Derk Pereboom articulates and defends an original, forward-looking conception of moral responsibility. He argues that although we may not possess the kind of free will that is normally considered necessary for moral responsibility, this does not jeopardize our sense of ourselves as agents, or a robust sense of achievement and meaning in life.
Most people assume that, even though some degenerative or criminal behavior may be caused by influences beyond our control, ordinary human actions are not similarly generated, but rather are freely chosen, and we can be praiseworthy or blameworthy for them. A less popular and more radical claim is that factors beyond our control produce all of the actions we perform. It is this hard determinist stance that Derk Pereboom articulates in Living Without Free Will. Pereboom argues that our best scientific (...) theories have the consequence that factors beyond our control produce all of the actions we perform, and that because of this, we are not morally responsible for any of them. He seeks to defend the view that morality, meaning and value remain intact even if we are not morally responsible, and furthermore, that adopting this perspective would provide significant benefit for our lives. (shrink)
In this book, Derk Pereboom explores how physicalism might best be formulated and defended against the best anti-physicalist arguments. Two responses to the knowledge and conceivability arguments are set out and developed. The first exploits the open possibility that introspective representations fail to represent mental properties as they are in themselves; specifically, that introspection represents phenomenal properties as having certain characteristic qualitative natures, which these properties might actually lack. The second response draws on the proposal that currently unknown fundamental intrinsic (...) properties provide categorical bases for known physical properties and would also yield an account of consciousness. While there are non-physicalist versions of this position, some are amenable to physicalism. The book's third theme is a defense of a nonreductive account of physicalism. The type of nonreductivism endorsed departs from others in that it rejects all token identity claims for psychological and microphysical entities. The deepest relation between the mental and the microphysical is constitution, where this relation is not to be explicated by the notion of identity. (shrink)
As philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism continue to gain traction, we are likely to see a fundamental shift in the way people think about free will and moral responsibility. Such shifts raise important practical and existential concerns: What if we came to disbelieve in free will? What would this mean for our interpersonal relationships, society, morality, meaning, and the law? What would it do to our standing as human beings? Would it cause nihilism and despair as some (...) maintain or would it rather have a humanizing effect on our practices and policies, freeing us from the negative effects of belief in free will? In this chapter we consider the practical implications of free will skepticism and argue that life without free will and basic desert moral responsibility would not be as destructive as many people believe. We argue that prospects of finding meaning in life or of sustaining good interpersonal relationships, for example, would not be threatened. On treatment of criminals, we argue that although retributivism and severe punishment, such as the death penalty, would be ruled out, preventive detention and rehabilitation programs would still be justified. While we will touch on all these issues below, our focus will be primarily on this last issue. -/- We begin in section I by considering two different routes to free will skepticism. The first denies the causal efficacy of the types of willing required for free will and receives its contemporary impetus from pioneering work in neuroscience by Benjamin Libet, Daniel Wegner, and John-Dylan Haynes. The second, which is more common in the philosophical literature, does not deny the causal efficacy of the will but instead claims that whether this causal efficacy is deterministic or indeterministic, it does not achieve the level of control to count as free will by the standards of the historical debate. We argue that while there are compelling objections to the first route—e.g., Al Mele (2009), Eddy Nahmias (2002, 2011), and Neil Levy (2005)—the second route to free will skepticism remains intact. In section II we argue that free will skepticism allows for a workable morality, and, rather than negatively impacting our personal relationships and meaning in life, may well improve our well-being and our relationships to others since it would tend to eradicate an often destructive form of moral anger. In section III we argue that free will skepticism allows for adequate ways of responding to criminal behavior—in particular, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and alternation of relevant social conditions—and that these methods are both morally justified and sufficient for good social policy. We present and defend our own preferred model for dealing with dangerous criminals, an incapacitation account built on the right to self-protection analogous to the justification for quarantine (see Pereboom 2001, 2013, 2014a; Caruso 2016a), and we respond to recent objections to it by Michael Corrado and John Lemos. (shrink)
