In a recent paper, John Fischer develops a new argument against the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) based on a deterministic scenario. Fischer uses this result (i) to rebut the Dilemma Defense - a well-known incompatibilist response to Frankfurt-type counterexamples to PAP; and (ii) to maintain that: If causal determinism rules out moral responsibility, it is not just in virtue of eliminating alternative possibilities. In this article, we argue that Fischer's new argument against PAP fails, thus leaving points (i) and (...) (ii) unsupported. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen's Direct Argument (DA) for incompatibilism purports to establish incompatibilism with respect to moral responsibility and determinism without appealing to assumptions that compatibilists usually consider controversial. Recently, Michael McKenna has presented a novel critique of DA. McKenna's critique raises important issues about philosophical dialectics. In this article, we address those issues and contend that his argument does not succeed.
Elsewhere, I proposed a libertarian-based account of freedom and moral blameworthiness which like Harry Frankfurt's 1969 account rejects the principle of alternative possibilities (which I call, Frankfurt-friendly libertarianism). In this paper I develop this account further (a) by responding to an important objection to it raised by Carlos Moya; (b) by exploring the question why, if unavoidability per se does not exonerate from blame, the Frankfurt-friendly libertarian is justified in exculpating an agent under determinism; (c) by arguing that some main (...) compatibilist alternatives to the account are unsatisfactory; and finally (d) by defending it against a general criticism of certain libertarian theories made by Derk Pereboom. (shrink)
John Fischer has attacked the Ockhamistic solution to the freedom–foreknowledge dilemma by arguing that: (1) God's prior beliefs about the future, though being soft facts about the past, are soft facts of a special sort, what he calls ‘hard-type soft facts’, i.e. soft facts, the constitutive properties of which are ‘hard’, or ‘temporally non-relational properties’; (2) in this respect, such facts are like regular past facts which are subject to the fixity of the past. In this paper, I take issue (...) with this argument by Fischer, claiming that it does not succeed for two reasons: (i) Fischer's account of the notion of a hard property is unsatisfactory; (ii) his notion of a hard-type soft fact is incoherent. Despite this criticism, I agree with Fischer that there is a fundamental difference between God's beliefs about the future and regular soft facts with regard to their fixity-status, but I argue that the reason for this difference is that God's forebeliefs are plain hard facts about the past. (shrink)
In a recent article, David Hunt has proposed a theological counterexample to the principle of alternative possibilities involving divine foreknowledge (G-scenario). Hunt claims that this example is immune to my criticism of regular Frankfurt-type counterexamples to that principle, as God’s foreknowing an agent’s act does not causally determine that act. Furthermore, he claims that the considerations which support the claim that the agent is morally responsible for his act in a Frankfurt-type scenario also hold in a G-scenario. In reply, Icontest (...) Hunt’s symmetry claim and also raise a worry whether, given theological fatalism, the agent’s act in a G-scenario can be deemed a free act in the libertarian sense. Finally, I offer an independent argument why in a G-scenario the agent should not regarded morally blameworthy for his act. (shrink)
Given the failure of Fischer's and other entailment accounts of the soft/hard fact distinction, the conclusion that emerges is that the Ockhamist cannot justify his treating the likes of F1 as soft facts about the past by appealing to an entailment account of soft/hard facthood. As we have seen, accounts of this sort are seriously flawed in that they overlook the point that a fact may entail a fact about the future and still be a genuine past fact. Call this (...) problem ‘the entailment problem’. Even if the Ockhamist can evade this problem by adopting a different account of the soft/hard fact distinction, he is still faced with what Fischer has called the problem of ‘hard-core soft facts’, I am not particularly happy with ‘hard-core soft facts’ since it suggests that God's prior beliefs about human actions are soft facts about the past; whereas in my view, those beliefs should be treated as hard facts about the past. i.e. the problem that by having power over facts such as F1, the agent also gets power over hard facts about the past. Although Fischer's way of raising the problem is certainly convincing,By saying this, I do not, of course, mean to imply that I accept his solution to the problem. the problem can be raised also in another way by means of the following consideration. Note that (unlike regular soft facts) facts regarding God's forebeliefs of human actions can causally contribute to the occurrence of events preceding those actions. For example, we can conceive of a situation in which God, in the light of his belief that Jones will attempt to murder Smith at T5, reveals this fact to Smith at T3 by causing the occurrence of an event E, e.g. Smith's hearing at T3 a voice telling him about what is going to happen. Now, if God's belief that Jones will attempt to kill Smith were, as the Ockhamist maintains, a soft fact about the past over which Jones has power, Jones could by refraining from his attempt to kill Smith, bring about the non-occurrence of E. This would be a violation PFP.I develop this consideration at greater length in Widerker (1990: 475–478).Both the ‘entailment problem’ and the problem of ‘hard-core soft facts’ pose a serious difficulty for the Ockhamistic approach to the freedom-foreknowledge dilemma. Hence, in the absence of an adequate solution to them, the theological compatibilist would be well-advised to turn to other ways of solving that dilemma. (shrink)
Recently, John Fischer has applied Frankfurt’s well-known counter-example to the principle of alternate possibilities to refute the traditional libertarian position which holds that a necessary condition for an agent’s decision (choice) to be free in the sense of freedom required for moral responsibility is that the decision not be causally determined, and that the agent could have avoided making it. Fischer’s argument has consequently led various philosophers to develop libertarian accounts of freedom which try to dispense with the avoidability constraint (...) on freedom. My purpose in this article is to show that Fischer’s attack on traditional libertarianism fails, and, therefore, it is premature to abandon that position. (shrink)
Recently, Colin McGinn has argued that Kripke's Cartesian argument against the mind-body identity thesis is not effective against anomalous monism. This paper attempts to show that the Cartesian has at his disposal an argument that is stronger than that formulated by Kripke, and one that cannot be rebutted by the anomalous monist in the way suggested by McGinn. The paper concludes with a suggestion as to the sort of identity theory one would have to subscribe to in order to resist (...) the stronger Cartesian argument. (shrink)