The Metaphysics of Free Will provides a through statement of the major grounds for skepticism about the reality of free will and moral responsibility. The author identifies and explains the sort of control that is associated with personhood and accountability, and shows how it is consistent with causal determinism. In so doing, out view of ourselves as morally responsible agents is protected against the disturbing changes posed by science and religion.
This is a selection of essays on moral responsibility that represent the major components of John Martin Fischer's overall approach to freedom of the will and moral responsibility. The collection exhibits the overall structure of Fischer's view and shows how the various elements fit together to form a comprehensive framework for analyzing free will and moral responsibility. The topics include deliberation and practical reasoning, freedom of the will, freedom of action, various notions of control, and moral accountability. The essays seek (...) to provide a foundation for our practices of holding each other (and ourselves) morally and legally accountable for our behavior. A crucial move is the distinction between two kinds of control. According to Fischer, "regulative control" involves freedom to choose and do otherwise ("alternative possibilities"), whereas "guidance control" does not. Fischer contends that guidance control is all the freedom we need to be morally responsible agents. Further, he contends that such control is fully compatible with causal determinism. Additionally, Fischer argues that we do not need genuine access to alternative possibilities in order for there to be a legitimate point to practical reasoning. Fischer's overall framework contains an argument for the contention that guidance control, and not regulative control, is associated with moral responsibility, a sketch of a comprehensive theory of moral responsibility (that ties together responsibility for actions, omissions, consequences, and character), and an account of the value of moral responsibility. On this account, the value of exhibiting freedom (of the relevant sort) and thus being morally responsible for one's behavior is a species of the value of artistic self-expression. (shrink)
Fischer here defends the contention that moral responsibility is associated with "deep control", which is "in-between" two untenable extreme positions: "superficial control" and "total control". He defends this "middle way" against the proponents of more--and less--robust notions of the freedom required for moral responsibility. Fischer offers a new solution to the Luck Problem, as well as providing a defense of the compatibility of causal determinism and moral responsibility.
In this paper, we aim to clarify and evaluate the contention that immortality would be necessarily boring . It will emerge that, just as there are various importantly different kinds of immortality, there are various distinct kinds of boredom. To evaluate the Necessary Boredom Thesis, we need to specify the kind of immortality and the kind of boredom. We argue against the thesis, on various specifications of “immortality” and “boredom.”.
Introduction: "meaning in life and death : our stories" -- John Martin Fischer and Anthony B rueckner, "Why is death bad?", Philosophical studies, vol. 50, no. 2 (September 1986) -- "Death, badness, and the impossibility of experience," Journal of ethics -- John Martin Fischer and Daniel Speak, "Death and the psychological conception of personal identity," Midwest studies in philosophy, vol. 24 -- "Earlier birth and later death : symmetry through thick and thin," Richard Feldman, Kris McDaniel, Jason R. Raibley, eds., (...) The good, the right, life and death (Aldershot : Ashgate Publishing, 2006) -- "Why immortality is not so bad," International journal of philosophical studies, vol. 2, no. 2 (September 1994) -- John Martin Fischer and Ruth Curl, "Philosophical models of immortality in science fiction," in George Slusser et. al., eds., Immortal engines : life extension and immortality in science fiction and fantasy (Athens, Ga. : University of Georgia Press, 1996) -- "Epicureanism about death and immortality," Journal of ethics, vol. 10, no. 4 -- "Stories," Midwest studies in philosophy, vol. 20 -- "Free will, death, and immortality : the role of narrative," Philosophical papers (Special issue : meaning in life) volume 34, number 3, November 2005 -- "Stories and the meaning of life," revised and expanded version of "A reply to Pereboom, Zimmerman, and Smith," part of a book symposium on John Martin Fischer, my way : essays on moral responsibility, philosophical books, vol. 47, no. 3. (shrink)
In previous work we have defended the deprivation account of death’s badness against worries stemming from the Lucretian point that prenatal and posthumous nonexistence are deprivations of the same sort. In a recent article in this journal, Fred Feldman has offered an insightful critique of our Parfitian strategy for defending the deprivation account of death’s badness. Here we adjust, clarify, and defend our strategy for reply to Lucretian worries on behalf of the deprivation account.