In _Living Without Free Will_, I develop and argue for a view according to which our being morally responsible would be ruled out if determinism were true, and also if indeterminism were true and the causes of our actions were exclusively events.1 Absent agent causation, indeterministic causal histories are as threatening to moral responsibility as deterministic histories are, and a generalization argument from manipulation cases shows that deterministic histories indeed undermine moral responsibility. Agent causation has not been ruled out as (...) a coherent possibility, but it is not credible given our best physical theories. Hence we must take seriously the prospect that we are not free in the sense required for moral responsibility. I call the resulting view _hard incompatibilism_. Furthermore, contrary to widespread belief, a conception of life without free will would not at all be devastating to morality or to our sense of meaning in life, and in certain respects it may even be beneficial. (shrink)
Examines the relevance of empirical studies of responsibility judgments for traditional philosophical concerns about free will and moral responsibility. We argue that experimental philosophy is relevant to the traditional debates, but that setting up experiments and interpreting data in just the right way is no less difficult than negotiating traditional philosophical arguments. Both routes are valuable, but so far neither promises a way to secure significant agreement among the competing parties. To illustrate, we focus on three sorts of issues. For (...) illustration, we discuss an error theory for incompatibilist intuitions proposed by Eddy Nahmias and colleagues, the role that empirical studies might have in the assessment of manipulation arguments for incompatibilism, and the suggestion that empirical studies reveal that core criteria for moral responsibility ought not to be applied invariantly across different sorts of cases. (shrink)
If my ability to react freely is constrained by forces beyond my control, am I still morally responsible for the things I do? The question of whether, how and to what extent we are responsible for our own actions has always been central to debates in philosophy and theology, and has been the subject of much recent research in cognitive science. And for good reason- the views we take on free will affect the choices we make as individuals, the moral (...) judgments we make of others, and they will inform public policy. Michael McKenna's text introduces this important subject with remarkable clarity, offering the first comprehensive overview of both incompatibilist and compatibilist stances. He begins by motivating both viewpoints, then provides classical accounts of each before giving students an in-depth examination of current scholarship in the free will debate. Topics covered include: the nature of free will the nature of determinism the nature of moral responsibility arguments for the incompatibility of free will and determinism arguments of the compatibility of free will and determinism libertarian theories of free will and moral responsibility compatibilist theories of free will and moral responsibility hard determinist and hard incompatibilist theories. (shrink)
During the 'sixties and 'seventies, Hilary Putnam, Jerry Fodor, and Richard Boyd, among others, developed a type of materialism that eschews reductionist claims.1 In this view, explana- tions, natural kinds, and properties in psychology do not reduce to counterparts in more basic sciences, such as neurophysiology or physics. Nevertheless, all token psychological entities-- states, processes, and faculties--are wholly constituted of physical entities, ultimately out of entities over which microphysics quantifies. This view quickly became the standard position in philosophy of mind, (...) and reductionism fell out of favor. Recently, however, reductionism has been experiencing a rebirth, and many have suggested that the non-reductive approach was accepted too quickly and too uncritically. In this paper, we attempt to provide a more thorough account of the anti-reductionist position, and, in the process, to defend it against its recent critics. (shrink)
Transcendental freedom consists in the power of agents to produce actions without being causally determined by antecedent conditions, nor by their natures, in exercising this power. Kant contends that we cannot establish whether we are actually or even possibly free in this sense. He claims only that our conception of being transcendentally free involves no inconsistency, but that as a result the belief that we have this freedom meets a pertinent standard of minimal credibility. For the rest, its justification depends (...) on practical reasons. I argue that this belief satisfies an appropriately revised standard of minimal credibility, but that the practical reasons Kant adduces for it are subject to serious challenge. (shrink)
This paper features Derk Pereboom’s replies to commentaries by Victor Tadros and Saul Smilansky on his non-retributive, incapacitation-focused proposal for treatment of dangerous criminals; by Michael McKenna on his manipulation argument against compatibilism about basic desert and causal determination; and by Alfred R. Mele on his disappearing agent argument against event-causal libertarianism.
