Explaining Away Incompatibilist Intuitions

Abstract
The debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists depends in large part on what ordinary people mean by ‘free will’, a matter on which previous experimental philosophy studies have yielded conflicting results. In Nahmias, Morris, Nadelhoffer, and Turner (2005, 2006), most participants judged that agents in deterministic scenarios could have free will and be morally responsible. Nichols and Knobe (2007), though, suggest that these apparent compatibilist responses are performance errors produced by using concrete scenarios, and that their abstract scenarios reveal the folk theory of free will for what it actually is—incompatibilist. Here, we argue that the results of two new studies suggest just the opposite. Most participants only give apparent incompatibilist judgments when they mistakenly interpret determinism to imply that agents’ mental states are bypassed in the causal chains that lead to their behavior. Determinism does not entail bypassing, so these responses do not reflect genuine incompatibilist intuitions. When participants understand what determinism does mean, the vast majority take it to be compatible with free will. Further results indicate that most people’s concepts of choice and the ability to do otherwise do not commit them to incompatibilism, either, putting pressure on incompatibilist arguments that rely on transfer principles, such as the Consequence Argument. We discuss the implications of these findings for philosophical debates about free will, and suggest that incompatibilism appears to be either false, or else a thesis about something other than what most people mean by ‘free will’.
Keywords free will  intuition  experimental philosophy  moral responsibility  incompatibilism  compatibilism  choice
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DOI 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2012.00609.x
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References found in this work BETA
Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1955 - Harvard University Press.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.

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Citations of this work BETA
The Rise and Fall of Experimental Philosophy.Antti Kauppinen - 2007 - Philosophical Explorations 10 (2):95 – 118.
The Lesson of Bypassing.David Rose & Shaun Nichols - 2013 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (4):599-619.

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Similar books and articles
Experimental Philosophy on Free Will: An Error Theory for Incompatibilist Intuitions.Eddy Nahmias & Dylan Murray - 2010 - In Jesus Aguilar, Andrei Buckareff & Keith Frankish (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Action. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 189--215.
Free Will and Consciousness: Experimental Studies.Joshua Shepherd - 2012 - Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2):915-927.
Arguments for Incompatibilism.Kadri Vihvelin - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Is Incompatibilism Intuitive?Jason Turner - 2006 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (1):28-53.

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