Carolina Sartorio argues that only the actual causes of our behaviour matter to our freedom. The key, she claims, lies in a correct understanding of the role played by causation in a view of that kind. Causation has some important features that make it a responsibility-grounding relation, and this contributes to the success of the view. Also, when agents act freely, the actual causes are richer than they appear to be at first sight; in particular, they reflect the agents' sensitivity (...) to reasons, where this includes both the existence of actual reasons and the absence of other reasons. So acting freely requires more causes and quite complex causes, as opposed to fewer causes and simpler causes, and is compatible with those causes being deterministic. The book connects two different debates, the one on causation and the one on the problem of free will, in new and illuminating ways. (shrink)
Does a person's liability to attack during a war depend on the nature of their individual causal contribution to the (unjust) threat posed? If so, how? The recent literature on the ethics of war has become increasingly focused on questions of this kind. According to some views on these matters, your liability hinges on the extent of your causal contribution: the larger your contribution to an unjust threat, the larger the amount of harm that we can impose on you in (...) order to avert the threat. Some philosophers have suggested that we can ground a quite general principle of civilian immunity on this basis. But, do causal contributions really come in degrees? Can we make sense of a graded notion of causal contribution that can be relevant to debates about liability in war? I argue there is good reason to be sceptical. The appearance that causal contributions come in degrees is just an illusion that can be explained away. (shrink)
Some philosophers have claimed that causally determined agents are not morally responsible because they cannot make a difference in the world. A recent response by philosophers who defend the compatibility of determinism and responsibility has been to concede that causally determined agents are incapable of making a difference, but to argue that responsibility is not grounded in difference making. These compatibilists have rested such a claim on Frankfurt cases—cases where agents are intuitively responsible for acts that they couldn’t have failed (...) to perform. This essay argues, first, that the intuitive plausibility of the idea that responsibility is grounded in difference making is not completely put to rest by Frankfurt cases, even if those cases successfully show that responsibility is not grounded in difference making in the sense of access to alternative possibilities of action. It then goes on to develop a different compatibilist strategy, one according to which responsibility is grounded in difference making, but the type of difference making it is grounded in does not require access to alternative possibilities. Indeed, it is a form of difference making that is clearly compatible with determinism. (shrink)
What is the relationship between moral responsibility and causation? Plainly, we are not morally responsible for everything that we cause. For we cause a multitude of things, including things that we couldn't possibly foresee we would cause and with respect to which we cannot be assessed morally. Thus, it is clear that causing something does not entail being morally responsible for it. But, does the converse entailment hold? Does moral responsibility require causation? Intuitively, it does: intuitively, we can only be (...) morally responsible for things that we cause. (shrink)
Some classical studies in social psychology suggest that we are more sensitive to situational factors, and less responsive to reasons, than we normally recognize we are. In recent years, moral responsibility theorists have examined the question whether those studies represent a serious threat to our moral responsibility. A common response to the “situationist threat” has been to defend the reasons-responsiveness of ordinary human agents by appeal to a theory of reasons-responsiveness that appeals to patterns of counterfactual scenarios or possible worlds. (...) In this paper I identify a problem with that response and I offer a better solution. (shrink)
In this article I examine the relation between causation and moral responsibility. I distinguish four possible views about that relation. One is the standard view: the view that an agent's moral responsibility for an outcome requires, and is grounded in, the agent's causal responsibility for it. I discuss several challenges to the standard view, which motivate the three remaining views. The final view – the view I argue for – is that causation is the vehicle of transmission of moral responsibility. (...) According to this view, although moral responsibility does not require causation, causation still grounds moral responsibility. (shrink)
There is an initial presumption against disjunctive causes. First of all, for some people causation is a relation between events. But, arguably, there are no disjunctive events, since events are particulars and thus they have spatiotemporal locations, while it is unclear what the spatiotemporal location of a disjunctive event could be.1 More importantly, even if one believes that entities like facts can enter in causal relations, and even if there are disjunctive facts, it is still hard to see how disjunctive (...) facts could be causes. Imagine, for instance, the following scenario. I have a gun filled with red paint and another gun filled with blue paint, and I fire both guns at my neighbor’s white wall. A moment later, there is a graffiti on the wall and my neighbor notifies the police. He would have done so regardless of the graffiti’s color, since all he cares about is the existence of a graffiti on his wall. Is it plausible to claim that a disjunctive fact is a cause of his notifying the police? In particular, is it plausible to claim that he notified the police because I fired the red-paint gun or the blue-paint gun (the thought being that my firing paint of either color would have sufficed)? It seems not. The police was notified because of the actual graffiti on the wall, and the actual graffiti on the wall is made of a certain pattern of colored patches. Imagine, that, as it turns out, there are patches of both colors on the wall. Then it seems that both my firing the red-paint gun and my firing the blue-paint gun were causes of my neighbor’s notifying the police. In other words, my firing the red-paint gun and my firing the blue-paint gun jointly caused the outcome: each of them was a contributory cause of the outcome’s occurrence. On the other hand, imagine that there are only patches of one color on the wall. Then it seems that my firing only one of the guns was a cause. Either way, the disjunction fails to be a cause: either my firing the red-paint gun was a cause, or my firing the blue-paint gun was a cause, or they were both causes, but their disjunction was not.. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Frankfurt’s ‘Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility’ broke with the tradition of understanding the kind of freedom required for responsibility in terms of alternative possibilities. At the same time, it inspired and motivated a new family of views in its place: views that focus exclusively on actual sequences or the actual causes of behaviour. But, what exactly does that ‘exclusiveness’ claim amount to? At first sight, it may seem natural to interpret it as the claim that the only facts that (...) are relevant to an agent’s freedom are certain facts about actual causes. This would imply that any non-actual facts are simply irrelevant to the freedom of agents. This paper argues that this interpretation is mistaken, and proposes a better one. It also discusses the related but more general question of the type of project that we are invested in when giving a theory of freedom: Are we interested in the bottom-level grounding facts, or are we interested in some higher-level facts? (shrink)
