The luck argument raises a serious challenge for libertarianism about free will. In broad outline, if an action is undetermined, then it appears to be a matter of luck whether or not one performs it. And if it is a matter of luck whether or not one performs an action, then it seems that the action is not performed with free will. This argument is most effective against event-causal accounts of libertarianism. Recently, Christopher Franklin (2011) has defended event-causal (...)libertarianism against four formulations of the luck argument. I will argue that three of Franklin’s responses are unsuccessful and that there are important versions of the luck challenge that his defense has left unaddressed. (shrink)
Perhaps the greatest impediment to a viable libertarianism is the provision of a satisfactory explanation of how actions that are undetermined by an agent''s character can still be under the control of, or up to, the agent. The luck problem has been most assiduously examined by Robert Kane who supplies a detailed account of how this problem can be resolved. Although Kane''s theory is innovative, insightful, and more resourceful than most of his critics believe, it ultimately cannot account for (...) the type of control that moral responsibility and (ultimate) agency legitimately require. (shrink)
In this paper I criticize libertarianism and skepticism about free will. The criticism of libertarianism takes some steps towards filling in an argument that is often mentioned but seldom developed in any detail, the argument that libertarianism is a scientifically implausible view. I say "take some steps" because I think the considerations I muster (at most) favor a less ambitious relative of that argument. The less ambitious claim I hope to motivate is that there is little reason (...) to believe that extant libertarian accounts satisfy a standard of naturalistic plausibility, even if they do satisfy a standard of naturalistic compatibility. The argument against skepticism about free will tries to show (1) perhaps the most prominent form of skeptical argument against the existence of free will does not work, and (2) there is a good general argument against skepticism about free will. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss two kinds of attempts to qualify incompatibilist and compatibilist conceptions of freedom to avoid what have been thought to be incredible commitments of these rival accounts. One attempt -- which I call soft libertarianism -- is represented by Robert Kane''s work. It hopes to defend an incompatibilist conception of freedom without the apparently difficult metaphysical costs traditionally incurred by these views. On the other hand, in response to what I call the robot objection (that (...) if compatibilism is true, human beings could be the products of design), some compatibilists are tempted to soften their position by placing restrictions on the origins of agency. I argue that both of these attempts are misguided. Hard libertarianism and hard compatibilism are the only theoretical options. (shrink)
Reductionism about testimony holds that testimonial warrant or entitlement is just a species of inductive warrant. Anti-Reductionism holds that it is different from inductive but analogous to perceptual or memorial warrant. Perception receives much of its positive epistemic status from being reliably truthconducive in normal conditions. One reason to reject the epistemic analogy is that testimony involves agency – it goes through the will of the speaker – but perception does not. A speaker might always choose to lie or otherwise (...) deliberately mislead. It is argued that the force of this derives (in part) from Libertarianism about agency, and that Libertarianism, if it undermines the Anti-Reductionist explanation of why we are entitled to rely upon testimony, undermines the Reductionist explanation as.. (shrink)
This essay is the introduction to a special debate issue of the journal "Basic Income Studies" on the topic of whether libertarians should endorse a universal basic income. The essay attempts to clarify some common uses of the term 'libertarianism" as it is used by moral and political philosophers. It identifies some important common features of libertarian normative theories.
