the Offensive. He has a PhD in meta-Ethics, and has taught a wide range of philosophy seminars between 2008-13, including Plato, political philosophy, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind.

We thank the Woodman for hosting this event, and look forward to seeing you there.