Philosophy teachers converse with troubled students who suffer from what I dub "intelligent collegiate depression" (ICD): a lack of self-esteem, feelings of futility and pessimism about their futures, a distrust of academic values, and a lack of conviction that their lives matter. Students express their values and their resignation with what approaches conventional wisdom for them: They must be allowed to act as they wish so long as they do not hurt anyone; otherwise it does not matter what they do (...) with their lives. I argue here that students' endorsement of this near-nihilistic version of Mill's harm principle shows that they are committed to believing in more values than they realize. I then show how to parlay this commitment into a rejection of the worst effects of ICD—all the while holding in abeyance the question of metaethical objectivism vs. subjectivism. My approach shows that accepting a popular ICD premise logically undermines much of the unhappy ICD worldview. (shrink)
In "The Illusion of Conscious Will," Daniel Wegner (2002) argues that our commonsense belief that our conscious choices cause our voluntary actions is mistaken. Wegner cites experimental results that suggest that brain processes initiate our actions before we become consciously aware of our choices, showing that we are systematically wrong in thinking that we consciously cause our actions. Wegner's view leads him to conclude, among other things, that moral responsibility does not exist. In this article I propose some ways that (...) traditional philosophical defenders of moral responsibility, both compatibilists and libertarians, might accept Wegner's empirical premise regarding the will but amend their theories so that they may reject his conclusion regarding moral responsibility. (shrink)
Adopting meta-level Free Will Subjectivism is one among several ways to maintain that persons never experience moral freedom in their choices. The other ways of arguing against moral freedom I consider are presented by Saul Smilansky, Ted Honderich, Bruce Waller, Galen Strawson, and Derk Pereboom. In this paper, without arguing for the acceptance of free will subjectivism, I argue that subjectivism has some moral and theoretical advantages over its kindred theories.
The following is a criticism designed to apply to most libertarian free will theorists. I argue that most libertarians hold three beliefs that jointly show them to be unsympathetic or hard-hearted to persons whom they hold morally responsible: that persons are morally responsible only because they make libertarian choices, that we should hold persons responsible, and that we lack epistemic justification for thinking persons make such choices. Softhearted persons who held these three beliefs would espouse hard determinism, which exonerates all (...) persons of moral responsibility, or, at least, would not espouse libertarianism. I do not address the view held by some libertarians that we do have epistemic justification for thinking that persons make libertarian choices, a minority position that I believe cannot be sustained. (shrink)
Beginning Philosophy offers students and general readers a uniquely straightforward yet challenging introduction to fundamental philosophical problems. Readily accessible to novices yet rich enough for more experienced readers, it combines serious investigation across a wide range of subjects in analytic philosophy with a clear, user-friendly writing style. Topics include logic and reasoning, the theory of knowledge, the nature of the external world, the mind/body problem, normative ethics, metaethics, free will, the existence of God, and the problem of evil. A concluding (...) chapter outlines the worldview developed in the text and connects that view to questions about the meaning of life. The interconnection of philosophical problems and the relationship of philosophy and science are emphasized throughout. The book includes both extensive quotes from historical figures such as Aquinas, Descartes, and Hume and references to philosophically minded nonphilosophers like Dostoevski, Stephen Jay Gould, and Carl Sagan. Beginning Philosophy is designed for use in introductory philosophy courses at a wide range of institutions. It contains numerous pedagogical materials at the end of each chapter: sections called "misconceptions" list errors that introductory readers should avoid; guide questions prompt students to explain in their own words what the text is saying; review questions help students prepare for examinations; open-ended discussion questions call for independent judgment; and annotated bibliographies provide suggestions for further reading. The volume is further enhanced by a list of famous quotations from philosophers, a glossary of philosophical terms, a glossary of names of the most famous philosophers and scientists discussed in the text, and an extensive bibliography listing every work cited. (shrink)
The belief that only free will supports assignments of moral responsibility -- deserved praise and blame, punishment and reward, and the expression of reactive attitudes and moral censure -- has fueled most of the historical concern over the existence of free will. Free will's connection to moral responsibility also drives contemporary thinkers as diverse in their substantive positions as Peter Strawson, Thomas Nagel, Peter van Inwagen, Galen Strawson, and Robert Kane. A simple, but powerful, reason for thinking that philosophers are (...) correct in making moral responsibility the prize of the free will problem is this: If we disassociate free will from deserved praise, blame, punishment and reward, reactive attitudes and moral censure, then why care about free will? If free will is not pinned down as that degree of freedom in our choices that we need for moral responsibility, it is difficult to see why anyone would or should care about free will. In this article I argue that some of the most prominent recent writing on free will becomes sidetracked from this key issue. For this reason, a good deal of the literature is so much spilled ink as philosophers misdirect their energies. In section 1 I elaborate just what I believe the key issue in the free will problem is. In section 2 I illustrate what an answer to the key issue requires. In section 3 I suggest motivations for misdirection. In sections 4, 5, and 6 I provide detailed examples of misdirection from compatibilists and libertarians. In sections 7 and 8 I describe some non-misdirected answers to the key question. (shrink)
Why is debate over the free will problem so intractable? In this broad and stimulating look at the philosophical enterprise, Richard Double uses the free will controversy to build on the subjectivist conclusion he developed in The Non-Reality of Free Will (OUP 1991). Double argues that various views about free will--e.g., compatibilism, incompatibilism, and even subjectivism--are compelling if, and only if, we adopt supporting metaphilosophical views. Because metaphilosophical considerations are not provable, we cannot show any free will theory to be (...) most reasonable. Metaphilosophy and Free Will deconstructs the free will problem and, by example, challenges philosophers in other areas to show how their philosophical argumentation can succeed. (shrink)
The traditional disputants in the free will discussion--the libertarian, soft determinist, and hard determinist--agree that free will is a coherent concept, while disagreeing on how the concept might be satisfied and whether it can, in fact, be satisfied. In this innovative analysis, Richard Double offers a bold new argument, rejecting all of the traditional theories and proposing that the concept of free will cannot be satisfied, no matter what the nature of reality. Arguing that there is unavoidable conflict within our (...) understanding of moral responsibility and free choice, Double seeks to prove that when we ascribe responsibility, blame, or freedom, we merely express attitudes, rather than state anything capable of truth or falsity. Free will, he concludes, is essentially an incoherent notion. (shrink)
Abstract This paper contrasts two views on the ethics of belief, the absolutist position that adopting self?serving epistemic strategies is always morally wrong, and the holist position that non?epistemic factors may legitimately be consulted whenever we adopt epistemic strategies. In the first section, the absolutist view is shown to be untenable because of the holistic nature of moral questions in general. In the second section, the nagging appeal of the absolutist position is explored. An account of our ambivalence regarding the (...) absolutist view is suggested in terms of the conflict between our acceptance of our psychological needs and wants and a wish to overcome them. Five types of considerations that contribute to this conflict are given. (shrink)
One of Thomas Nagel’s premises in his argument for panpsychism (in Mortal Questions) is criticized. The principal criticisms are: (1) Nagel has failed to provide a clear sense in which mental properties are nonphysical. (2) Even within the framework of Nagel’s argumeent, there is no strong reason to think that the psychological lies outside the explanatory web of physical properties. This is because certain reducing properties common to both the psychological and nonpsychological may well be physical.