The classical formulation of libertarianism seems to be incompatible with the requirements of political legitimacy. Some libertarians have endorsed this result, denying that the state is legitimate. This paper argues, however, that the particular nature of that incompatibility represents a problem for the classical formulation of libertarianism. It is argued that acknowledging the existence of a particular minimal form of positive rights might overcome the problem in question. It is further argued that acknowledgment of such positive rights would (...) seem to provide a more adequate normative ground for making sense of some central libertarian insights and concerns. (shrink)
The so-called Mind argument aims at the conclusion that agents act freely only if determinism is true. The soundness of this argument entails the falsity of libertarianism, the two-part thesis that agents act freely, and free action and determinism are incompatible. In this paper, I offer a new formulation of the Mind argument. I argue that it is true by definition that if an agent acts freely, either (i) nothing nomologically grounds an agent’s acting freely, or (ii) the consequence (...) argument for incompatibilism is unsound. I define the notion of nomological grounding, and argue that unless an agent’s acting freely is nomologically grounded, unacceptable consequences follow. I then argue that if agents act freely and the consequence argument is sound, a vicious regress ensues. I conclude by considering the libertarian’s dialectical options. (shrink)
Libertarianism and the shareholder model of corporate responsibility have long been thought of as natural bedfellows. In a recent contribution to the Journal of Business Ethics, Brian Schaefer goes so far as to suggest that a proponent of shareholder theory cannot coherendy and consistently embrace any moral position other than philosophical libertarianism. The view that managers have a fiduciary obligation to advance the interests of shareholders exclusively is depicted as fundamentally incompatible with the acknowledgement of natural positive duties (...) – duties to aid others that have not been acquired by some prior commitment or transaction. I argue that Schaefer is mistaken. Positive duties are incompatible with the shareholder model only if we must contribute to their fulfilment in the corporate context; only if we have some reason to think that it is not possible or not permissible to discharge these obligations entirely in our private lives or through our various other roles and capacities. But we have no good reason to accept this. I argue that individuals are presumptively free to decide how and when to discharge their positive duties, and that buying shares does not cause this presumption to lapse. Hence a non-libertarian moral theory can be held without incoherence by a proponent of the shareholder model. (shrink)
The conclusions on libertarianism Robert Nozick reaches are appropriate for a bygone era. In a modern market economy, libertarianism requires that employable people have the option of taking up a publicly provided income instead of employment. This is the only way to compensate the involuntarily unemployed that a market economy requires and to ensure that all employment is voluntary. Taxation on voluntary exchanges is unobjectionable because it alters prices, not property, and no one has a right to a (...) particular price. The best way to provide state incomes for the capable unemployed is through a negative income tax.Les conclusions de libertarisme que tire Nozick valent pour une époque révolue. Dans une économie de marché moderne, le libertarisme exige que les gens aptes au travail puissent opter pour un revenu de source publique plutôt que pour un travail. Voilà le seul moyen de compenser les sans-emploi involontaires que requiert l’economie de marché et de s’assurer que chacun travaille volontairement. Imposer les échanges volontaires est acceptable parce que cela affecte les prix, non la propriété, et que nul n’a droit à un prix prticulier. Le meilleur moyen pour l’État de fournir un revenu aux sans-emploi aptes au travail passe par un impôt sur le revenu négatif. (shrink)
This paper aims to persuade its reader that libertarianism, at least in several of its varieties, is a species of the genus Michael Oakeshott referred to as ‘rationalism in politics’. I hope to demonstrate, employing the work of Oakeshott, as well as Aristotle and Onora O’Neill, how many libertarian theorists, who generally have a sincere and admirable commitment to personal liberty, have been led astray by the rationalist promise that we might be able to approach deductive certainty concerning the (...) 'correctness' of some political programme. Of course libertarians, in common with the adherents of almost any other political ‘stance’, are not a monolithic body, but exhibit a variety of more or less rationalist arguments for their views. For example, a thinker like Hayek, who is often placed in the libertarian camp, came to adopt much of Oakeshott’s critique of rationalism in his later work. And, of course, Oakeshott himself expressed an affinity for libertarian ideas in his essay, ‘The Political Economy of Freedom’ (1991 ). But a general predilection to enhance individual freedom as far as is deemed practicable is quite a different matter from taking a stance in which liberty, and liberty conceived in a rather narrow fashion, is the only value deemed admissible into ‘reasonable’ political discourse. (We will see in a subsequent section that Oakeshott recognized this urge to sanctify one value above all others as a logical requirement of striving for deductive political truths.) I believe that a critique of such libertarian rationalism is particularly relevant given the present situation in the United States vis-à-vis civil rights and the ongoing ‘war on terror’, in that many non- libertarian supporters of peace and strong civil rights find themselves allied with libertarians on these issues—if libertarians have gotten these issues ‘correct’, then how might they have gone wrong elsewhere? Furthermore, the critique may aid libertarians themselves, because, if the title of this paper is accurate, such a single-minded exaltation of one value above all others is an enemy of true liberty, so that libertarians might want to rethink adopting such a position. As Philip Pettit demonstrates (1997), freedom as non-domination is more robust and inclusive of all that we value about freedom than is the libertarian concept of freedom as non-interference; by allowing, say, immense economic power to be concentrated in a single corporation, as intervention to break the company up would violate the principle of non-interference, libertarian ideas may greatly diminish the liberty of the people subject to that corporate power. (shrink)
The hyper libertarian is compatibilist about control, but incompatibilist about free will. This paper argues that such a position has more to recommend it than either compatibilism or traditional libertarianism. It combines what is strongest about both positions, without encountering their principle weaknesses. Furthermore it has the resources to help render intelligible the reality of moral luck.
