Ann Whittle offers a fresh approach to questions about whether our actions are free and whether we are morally responsible for them. She argues that the answers to these questions depend on the contexts in which we make claims about our abilities and our control over our actions.
Dispositional compatibilists argue that a proper understanding of our abilities vindicates both compatibilism and the principle of Alternate Possibilities (the claim that the ability to do otherwise is required for freedom and moral responsibility). In this paper, I argue that this is mistaken. Both analyses of dispositions and abilities should distinguish between local and global dispositions or abilities. Once this distinction is in place, we see that neither thesis is established by an analysis of abilities.
That there is no substance causation is often treated as the default position. My aim in this paper is primarily one of burden shifting: opponents of substance causation must do more to defend their position. After outlining the thesis I wish to defend, I present a simple argument for substance causation, arguing that opponents of substance causation owe us an explanation of why this argument is unsound. I end by answering objections to the view that substances can be causes.
Considerations upon the nature of properties and laws have led some philosophers to claim that the correct epistemic attitude with regards to the intrinsic properties of particulars is scepticism. I examine one particularly clear version of this line of argument, and contend that a serious form of scepticism is not established. However, I argue that the theories of properties and laws underlying the argument have unwanted metaphysical implications. These provide a stronger reason to jettison the analyses. I end by sketching (...) an alternative view that avoids these difficulties. -/- . (shrink)
The causal theory of properties is standardly combined with a realist's ontology of universals or tropes. In this paper, I consider an uncharted alternative – a nominalist causal theory of properties. I discuss advantages and disadvantages of the resulting theory of properties, and explore the Rylean understanding of causal powers that emerges.
I consider a grand, yet neglected proposal put forward by Shoemaker—a functionalist theory of all properties. I argue that two possible ways of developing this proposal meet with substantial objections. However, if we are prepared to endorse an ontology of tropes, one of these functionalist analyses can be developed into an original and informative theory of properties.
In this paper, I explore an alternative to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities for Moral Responsibility—the Ceteris Paribus Principle of Alternative Possibilities for Moral Responsibility. I consider motivations for this principle and answer some objections to it.
The co-instantiation thesis is pivotal to a significant solution to the problem of causal exclusion. But this thesis has been subject to some powerful objections. In this paper, I argue that these difficulties arise because the thesis lacks the necessary metaphysical framework in which its claims should be interpreted and understood. Once this framework is in place, we see that the co-instantiation thesis can answer its critics. The result is a rehabilitated co-instantiation solution to the troubling problem of causal exclusion. (...) But questions remain concerning the viability of certain of its applications. (shrink)
In an outline of a paper found amongst his philosophical papers and correspondence after his untimely death in 2001—“Nihil Obstat: An Analysis of Ability,” reproduced in this volume—David Lewis sketched a new compatibilist account of abilities, according to which someone is able to A if and only if there is no obstacle to their A-ing, where an obstacle is a ‘robust preventer’ of their A-ing. In this paper, we provide some background context for Lewis’s outline, a section-by-section commentary, and a (...) general discussion of the account’s main features. (shrink)
Some have argued that our intuitive reactions to a number of cases of moral responsibility can only be preserved at the expense of a unified account of moral responsibility for acts and omissions. I argue against this conclusion, proposing that a plausible condition on responsibility, the Causal Condition can, when properly elaborated, justify the relevant intuitive data.
