Interview with John M. Fischer

15 June, 2018

We are pleased to offer an interview with Professor John M. Fischer. Professor Fischer is one of the most prominent philosophers in the debates on free will and moral responsibility.

Fischer agrees with Strawson that we don’t know whether determinism (the thesis that every event is inevitable and wholly determined by previous events) is true or not, because it is not obvious what exactly the thesis means. But he argues even if determinism is true, nevertheless we are still responsible for our actions. So while determinism may be incompatible with free will itself, determinism is still compatible with our having moral responsibility. The resulting view is the subtle thesis that Fischer calls “semi-compatibilism”.

So watch the video below and decide whether it’s possible, at the same time, to live without free will and to be morally responsible. And is our life worth living in that case?

This August we held a summer school “Free will and Moral responsibility” leading by professor Fischer. And in the nearest future we will publish the materials of that school. Do not miss it!

Also professor Fischer has sent an Addendum to that interview, which makes some points more clear.


First, I wish to make clear that the examples of the two marriages are from David Velleman’s very important paper, “Well-Being and Time”, originally published in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. These are not my examples.

Second, toward the end of the interview I suggested that we think of ourselves as “machines for passing along our stories,” rather than “machines for passing along our genes”. This way of putting the point is owed to Shahar Arzi, in a presentation at the mid-point conference of the Immortality Project, UC Riverside, June 2014. Arzi is a professor at the Hadassah Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. I am indebted to him for this formulation.

Finally, I am not sure exactly what Mark Ravizza is doing “currently”. I answered the question about our collaboration based on a conversation I had with him five years ago, but I frankly do not know exactly where he is now or whether he is continuing to teach any philosophy.

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