Presidential Scholars Theses (1990 – 2006)


Open Access Presidential Scholars Thesis

First Advisor

William Clohesy


Free will and determinism; Deterministic chaos;


This paper approaches this ancient problem by incorporating the new science of chaos. Chaos is the name given to the discovery that even "simple deterministic systems with only a few elements can generate random behavior" {Crutchfield et al., 46). Chaos shows that deterministic systems can act in ways which are not predictable while at the same time showing that many seemingly random phenomena are more explainable than once thought. By doing so, chaos alters the laws of causation upon which much of this debate rests and indicates that perhaps not all theory is against freedom of the will, despite Dr. Johnson's statement to the contrary. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that while chaos improves the case for determinism, it also shows that free will might be possible in a world that otherwise appears to be governed by universal efficient causality. In showing this, the paper is broken down into five sections, the first being this introduction. The second section reviews the free will and determinism debate to establish a context for the conclusions and to develop criteria for the advancement of each argument. The third section reviews the science of chaos to establish how it may theoretically meet these criteria and to show how chaos may be detected in behavior. After that, specific evidence of the link between chaos and behavior is sought, and in the fifth section, final conclusions are drawn from this evidence to fulfill the thesis.

Date of Award



Department of Philosophy and Religions

Presidential Scholar Designation

A paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation Presidential Scholar


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Date Original

Spring 1992

Object Description

1 PDF file (59 pages)

Date Digital



©1992 Gregory J. Till





File Format