Event-causal libertarians maintain that an agent’s freely bringing about a choice is reducible to states and events involving him bringing about the choice. Agent-causal libertarians demur, arguing that free will requires that the agent be irreducibly causally involved. Derk Pereboom and Meghan Griffith have defended agent-causal libertarianism on this score, arguing that since on event-causal libertarianism an agent’s contribution to his choice is exhausted by the causal role of states and events involving him, and since these states and (...) events leave it open which decision he will make, he does not settle which decision occurs, and thus “disappears.” My aim is to explain why this argument fails. In particular, I demonstrate that event-causal libertarians can dismantle the argument by enriching the reductive base in their analysis of free will to include a state that plays the functional role of the self-determining agent and with which the agent is identified. (shrink)
The Assimilation Argument purports to show that libertarians cannot plausibly distinguish supposed exercises of free will from random outcomes that nobody would count as exercises of free will. If this argument is sound, libertarians should either abandon their position or else concede that free will is a mystery. Drawing on a parallel with the Manipulation Argument against compatibilism, Christopher Franklin has recently contended that the Assimilation Argument is unsound. Here I defend the Assimilation Argument and the Rollback Argument, a second (...) challenge to libertarianism that Franklin rejects. My aim in doing so is to underscore the force of these challenges, and thereby to resist what appears to be an emerging trend in the literature. By not coming to grips with the kind of power that libertarians must secure, many writers have recently downplayed or dismissed the pressing worry for libertarianism. (shrink)
In the longstanding debate between liberals and libertarians over the morality of redistributive labor taxation, liberals such as John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin have consistently taken the position that such taxation is perfectly compatible with individual liberty, whereas libertarians such as Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard have adopted the (very) contrary position that such taxation is tantamount to slavery. I will demonstrate over the course of this paper that their debate over redistributive labor taxation can be usefully reconstituted as a (...) debate over the incidents (or components) of self-ownership, with liberals making the case for a narrow definition of the concept and libertarians arguing for a broad one. By using what Alan Ryan has called the "language of proprietorship," we will be able to pinpoint the source of their disagreement and to assess the relative strengths of their arguments. We will also discover that the respective definitions of self-ownership used by liberals and libertarians are deeply problematic--though for entirely different reasons. (shrink)
Many critics of libertarian freedom have charged that freedom is incompatible with indeterminism. We show that the strongest argument that has been provided for this claim is invalid. The invalidity of the argument in question, however, implies the invalidity of the standard Consequence argument for the incompatibility of freedom and determinism. We show how to repair the Consequence argument and argue that no similar improvement will revive the worry about the compatibility of indeterminism and freedom.
Drawing on Aristotle’s notion of “ultimate responsibility,” Robert Kane argues that to be exercising a free will an agent must have taken some character forming decisions for which there were no sufficient conditions or decisive reasons.1 That is, an agent whose will is free not only had the ability to develop other dispositions, but could have exercised that ability without being irrational. To say it again, a person has a free will just in case her character is the product of (...) decisions that she could have rationally avoided making. That one’s character is the product of such decisions entails ultimate responsibility for its manifestations, engendering a free will. (shrink)
This article critically examines recent work on free will and moral responsibility by Randolph Clarke, Robert Kane, and Timothy O’Connor in an attempt to clarify issues about control and luck that are central to the debate between libertarians (agent causationists and others) and their critics. It is argued that luck poses an as yet unresolved problem for libertarians.
