Fundamentalist Contextualist Compatibilism: A Response to the Consequence Argument

Abstract
In my dissertation I offer what I take to be a novel and compelling response to the consequence argument: the argument that if causal determinism is true, then the past history of the world and the laws of nature together determine everything that will happen in the future&mdashincluding my actions and in fact every action ever done by anyone. I begin by noting and emphasizing a parallel between the consequence argument and the skeptical argument, which leads us to ask whether a response to the latter can be modified and applied to the former. In preparation for that undertaking, we examine two influential responses to the consequence argument—backtracking compatibilism and local miracle compatibilism—both of which claim that if we were to do otherwise (and if determinism is true), then a certain counterfactual conditional would be true. Although I don't fully endorse either of these responses, I do explain how they point us in the right direction.I then turn to the skeptical argument, and in particular the contextualist response to the skeptical argument. Although I don't fully endorse contextualism either, I do emphasize a virtue of the view, namely that it explains how the skeptical argument can seem so compelling even though, in ordinary circumstances, its conclusion strikes us as wildly implausible. Finally, I offer my response to the consequence argument. I begin by adopting and extending a philosophical methodology labeled “southern fundamentalism.” The first move in my response is to argue that we should endorse an “austere” conception of acting freely according to which it does not require being able to do otherwise than we actually do, as an extension of the actual past (consistent with the laws of nature). I then provide a contextualist explanation of how we can be led (astray) by the consequence argument into thinking that this condition is required for acting freely when in fact it is not. Thus I hope to have provided not only a new and compelling response to the consequence argument, but also a foray into some woefully under-explored territory: the intersection of agency theory and epistemology
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