Physics of Free Will

Following up on the homonymous "The Physics of Free Will" CAS lecture series that examines the compatibility of science based determinism with the assumption of free will from the perspective of various disciplines, this CAS research focus focuses on the background of this debate in ancient philosophy.

Particular attention is paid to the question of the compatibility of physical/physiological explanations for the motion sequences of living beings on the one hand with ethical convictions and intentional descriptions of action on the other. The deterministic positions of pre-Platonic philosophy (e.g. Empedocles), the Aristotelian theories of action and movement as well as the problem of free will in the Epicurean philosophy are central to this debate.

A seminal text for this research focus is Aristotle’s De Motu Animalium, in which the author covers the mechanical, hydraulic and thermodynamic prerequisites for the self-motion of living beings as well as the interaction between these physical conditions with the representations, desires, wishes or even decisions of the beings at stake. Acitivities of this research focus include the organization of the 19th Symposium Aristotelicum in July 2011, during which thirty researchers from various countries will be discussing the De Motu Animalium treatise. Hence one of the main tasks of this research focus will be to prepare a new critical edition of this text.


Working Group

  • Dr. Béatrice Lienemann
    (Institut für Philosophie, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt a. M.)
  • Dr. Ulrich Ettinger
    (Department Psychologie, Allgemeine und Experimentelle Psychologie, LMU)
  • Dr. Steffen Gais
    (Department Psychologie, Allgemeine und Experimentelle Psychologie, LMU)
  • Dr. Paul Taylor
    (Department Psychologie, Allgemeine und Experimentelle Psychologie, LMU)

Visiting Fellows

Prof. Alan Code, Ph.D.

Previous Visiting Fellow



  • Lecture Series in Winter Semester 2010/11 – "The Physics of Free Will"
  • Symposium Aristotelicum
    (Summer Semester 2011)
  • Workshop with Evening Lecture – "Integrating Philosophy and Neuroscience in the Study of Consciousness: How to make it work"
    (Winter Semester 2011/12)