We have argued that it is rational to have asymmetric attitudes toward prenatal and posthumous non-existence insofar as this asymmetry is a special case of a more general (and arguably rational) asymmetry in our attitudes toward past and future pleasures. Here we respond to an interesting critique of our view by Jens Johansson. We contend that his critique involves a crucial and illicit switch in temporal perspectives in the process of considering modal claims (sending us to other possible worlds).
Our aim in this paper is to put the concept of moral responsibility under a microscope. At the lowest level of magnification, it appears unified. But Gary Watson has taught us that if we zoom in, we will find that moral responsibility has two faces: attributability and accountability. Or, to describe the two faces in different terms, there is a difference between being responsible and holding responsible. It is one thing to talk about the connection the agent has with her (...) action; it is quite another to talk about the potential interaction the agent might have with her moral community. It turns out, though, that the faces of moral responsibility can themselves be viewed under an even higher level of magnification. If moral responsibility has two faces, then our aim in this paper is to examine their features. To do so reveals subtle distinctions in our concept of moral responsibility and its interaction with surrounding issues that, we argue, can help illuminate various debates in the literature. (shrink)
Several theorists (Merricks, Westphal, and McCall) have recently claimed to offer a novel way to respond to the dilemma of freedom and foreknowledge, rooted in Molina's insight that God's beliefs depend on what we do, rather than the other way around. In this paper we argue that these responses either beg the question, or else are dressed-up versions of Ockhamism.
Here we respond to Johansson’s main worry, as laid out in his, “Actual and Counterfactual Attitudes: Reply to Fischer and Brueckner.” We show how our principle BF*(dd*) can be adjusted to address this concern compatibly with our fundamental approach to responding to Lucretius.
Control-based models of moral responsibility typically employ a notion of "tracing," according to which moral responsibility requires an exercise of control either immediately prior to the behavior in question or at some suitable point prior to the behavior. Responsibility, on this view, requires tracing back to control. But various philosophers, including Manuel Vargas and Angela Smith, have presented cases in which the plausibility of tracing is challenged. In this paper we discuss the examples and we argue that they do not (...) in fact impugn an attractive and natural tracing component. Our discussion can function in part as a defense of a control-based account of moral responsibility, but also as simply a defense of tracing. (shrink)
The Frankfurt cases have been thought by some philosophers to show that moral responsibility does not require genuine metaphysical access to alternative possibilities. But various philosophers have rejected this putative "lesson" of the cases, and they have put forward a powerful "Dilemma Defense." In the last decade or so, many philosophers have been persuaded by the Dilemma Defense that the Frankfurt cases do not show what Frankfurt (and others) thought they show. This essay presents a template for a general strategy (...) of response to the Dilemma Defense. It thus seeks to provide further support for the author's view that the Frankfurt cases help to establish that moral responsibility does not require alternative possibilities. (shrink)
John and Mary have fully consensual sex, but they do not want to have a child, so they use contraception with the intention of avoiding pregnancy. Unfortunately, although they used the contraception in the way in which it is supposed to be used, Mary has become pregnant. The couple decides to have the baby, whom they name ‘Ernie’. Now we fill in the story a bit. The universe is causally deterministic, and 30 years later Ernie performs some action A and (...) thereby brings about event E. We also stipulate that Ernie meets plausible compatibilist conditions for acting freely . That is, we suppose that there are no uncontroversially freedom- and responsibility-undermining conditions present in the context in which Ernie performs A, and, further, that Ernie meets plausible compatibilist conditions for acting freely. Let us say, for example, that one adopts the theory according to which the freedom-relevant condition on moral responsibility is that the agent exhibits ‘guidance control’ of his action and . On this approach, one acts freely in so far as one acts from one's own, suitably reasons-responsive mechanism. We can then simply stipulate that, in the relevant context, Ernie acts from his own, suitably reasons-responsive mechanism . If one prefers a different set of compatiblist-friendly conditions for acting freely, one can simply stipulate that Ernie meets them; indeed, the plausible compatibilist-friendly conditions seem to be compatible with each other, and thus Ernie could presumably meet all of them in the relevant context. In such a case, and given that the epistemic condition on acting freely and moral responsibility is met, I am inclined to say that Ernie …. (shrink)
In this essay I shall begin by sketching a "Frankfurt-type example." I shall then lay out a disturbing challenge to the claim I have made above that these examples help us to make significant progress in the debates about the relationship between moral responsibility and causal determinism. I then will provide a reply to this challenge, and the reply will point toward a more refined formulation of the important contribution I believe Frankfurt has made to defending a certain sort of (...) compatibilism. (shrink)
In this brief concluding chapter we first wish to present the overall argument of the book in a concise, nontechnical way. We hope this will provide a clear view of the argument. We shall then point to some of the distinctive--and attractive--features of our approach. Finally, we shall offer some preliminary thoughts about extending the account of moral responsibility to apply to emotions.
