Free will and the problem of future contingents

Here we go again, seems like I just need to write one more essay about free will…

by Massimo Pigliucci

Imagine that the two of us, dear reader, are living in the year 31 BCE on the western coast of Greece. It is the evening of September the first, and we have been paying attention to the latest developments of the ongoing struggle between Octavian and Mark Anthony, marking the ongoing civil war within the Roman Republic.

After dinner, we engage in a conversation during which I state with some conviction that tomorrow, September the second, the two navies will finally engage each other. You, however, have arrived at a different conclusion based on the same available evidence, and are betting that there won’t be any confrontation. Mark Anthony and his lover, Cleopatra, will simply go back to Egypt and resume diplomatic efforts with Octavian.

September 2, 31 BCE comes and it turns out that I was right: Octavian’s 400 ships and 80,000 infantry do engage Anthony’s 500 ships and 70,000 infantry, and the result is a rout for the latter forces. Consequently, the following year Mark Anthony and Cleopatra will commit suicide, and Octavian will assume the title of “Augustus” in 27 BCE, thus marking the beginning of the Roman Empire. … (continue on Medium)

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