I have presented a Frankfurt-style argument (Pereboom 2000, 2001, 2003) against the requirement of robust alternative possibilities for moral responsibility that features an example, Tax Evasion , in which an agent is intuitively morally responsible for a decision, has no robust alternative possibilities, and is clearly not causally determined to make the decision. Here I revise the criterion for robustness in response to suggestions by Dana Nelkin, Jonathan Vance, and Kevin Timpe, and I respond to objections to the argument by (...) Carlos Moya and David Widerker, in the process of which I refine the Tax Evasion example. (shrink)
This chapter analyses the problem of free will and moral responsibility, to which the history of philosophy records three standard reactions. Compatibilists maintain that it is possible for us to have the free will required for moral responsibility if determinism is true. Others contend that determinism is not compossible with our having the free will required for moral responsibility – they are incompatibilists – but they resist the reasons for determinism and claim that we do possess free will of this (...) kind. They advocate the libertarian position. Hard determinists are also incompatibilists, but they accept that determinism is true and that we lack the sort of free will required for moral responsibility. Source and leeway theories, and the notions of incompatibilism and libertarianism, are discussed. (shrink)
I have argued we are not free in the sense required for moral responsibility, while at the same time a conception of life without this type of free will would not be devastating to morality or to our sense of meaning in life, and in certain respects it may even be beneficial (cf. Pereboom 2001). In ..
The question I raise is whether Mark Balaguer’s event-causal libertarianism can withstand the disappearing agent objection. The concern is that with the causal role of the events antecedent to a decision already given, nothing settles whether the decision occurs, and so the agent does not settle whether the decision occurs. Thus it would seem that in this view the agent will not have the control in making decisions required for moral responsibility. I examine whether Balaguer’s position has the resources to (...) answer this objection. (shrink)
A traditional concern for determinists is that the epistemic conditions an agent must satisfy to deliberate about which of a number of distinct actions to perform threaten to conflict with a belief in determinism and its evident consequences. I develop an account of the sort that specifies two epistemic requirements, an epistemic openness condition and a belief in the efficacy of deliberation, whose upshot is that someone who believes in determinism and its evident consequences can deliberate without inconsistent beliefs. I (...) argue that conditions of both types are indispensable, and that they can be formulated so as to withstand the relevant objections. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to set out a theory for treatment of criminals that rejects retributive justification for punishment; does not fall afoul of a plausible prohibition on using people merely as means; and actually works in the real world. The theory can be motivated by free will skepticism. But it can also be supported without reference to the free will issue, since retributivism faces ethical challenges in its own right. In past versions of the account I’ve emphasized (...) the quarantine analogy for incapacitation together with the value of rehabilitation and reintegration. Here I pay special attention to the permissibility and the limits of general deterrence. (shrink)
The claim that moral responsibility for an action requires that the agent could have done otherwise is surely attractive. Moreover, it seems reasonable to contend that a requirement of this sort is not merely a necessary condition of little consequence, but that it plays a decisive role in explaining an agent's moral responsibility for an action. For if an agent is to be blameworthy for an action, it seems crucial that she could have done something to avoid this blameworthiness. If (...) she is to be praiseworthy for an action, it seems important that at least she could have done something less admirable. Libertarians, in particular, have often grounded their incompatibilism precisely in such intuitions. By contrast, I shall argue that the availability of alternative possibilities is in a significant sense irrelevant to explaining an agent's moral responsibility for an action. At the same time I do not want to disavow incompatibilism, but rather to defend a version in which the pivotal explanatory role is assigned to features of the causal history of the action, and not to the availability of alternative possibilities. (shrink)