In this paper I give an overview of my “framework for moral responsibility,” and I offer some reasons that commend it. I contrast my approach with indeterministic models of moral responsibility and also other compatibilist strategies, including those of Harry Frankfurt and Gary Watson.
I have argued that a proponent of the Frankfurt Cases as showing that the Principle of Alternative Possibilities is false can successfully reply to the Dilemma Defense. In their 2013 paper, Widerker and Goetz offer a critique of my view, especially as regards the deterministic horn of the dilemma. Here I clarify my strategy of response to the Dilemma Defense and reply to the critique developed by Widerker and Goetz.
In his recent essay in the Philosophical Review, “Truth and Freedom,” Trenton Merricks contends (among other things) that the basic argument for the incompatibility of God's foreknowledge and human freedom is question-begging. He relies on a “truism” to the effect that truth depends on the world and not the other way around. The present essay argues that mere invocation of this truism does not establish that the basic argument for incompatibilism is question-begging. Further, it seeks to clarify important elements of (...) the debate, including the fixity-of-the-past premise in the incompatibilist's argument and the Ockhamist response. It sketches some potential links between the issues here and recent work on ontological dependence, and it connects the issues raised by Merricks to important work that has appeared in (among other places) the Philosophical Review. (shrink)
Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, including the mind. One argument against physicalism appeals to neardeath experiences, conscious experiences during episodes, such as cardiac arrest, when one's normal brain functions are severely impaired. The core contention is that NDEs cannot be physically explained, and so we have reason to appeal to the non-physical in explaining them. In this paper, we consider in detail a recent article by Pim van Lommel in which he appeals to NDEs in arguing against (...) physicalism and in favour of an alternative conception of the mind as non-localized and immaterial. Our main contentions are, first, that it is not clear that physicalism cannot accommodate the phenomena of NDEs and, second, that it is not obvious how the conception of the mind as non-localized and immaterial is supposed to help. (shrink)
This book provides a comprehensive, systematic theory of moral responsibility. The authors explore the conditions under which individuals are morally responsible for actions, omissions, consequences, and emotions. The leading idea in the book is that moral responsibility is based on 'guidance control'. This control has two components: the mechanism that issues in the relevant behavior must be the agent's own mechanism, and it must be appropriately responsive to reasons. The book develops an account of both components. The authors go on (...) to offer a sustained defense of the thesis that moral responsibility is compatible with causal determinism. (shrink)
This Introduction has three sections, on "logical fatalism," "theological fatalism," and the problem of future contingents, respectively. In the first two sections, we focus on the crucial idea of "dependence" and the role it plays it fatalistic arguments. Arguably, the primary response to the problems of logical and theological fatalism invokes the claim that the relevant past truths or divine beliefs depend on what we do, and therefore needn't be held fixed when evaluating what we can do. We call the (...) sort of dependence needed for this response to be successful "dependence with a capital 'd'": Dependence. We consider different accounts of Dependence, especially the account implicit in the so-called "Ockhamist" response to the fatalistic arguments. Finally, we present the problem of future contingents: what could "ground" truths about the undetermined future? On the other hand, how could all such propositions fail to be true? (shrink)
I seek to clarify the notion of the fixity of the past appropriate to Pike’s regimentation of the argument for the incompatibility of God’s foreknowledge and human freedom. Also, I discuss Alvin Plantinga’s famous example of Paul and the Ant Colony in light of Pike’s argument.