Some libertarians tend to advocate the wide availability of cognition-enhancing drugs beyond their current prescription-only status. They suggest that certain kinds of drugs can be a component of a prudential conception of the ‘good life’—they enhance our opportunities and preferences; and therefore, if a person freely chooses to use them, then there is no justification for the kind of prejudicial, authoritative restrictions that are currently deployed in public policy. In particular, this libertarian idea signifies that if enhancements are a prudential (...) ‘good’ for the user, then this can also be construed as a moral good for all rational agents. If this argument is successful, there can be no substantial distinction between the categorical benefits of enhancement, and what is labeled as an enhancement technology. In this paper, I argue that the exclusivity of egotistical choice, and an uncritical deployment of enhancement as a prudential good, underplays the role of a social and political community when creating a procedurally just and effective public policy. Principally, the argument is devoid of any ethical system to permit the external—and therefore public–appreciation of the social context of moral decisions. In effect, libertarian arguments of this sort must disregard any ideas of public ethics, because the liberty to use whatever means available to gain a socio-economic advantage actually extinguishes any professed legitimation strategy. Escaping the procedural aspects of public policy, which are considered integral to authoritative coherence, results in the erosion of any moral obligations. Thus, in a libertarian society, disenfranchised individuals—such as those harmed through addiction—are the unlucky or superfluous product of a liberal and ‘progressive’ society. (shrink)
Left-libertarian theories of justice hold that agents are full self-owners and that natural resources are owned in some egalitarian manner. Unlike most versions of egalitarianism, leftlibertarianism endorses full self-ownership, and thus places specific limits on what others may do to one’s person without one’s permission. Unlike the more familiar right-libertarianism (which also endorses full self-ownership), it holds that natural resources—resources which are not the results of anyone's choices and which are necessary for any form of activity—may be privately appropriated (...) only with the permission of, or with a significant payment to, the members of society. Like right-libertarianism, left-libertarianism holds that the basic rights of individuals are ownership rights. Such rights can endow agents—as liberalism requires—with spheres of personal liberty where they may each pursue their conceptions of “the good life”. Left-libertarianism is promising because it coherently underwrites both some demands of material equality and some limits on the permissible means of promoting this equality. It is promising, that is, because it is a form of liberal egalitarianism. Left-libertarian theories have been propounded for over two centuries. Early exponents of some form of self-ownership combined with some form of egalitarian ownership of natural resources include: Hugo Grotius (1625), Samuel Pufendorf (1672), John Locke (1690), William Ogilvie (1781), Thomas Spence (1793), Thomas Paine (1795), Hippolyte de Colins (1835), François Huet (1853), Patrick E. Dove (1850, 1854), Herbert Spencer (1851), Henry George (1879, 1892), and Léon Walras (1896).1 It is striking how much of the current debate about equality, liberty, and responsibility has already been addressed by these authors. (shrink)
Libertarians like Robert Kane believe that indeterminism is necessaryfor free will. They think this in part because they hold both (1) thatmy being the ultimate cause of at least part of myself is necessary forfree will and (2) that indeterminism is necessary for this ``ultimateself-causation''. But seductive and intuitive as this ``USCLibertarianism'' may sound, it is untenable. In the end, nometaphysically coherent (not to mention empirically valid) conception ofultimate self-causation is available. So the basic intuition motivatingthe USC Libertarian is ultimately (...) impossible to fulfill. (shrink)
My primary objective is to motivate the concern that leading libertarian views of free action seem unable to account for an agent’s behavior in a way that reveals an explanatorily apt connection between the agent’s prior reasons and the intentional behavior to be explained. I argue that it is this lack of a suitable reasons explanation of purportedly free decisions that underpins the objection that agents who act with the pertinent sort of libertarian freedom cannot be morally responsible for what (...) they do because their intentional behavior is a matter of luck. The accounts scrutinized include a Kane-type event-causal view, Clarke’s account that appeals to both agent causation and event causation in the production of free action, and O’Connor’s pure agent-causal account. I conclude by discussing an advantage these libertarian accounts enjoy over compatibilist contenders: they possess a feature necessary to accommodate the truth of judgments of moral obligation. (shrink)