The focus of this paper is an influential family of views in the ethics of self-defense and war: views that ground the agent’s liability to be attacked in self-defense in the agent’s moral responsibility for the threat posed. I critically examine the concept of responsibility employed by such views, by looking at potential connections with the contemporary literature on moral responsibility. I start by uncovering some of the key assumptions that Responsibility Views make about the relevant concept of responsibility, and (...) by scrutinizing those assumptions under the lens of more general theorizing about responsibility. I identify an important conflict that arises at that point. The problem is that the concept presupposed by Responsibility Views is in tension with the standard way of understanding the connection between the neutral and non-neutral forms of moral responsibility. I draw attention to a particular strategy that could be used to address this challenge, but I also identify some important obstacles that stand in the way. (shrink)
Over the years, two models of freedom have emerged as competitors: the alternative-possibilities model and the actual-sequence model. This paper is a partial defense of the actual-sequence model. My defense relies on two strategies. The first strategy consists in de-emphasizing the role of examples in arguing for a model of freedom. Imagine that, as some people think, Frankfurt-style cases fail to undermine the alternative-possibilities model. What follows from this? Not much, I argue. In particular, I note that the counterparts of (...) Frankfurt-style cases also fail to undermine the actual-sequence model. My second strategy of defense consists in revitalizing the original motivation for the actual-sequence model, by revamping it, isolating it from claims that do not fully capture the same idea, and arguing that it can be developed in a successful way. (shrink)
In this little but profound volume, Robert Kane and Carolina Sartorio debate a perennial question: Do We Have Free Will? Short, lively and accessible, the debate showcases diverse and cutting-edge work on free will.
I respond to the critical comments by Randolph Clarke, Alfred Mele, and Derk Pereboom on my book Causation and Free Will. I discuss some features of the view that our freedom is exclusively based on actual causes, including the role played in it by absences of reasons, absence causation, modal facts, and finally some additional thoughts on how a compatibilist can respond to the manipulation argument for incompatibilism.
In this paper I critically examine Michael Moore's views about responsibility in overdetermination cases. Moore argues for an asymmetrical view concerning actions and omissions: whereas our actions can make us responsible in overdetermination cases, our omissions cannot. Moore argues for this view on the basis of a causal claim: actions can be causes but omissions cannot. I suggest that we should reject Moore's views about responsibility and overdetermination. I argue, in particular, that our omissions can make us responsible in overdetermination (...) cases. I go on to provide an account of how this may be possible. (shrink)
In this paper I reexamine the debate between two contrasting conceptions of free will: the classical model, which understands freedom in terms of alternative possibilities, and a more recent family of views that focus only on actual causes, and that were inspired by Frankfurt’s famous attack on the principle of alternative possibilities. I offer a novel argument in support of the actual-causes model, one that bypasses the popular debate about Frankfurt-style cases.
I explore the question of how to ground the responsibility of agents in some tricky cases involving multiple agents who act in a non-coordinated fashion. These are scenarios where no single agent has the individual ability to make a difference to a harmful outcome, but where the outcome would have been avoided if they had all acted as they should have (thus, the agents collectively made a difference to the outcome’s occurrence). I argue that an important source of the problem (...) is that it’s hard to motivate a concept of cause that can be behind the agents’ responsibility in these cases. I illustrate the problem with a particular example: Yablo’s proportionality criterion on causation. I then sketch a possible solution. (shrink)
In 1992, as part of a larger charitable campaign, the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth’s older son and heir) launched a line of organic food products called “Prince’s Duchy Originals”.1 The first product that went on sale was an oat cookie: “the oaten biscuit.” Since then the oaten biscuit has been joined by hundreds of other products and Duchy Originals has become one of the leading organic food brands in the UK. Presumably, the Prince of Wales is very (...) proud of his Duchy Originals products, and of the oaten biscuits in particular. Let’s imagine that he is so proud of the oaten biscuits that he eats them regularly. Also, let’s imagine that one day Queen Elizabeth asks the Prince to water the plant in her room. As she explains to him, she’ll be gone for the day and the plant needs to be watered every afternoon. But the Prince decides not to water the plant. Instead of watering the plant, he spends his afternoon savoring some oaten biscuits, and the Queen’s plant dies. (shrink)
What do the words ceteris paribus add to a causal hypothesis, that is, to a generalization that is intended to articulate the consequences of a causal mechanism? One answer, that looks almost too good to be true, is that a ceteris paribus hedge restricts the scope of the hypothesis to those cases where nothing undermines, interferes with, or undoes the effect of the mechanism in question, even if the hypothesis’s own formulator is otherwise unable to specify fully what might constitute (...) such undermining or interference. This paper proposes a semantics for causal generalizations according to which ceteris paribus hedges deliver on this promise, because the truth conditions for a causal generalization depend in part on the -- perhaps unknown -- nature of the mechanism whose consequences it is intended to describe. It follows that the truth conditions for causal hypotheses are typically opaque to their own formulators. (shrink)
On the face of it, causal responsibility seems to be “additive” in the following sense: if I cause some effects, then it seems that I also cause the sum (aggregate, conjunction, etc.) of those effects. Let’s call the claim that causation behaves in this way, Additivity.