Contrary to what I have contended, Michael McKenna argues that basic desert does not have an essential role in the free will debate. On his alternative construal, what is central is whether our practice of holding morally responsible, and blaming in particular, can be justified, and what notion of free will is required for that justification. Notions distinct from basic desert can ground our practice, and so the free will debate is independent of basic desert. Here I argue that the (...) one best candidate for such a notion is basic fairness, but in the area of moral responsibility there is no substantial difference between basic desert and basic fairness. (shrink)
In this article I develop several responses to my co-authors of Four Views on Free Will. In reply to Manuel Vargas, I suggest a way to clarify his claim that our concepts of free will and moral responsibility should be revised, and I question whether he really proposes to revise the notion of basic desert at stake in the debate. In response to Robert Kane, I examine the role the rejection of Frankfurt-style arguments has in his position, and whether his (...) criticism of my version of this argument is sound. In reply to John Fischer, I argue that the reasons-responsiveness central to his account of moral responsibility is not best characterized counterfactually, and I provide a suggestion for revision. (shrink)
Within the United States, the most prominent justification for criminal punishment is retributivism. This retributivist justification for punishment maintains that punishment of a wrongdoer is justified for the reason that she deserves something bad to happen to her just because she has knowingly done wrong—this could include pain, deprivation, or death. For the retributivist, it is the basic desert attached to the criminal’s immoral action alone that provides the justification for punishment. This means that the retributivist position is not reducible (...) to consequentialist considerations nor in justifying punishment does it appeal to wider goods such as the safety of society or the moral improvement of those being punished. A number of sentencing guidelines in the U.S. have adopted desert as their distributive principle, and it is increasingly given deference in the “purposes” section of state criminal codes, where it can be the guiding principle in the interpretation and application of the code’s provisions. Indeed, the American Law Institute recently revised the Model Penal Code so as to set desert as the official dominate principle for sentencing. And courts have identified desert as the guiding principle in a variety of contexts, as with the Supreme Court’s enthroning retributivism as the “primary justification for the death penalty.” While retributivism provides one of the main sources of justification for punishment within the criminal justice system, there are good philosophical and practical reasons for rejecting it. One such reason is that it is unclear that agents truly deserve to suffer for the wrongs they have done in the sense required by retributivism. In the first section, I explore the retributivist justification of punishment and explain why it is inconsistent with free will skepticism. In the second section, I then argue that even if one is not convinced by the arguments for free will skepticism, there remains a strong epistemic argument against causing harm on retributivist grounds that undermines both libertarian and compatibilist attempts to justify it. I maintain that this argument provides sufficient reason for rejecting the retributive justification of criminal punishment. I conclude in the third section by briefly sketching my public health-quarantine model, a non-retributive alternative for addressing criminal behavior that draws on the public health framework and prioritizes prevention and social justice. I argue that the model is not only consistent with free will skepticism and the epistemic argument against retributivism, it also provides the most justified, humane, and effective way of dealing with criminal behavior. (shrink)
Among Immanuel Kant's most influential contributionsto philosophy is his development of the transcendental argument. InKant's conception, an argument of this kind begins with a compellingpremise about our thought, experience, or knowledge, and then reasonsto a conclusion that is a substantive and unobvious presupposition andnecessary condition of this premise. The crucial steps in thisreasoning are claims to the effect that a subconclusion or conclusionis a presupposition and necessary condition of a premise. Such anecessary condition might be a logically necessary condition, butoften (...) in Kant's transcendental arguments the condition is necessary inthe sense that it is the only possible explanation for the premise,whereupon the necessity might