At the same time as we try to get clearer on what free will is, we'll also be trying to get clearer on whether we have it.
Worries about whether we have any free will arise from several different sources.
One sort of worry starts from the premise that the laws of nature and the past causally determine that you will act in the way you do. This seems to show that you're not free to act in other ways. This worry concerns the relation between free will and determinism.
A second sort of worry starts from the premise that there is only one "real" future. Perhaps someone already knows how this future will turn out. (For example, perhaps God knows this. Or perhaps some oracle with a crystal ball knows this, or a time traveller who's come here from the future. Or perhaps we already have a problem if future historians looking back on the present day will know how things turn out.) Or perhaps they don't.
Even if no one now knows or is able to predict how you will act tomorrow, maybe there's already some truth about how you will in fact act tomorrow. And if you will in fact act in certain ways tomorrow, it seems to be already true today that you will act in those ways tomorrow. This can seem like it would also deprive of you of the freedom to act otherwise: it's impossible for you to act otherwise tomorrow, because it's already true that you will act in the way you will. This is what we call a fatalist worry.
One way to respond to these worries is to deny their respective premises. That is, we might deny that the laws of nature and the past causally determine your actions; and we might deny that claims about what you will do tomorrow are already true today.
Another way to respond to these worries is to accept the premises (for the sake of argument), but to argue that no dire conclusions about free will follow from these premises. In this class, we will primarily be exploring responses of the second sort.
We'll begin with fatalist worries about free will. We're going to look at time-travel stories to help us get a handle on these fatalist worries. This is just a heuristic device. Thinking about time travel will help us make some distinctions and clarifications that are important for assessing the fatalist worries about free will.