I distinguish between two opposing intuitions about the nature of the singular causal relation. The first stresses the nomological character of causation, while the second emphasises is seemingly local character. My question is this: is it possible to formulate an account of causation which incorporates both intuitions? Anscombe gives us reason to think that these intuitions could not be jointly met in an account of causation. Foster and Tooley's acount seems to provide a counter‐instance to her claim, but this proves (...) to be a false start. I put forward an alternative suggestion which, by utilising tropes, manages to reconcile both the local and nomological character of causation. (shrink)
The issue of whether and how we have the control necessary for freedom and moral responsibility is central to all control accounts of freedom and moral responsibility. The problem of luck for libertarians aims to show that indeterministic agents are ill‐equipped with the control required for freedom and moral responsibility. In view of this, we must either endorse scepticism about the possibility of free and morally responsible agents, or make some form of, possibly revisionary, compatibilism work.In this paper, I shall (...) offer a new solution to the problem of luck for libertarians. After outlining the problem of luck, I shall argue that, given a particular approach to mental causation, indeterminism can be viewed as an essential requirement of free and morally responsible action. After this, I shall distinguish between different types of inability and show how this provides us with a solution to the problem of luck. Finally, I shall consider some advantages and objections to the proposed solution. (shrink)
I distinguish between two opposing intuitions about the nature of the singular causal relation. The first stresses the nomological character of causation, while the second emphasises is seemingly local character. My question is this: is it possible to formulate an account of causation which incorporates both intuitions? Anscombe gives us reason to think that these intuitions could not be jointly met in an account of causation. Foster and Tooley's acount seems to provide a counter-instance to her claim, but this proves (...) to be a false start. I put forward an alternative suggestion which, by utilising tropes, manages to reconcile both the local and nomological character of causation. (shrink)
In this paper, I take a critical look at Sartorio’s book Causation and Free Will (2016). Sartorio offers a rich defence of an actual-sequence view of freedom, which pays close attention to issues in the philosophy of causation and how they relate to freedom. I argue that although this focus on causation is illuminating, Sartorio’s project nevertheless runs into some serious difficulties. Perhaps most worrying amongst them is whether the agent-based reason-sensitivity account, offered by Sartorio, is consistent with Frankfurt-style cases (...) – the very cases which are provided as the sole reason to endorse an actual-sequence view of freedom. I suggest that given that powers and causation are so intimately bound together, the debate is skewed somewhat by thinking of these as rivals. (shrink)
ABSTRACT In this paper, I shall explore the relationship between the control required for action and the control required for moral responsibility. I shall argue that there is an incongruity between Frankfurt’s account of guidance control presented in his theory of action and his commitment to the claim that alternative possibilities are not required for moral responsibility. This inconsistency centres around the role of abilities to do otherwise in our analyses of action and moral responsibility. After outlining the problem for (...) Frankfurt, I shall then motivate one way of resolving this tension. This solution provides a unified role for abilities to do otherwise in our analyses of control. (shrink)
This thesis investigates the causal theory of properties (CTP). CTP states that properties must be understood via the complicated network of causal relations to which a property can contribute. If an object instantiates the property of being 900C, for instance, it will burn human skin on contact, feel warm to us if near, etc. In order to best understand CTP, I argue that we need to distinguish between properties and particular instances of them. Properties should be analysed via the causal (...) relations their instances stand in, it is this oven’s being 900C which causes my skin to burn, etc. The resulting CTP offers an illuminating analysis of properties. First, it provides a criterion of identity for properties, their identity being analysed via the causal roles property instances realise. It also offers an account of how property instances are sorted into genuine kinds, in cases of determinables and determinates. I show how we can distinguish between genuine and non-genuine similarity via the property instances of objects. The implications of CTP for an analysis of causation are then investigated. I argue that the proposed CTP offers a plausible causal ontology. The fine-grainedness of property instances enables us to capture the subtleties involved in questions concerning what causes what. But, even more importantly, CTP enables us to reconcile two highly attractive theses concerning the causal relation. The first of these is the generalist’s thesis. This states that causal relations are part of more general patterns. The second of these is the singularist’s thesis. This states that the causal connection between two entities, doesn’t depend upon anything extraneous to that relation. I argue that by combining CTP with an ontology of tropes, we can thereby respect what is driving both singularism and generalism.Logic & Metaphysics. (shrink)
This paper examines the relationship between causality and intrinsicality. Construed in one way, that relationship can be defended against some proposed counterexamples. However, I argue that trumping cases pose a more serious, if not fatal, problem. I then examine an alternative way of thinking about the relationship, but suggest that this too meets the same fate.