Over the years, two models of freedom have emerged as competitors: the alternative-possibilities model, which states that acting freely consists in being able to do otherwise, and, more recently, the actual-sequence model, which states that acting freely is exclusively a function of the actual sequence of events issuing in our behavior. In general, a natural strategy when trying to decide between two models of a certain concept is to look for examples that support one model and undermine the other. Frankfurt-style (...) cases have been used for this kind of purpose, to challenge the alternative-possibilities view and support the actual-sequence view. In this paper I examine the prospects of the counterparts of Frankfurt-style cases: “PAP-style” cases, or cases that could be used to support the alternative-possibilities view and challenge the actual-sequence view. I argue that there are no successful PAP-style cases. (shrink)
Moore’s Mechanical Choices is ripe with interesting ideas. Here I’ll focus on a particularly intriguing one that intersects with some aspects of my own work. It’s the suggestion that causalism should be amended in a way that doesn’t require causation. At first, this suggestion may sound absurd: How can causalism survive without causation, of all things? But I think that Moore is actually right about the main suggestion. I don’t think he’s right for the right reasons, but he’s still right (...) about the main idea. So, the aim of this paper is to explain how causalism can survive without causation, and how it may not. (shrink)
This is a critical discussion of Vihvelin’s recent book Causes, Laws, and Free Will. I discuss Vihvelin’s ideas on Frankfurt-style cases and the actual-sequence view of freedom that is inspired by them.
I argue that, according to ordinary morality, there is moral inertia, that is, moral pressure to fail to intervene in certain circumstances. Moral inertia is manifested in scenarios with a particular causal structure: deflection scenarios, where a threatening or benefiting process is diverted from a group of people to another. I explain why the deflection structure is essential for moral inertia to be manifested. I argue that there are two different manifestations of moral inertia: strict prohibitions on interventions, and constraints (...) on interventions. Finally, I discuss the connection between moral inertia and the distinction between killing and letting die (or doing and allowing harm). (shrink)
We have recently proposed a diagnosis of what goes wrong in cases of ‘easy-knowledge.’ Erik Wielenberg argues that there are cases of easy knowledge thatour proposal cannot handle. In this note we reply to Wielenberg, arguing that our proposal does indeed handle his cases.
Although free will compatibilists are typically focused on arguing that determinism is compatible with free will, most compatibilists also think that indeterminism is compatible with free will too—and I am one of those compatibilists. In this chapter, I will look at this issue from the perspective of a compatibilist view I have defended elsewhere : a view that takes our freedom to be a function of the actual causal histories of our behavior. In the first part of the chapter I (...) argue that, assuming this view, it follows that indeterminism is in fact compatible with free will. Still, the assumption of indeterminism gives rise to some novel and interesting questions concerning the nature of indeterministic causation. The second part of the chapter is concerned with motivating and discussing those questions. (shrink)
I criticize what seems to be a common assumption of the precedent papers, namely, that the model-theoretic argument has similar consequences for the different realms of language. In particular, I argue that while the argument does not have serious consequences for natural languages, this is not the case with the language of mathematics.
My main aim is to examine the extent to which an appeal to the concept of cause contributes to elucidating moral notions or to increasing the plausibility of moral views. Something that makes this task interestingly complex is the fact that the notion of causation itself is controversial and difficult to pin down. As a result, in some cases the success of its use in moral theory hinges on how certain debates about causation are resolved. I will point to examples (...) of this phenomenon as I proceed. (shrink)
A billionaire tells you: “That chair is in my way; I don’t feel like moving it myself, but if you push it out of my way I’ll give you a hundred dollars.” You decide you don’t want the billionaire’s money and you’d actually prefer that the chair stay in the billionaire’s way, so you graciously turn down the offer and go home. As it turns out, the billionaire is also a stingy old miser; he was never willing to let go (...) of a hundred dollars. Knowing full well that the chair couldn’t be moved due to the existence of several tons of weight tying it to the ground, he simply wanted to have a laugh at your expense. (shrink)