Folk intuitions and the conditional ability to do otherwise

Philosophical Psychology 33 (7):968-996 (2020)

Abstract

In a series of pre-registered studies, we explored (a) the difference between people’s intuitions about indeterministic scenarios and their intuitions about deterministic scenarios, (b) the difference between people’s intuitions about indeterministic scenarios and their intuitions about neurodeterministic scenarios (that is, scenarios where the determinism is described at the neurological level), (c) the difference between people’s intuitions about neutral scenarios (e.g., walking a dog in the park) and their intuitions about negatively valenced scenarios (e.g., murdering a stranger), and (d) the difference between people’s intuitions about free will and responsibility in response to first-person scenarios and third-person scenarios. We predicted that once we focused participants’ attention on the two different abilities to do otherwise available to agents in indeterministic and deterministic scenarios, their intuitions would support natural incompatibilism—the view that laypersons judge that free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with determinism. This prediction was borne out by our findings.

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