In this essay Loren Lomasky wryly proposes that the views of Rawls and Nozick might not be as radically divergent as is conventionally supposed. To demonstrate this proposition, Lomasky invents “Twin Harvard” counterparts of Rawls and Nozick. The twist is that Twin Rawls turns out to be a leading libertarian theorist while Twin Nozick endorses a regime of sweeping redistribution. In each case the position follows from familiar elements in the theories of their respective, real-world counterparts. Lomasky concludes that Twin (...) Rawls actually makes better use of familiar Rawlsian themes-such as the veil of ignorance, strains of commitment, and the priority of liberty-than does Rawls himself. Moreover, Rawls's own attempts at combating libertarianism are seen to be weak, sometimes embarrassingly so. Libertarianism is a specter that he devoutly wishes to exorcize, but cannot. Conversely, the rejection of libertarianism by Twin Nozick (and Nozick?) is striking but shallow. Footnotesa A draft of this essay was prepared while I was enjoying a residential fellowship from the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University, in Canberra, Australia. I have benefited from discussions following talks at the Social and Political Theory program seminar at the Australian National University and the Harvard College Department of Government. (shrink)
What regime of property ownership satisfies norms of justice? The doctrine known as “left-libertarianism” offers a seemingly plausible answer.1 Its basic thrust is that libertarianism properly understood leaves room for an egalitarianism that enhances its appeal. In this essay I argue that the seeming plausibility of the doctrine evaporates under scrutiny. This set of views is unacceptable from any political standpoint, left, right, or center. The left-libertarian category encompasses a family of positions. I focus on one of these, (...) the views elegantly articulated by Michael Otsuka.2 Otsuka’s version of the doctrine nicely illustrates the philosophical ambitions of the project and the flaws at its core. The project is to combine a libertarian thesis of self-ownership (each adult person is the sole full rightful owner of herself) and an egalitarian thesis of world ownership (any legitimate private ownership of material resources or parts of the earth by one person must be compatible with private ownership by all other persons of bundles of resources that are equal in some appropriate sense). I object to both elements in this synthesis. The self-ownership thesis is both too weak and too strong.3 It is too weak to capture a genuine insistence on individual freedom, and too strong in its denial of what.. (shrink)
Over the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in left-libertarianism, which holds (roughly) that agents fully own themselves and that natural resources (land, minerals, air, etc.) belong to everyone in some egalitarian sense. Left-libertarianism agrees with the more familiar right-libertarianism about self-ownership, but radically disagrees with it about the power to acquire ownership of natural resources. Merely being the first person to claim, discover, or mix labor with an unappropriated natural resource does not—left-libertarianism insists—generate (...) a full private property right in that natural resource. (shrink)
I shall formulate and motivate a left-libertarian theory of justice. Like the more familiar rightlibertarianism, it holds that agents initially fully own themselves. Unlike right-libertarianism, it holds that natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner. Left-libertarianism is, I claim, a plausible version of liberal egalitarianism because it is suitably sensitive to considerations of liberty, security, and equality.
For insightful comments, we thank G. A. Cohen, Barbara Fried, Leif Wenar, Andrew Williams, Jonathan Wolff, and the Editors of Philosophy & Public Affairs. 1. Barbara Fried, “Left-Libertarianism: A Review Essay,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 32 (2004): 66–92. This is a review of The Origins of Left-Libertarianism: An Anthology of His- torical Writings and Left-Libertarianism and Its Critics: The Contemporary Debate, both edited by Peter Vallentyne and Hillel Steiner (New York: Palgrave Publishers Ltd., 2000).