be weaker than logical. Typically, thisreasoning is intended to be a priori in some sense, eitherstrict or more relaxed. The conclusion of the argument is often directed againstskepticism of some sort. For example, Kant's Transcendental Deductiontargets Humean skepticism about the applicability of a priorimetaphysical concepts, and his Refutation of Idealism takes aim atskepticism about external objects. These two transcendental argumentsare found in the Critique of Pure Reason, butsuch arguments are found throughout Kant's works, for example inthe Critique of Practical Reason, in the Critiqueof the Power of Judgment, and in the OpusPosthumum. This article focuses on theTranscendental Deduction, the Refutation of Idealism, and more recenttranscendental arguments such as P. F. Strawson's that areinspired by these two examples. (shrink)
: What is at stake in the debate between those, such as Sam Harris and me, who contend that we would lack free will on the supposition that we are causally determined agents, and those that defend the claim that we might then retain free will, such as Daniel Dennett? I agree with Dennett that on the supposition of causal determination there would be robust ways in which we could shape, control, and cause our actions. But I deny that on (...) this supposition we would have the control in action required for us to basically deserve to be blamed, praised, punished or rewarded. In this response, I argue that this is the core issue that divides compatibilists and incompatiblists about free will and causal determination, and that the incompatibilist position is the right one to accept. Keywords: Sam Harris; Daniel Dennett; Free Will Skepticism; Compatibilism; Incompatibilism Risposta a Daniel Dennet sullo scetticismo circa il libero arbitrio Riassunto: Qual è la posta in gioco nel dibattito che vede contrapporsi chi – come Sam Harris e me – sostiene che non avremmo libertà di volere sulla scorta dell’ipotesi per cui siamo agenti causalmente determinati e chi, al contrario – come Daniel Dennett – difende l’idea che possa darsi un libero volere? Concordo con Dennett circa il fatto che, anche nell’ipotesi della determinazione causale, resterebbe lo spazio per sostenere che per vari e importanti aspetti saremmo comunque noi a modellare, controllare e causare le nostre azioni. E tuttavia rifiuto che su questa base avremmo il controllo in azioni richieste per meritare di essere biasimati, lodati, puniti o premiati. A mio avviso questo è l’elemento cardine che divide i compatibilisti dagli incompatibilisti all’interno del dibattito sul libero arbitro e sulla determinazione causale e ritengo che la posizione corretta sia quella incompatibista. Parole chiave: Sam Harris; Daniel Dennett; Scetticismo verso il libero arbitrio; Compatibilismo; Incompatibilismo. (shrink)
A unique anthology featuring contributions to the dispute over free will from Aristotle to the twenty-first century, Derk Pereboom's volume presents the most thoughtful positions taken in this crucial debate and discusses their consequences for free will's traditional corollary, moral responsibility. The Second Edition retains the organizational structure that made its predecessor the leading anthology of its kind, while adding major new selections by such philosophers as Spinoza, Reid, John Martin Fischer, Robert Kane, Galen Strawson, and Timothy O'Connor. _Hackett Readings (...) in Philosophy_ is a versatile series of compact anthologies, each devoted to a topic of traditional interest. Selections include classical, modern, and contemporary writings chosen for their elegance of exposition and success at stimulating thought and discussion. (shrink)
I argue that agent-causal libertarianism has a strong initial rejoinder to Mele's luck argument against it, but that his claim that it has yet to be explained how agent-causation yields responsibility-conferring control has significant force. I suggest an avenue of response. Subsequently, I raise objections to Mele's criticisms of my four-case manipulation argument against compatibilism.
1. Consider first Baker’s definition of constitution. In her view, constitution is a relation between concrete individuals. Each concrete individual is fundamentally a member of exactly one primary kind. By definition, any concrete individual has its primary kind membership essentially, so that a concrete individual x’s ceasing to be a member of this kind entails that x ceases to exist. For example, David’s primary kind is statue, Piece’s primary kind is piece of marble. Suppose that x and y are concrete (...) individuals; F* designates the property of having F as one’s primary-kind; F and G are not the same kind; individual x has F* and individual y has G*; and D designates G- favorable circumstances—“the milieu required for something to be a G”. Then. (shrink)