Although Robert Nozick has argued that libertarianism is compatible with the justice of a minimal state—even if does not arise from mutual consent—few have been persuaded. I will outline a different way of establishing that a non-consensual libertarian state can be just. I will show that a state can—with a few important qualifications—justly enforce the rights of citizens, extract payments to cover the costs of such enforcement, redistribute resources to the poor, and invest in infrastructure to overcome market failures. (...) Footnotesa For very helpful comments, I am indebted to Dani Attas, Ellen Frankel Paul, Robert <span class='Hi'>Johnson</span>, Brian Kierland, Mike Otsuka, Eric Roark, and the other contributors to this volume. (shrink)
Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality is G.A. Cohens attempt to rescue something of the socialist outlook on society from the challenge of libertarianism, which Cohen identifies with the work of Robert Nozick in his famous book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Sympathizing with the leading idea that a person must belong to himself, and thus be unavailable for forced redistribution of his efforts, Cohen is at pains to reconcile the two. This cannot be done – they are flatly contrary. Moreover, (...) equality is a nonsense principle, calling for such things as equal distribution of natural resources. But resources, as goods, are not natural: all require work to utilize. The only thing exchanged on markets is services, and estimates of value received are relevantly made only by those party to the exchanges in question. Imposition from above on voluntary exchange can only be socially counterproductive. (shrink)
This paper is an encyclopedia entry on the political philosophy of libertarianism, written for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It discusses the major contemporary strands of libertarianism and their historical roots, and presents some of the main criticisms of these strands. Its focus is on libertarianism as a doctrine about distributive justice and political authority, and specifically on the consequentialist and natural rights formulations of these views.
Michael Otsuka sets out to vindicate left-libertarianism, a political Michael Otsuka is Lecturer in Philosophy philosophy which combines stringent rights of control over one’s own at University College London. mind, body, and life with egalitarian rights of ownership of the world. Otsuka reclaims the ideas of John Locke from the libertarian right and shows how his Second Treatise of Government provides the theoretical foundations for a left-libertarianism which is both more libertarian and more egalitarian than the Kantian liberal (...) theories of John Rawls.. (shrink)
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)
In this paper I investigate the libertarian account of immigration. In the first section I distinguish between right-libertarianism and left-libertarianism. In the second section I analyze the arguments focused on immigration from the perspective of self-ownership focused on Nozick’s case and Steiner’s analogy. In the third section I discuss the [...].
In a recent review essay of a two volume anthology on left-libertarianism (edited by two of us), Barbara Fried has insightfully laid out most of the core issues that confront left-libertarianism. We are each left-libertarians, and we would like to take this opportunity to address some of the general issues that she raises. We shall focus, as Fried does much of the time, on the question of whether left-libertarianism is a well-defined and distinct alternative to existing forms (...) of liberal egalitarianism. More specifically, we shall address the following fundamental issues raised by Fried (and others): (1) Does the notion self-ownership have any determinate content? (2) What is the relation between self-ownership and world ownership? (3) How is left-libertarianism different from other forms of liberal egalitarianism (e.g., those of Rawls and Dworkin)? (shrink)
Left-libertarian theories of justice hold that agents are full self-owners and that natural resources are owned in some egalitarian manner. Some philosophers find left-libertarianism promising because it seems that it coherently underwrites both some demands of material equality and some limits on the permissible means of promoting such equality. However, the main goal of this article is to argue that, as far as coherence is concerned, at least one formulation of left-libertarianism is in trouble. This formulation is that (...) of Michael Otsuka, who published it first in a 1998 article, and now in his thought-provoking book Libertarianism Without Inequality . In a nutshell, my objection is that the set of reasons that support egalitarian ownership of natural resources as Otsuka understands it stand in a deep tension with the set of reasons that would prompt one to endorse Otsukas right to self-ownership. In light of their underlying commitments, a defender of either of the views that left-libertarianism combines would actually have to reject the other. This incoherence, it seems, can only be remedied either by an approach that renders left-libertarianism incomplete in a way that can only be fixed by endorsing more commitments than most left-libertarians would want to or by an approach that leaves left-libertarianism a philosophically shallow theory. Key Words: equality left-libertarianism libertarianism original appropriation property self-ownership. (shrink)
The question I raise is whether Mark Balaguer’s event-causal libertarianism can withstand the disappearing agent objection. The concern is that with the causal role of the events antecedent to a decision already given, nothing settles whether the decision occurs, and so the agent does not settle whether the decision occurs. Thus it would seem that in this view the agent will not have the control in making decisions required for moral responsibility. I examine whether Balaguer’s position has the resources (...) to answer this objection. (shrink)