It seems that, whereas a person's death needn't be a bad thing for him, it can be. In some circumstances, death isn't a "bad thing" or an "evil" for a person. For instance, if a person has a terminal and very painful disease, he might rationally regard his own death as a good thing for him, or at least, he may regard it as something whose prospective occurrence shouldn't be regretted. But the attitude of a "normal" and healthy human being (...) - adult or child - toward the prospect of his death is different; it is not unreasonable in certain cases to regard one's own death as a bad thing for oneself. If this is so, then the question arises as to why death is bad, in those cases in which it is bad. (shrink)
Much has been written recently about free will and moral responsibility. In this paper I will focus on the relationship between free will, on the one hand, and various notions that fall under the rubric of “morality,” broadly construed, on the other: deliberation and practical reasoning, moral responsibility, and ethical notions such as “ought,” “right,” “wrong,” “good,” and “bad.” I shall begin by laying out a natural understanding of freedom of the will. Next I develop some challenges to the common-sense (...) view that we have this sort of freedom. I will go on to explore the implications of this challenge for deliberation, moral responsibility, and the central ethical notions. (shrink)
We typically think we have free will. But how could we have free will, if for anything we do, it was already true in the distant past that we would do that thing? Or how could we have free will, if God already knows in advance all the details of our lives? Such issues raise the specter of "fatalism". This book collects sixteen previously published articles on fatalism, truths about the future, and the relationship between divine foreknowledge and human freedom, (...) and includes a substantial new introductory essay and bibliography. Many of the pieces collected here build bridges between discussions of human freedom and recent developments in other areas of metaphysics, such as philosophy of time and the nature of metaphysical "dependence". Ideal for courses in free will, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion, Freedom, Fatalism, and Foreknowledge will encourage important new directions in thinking about free will, time, and truth. (shrink)
In this paper I explore in a preliminary way the interconnections among narrative explanation, narrative value, free will, an immortality. I build on the fascinating an suggestive work of David Velleman. I offer the hypothesis that our acting freely is what gives our lives a distinctive kind of value - narrative value. Free Will, then, is connected to the capacity to lead a meaningful life in a quite specific way: it is the ingredient which, when aded to others, enows us (...) with a meaning over an above the cumulative value erived from ading together levels of momentary welfare. In acting freely, we are writing a sentence in the story of our lives, and the value of acting freely is thus a species of the value of artistic creativity or self-expression (understood appropriately). Finally, I contend that the fact that our lives are stories need not entail that they have endings, or that immortality would necessarily be unimaginable or essentially different from ordinary, finite human life. Yes, a certain sort of narrative understanding of our lives as a whole would be impossible in the context of immortality; but much of what we care about, and value, in our stories might remain. (shrink)
Alfred Mele has presented the Zygote Argument as a challenge to compatibilism. In previous work I have offered a critique of Mele’s first premise. Patrick Todd, Neal Tognazzini, and Derk Pereboom have offered an alternative interpretation of the argument, substituting for. Here I offer a critical evaluation of this strategy, and in the process I seek to understand the deep structure of the Zygote Argument.
The Consequence Argument has elicited various responses, ranging from acceptance as obviously right to rejection as obviously problematic in one way or another. Here we wish to focus on one specific response, according to which the Consequence Argument begs the question. This is a serious accusation that has not yet been adequately rebutted, and we aim to remedy that in what follows. We begin by giving a formulation of the Consequence Argument. We also offer some tentative proposals about the nature (...) of begging the question. Although the charge of begging the question is frequently made in philosophy, it is surprisingly difficult to pin down the precise nature of this dialectical infelicity (or family of such infelicities). Thus we offer some new proposals about the nature of begging the question with an eye to understanding what is going on in central cases in which the charge is legitimately made. We then defend the Consequence Argument against the charge that it begs the question, so construed. We contend that, whatever the other liabilities of the argument may be, it does not beg the question against the compatibilist. (shrink)
Nelson Pike’s article, “Divine Omniscience and Voluntary Action,” is one of the most influential pieces in contemporary Philosophy of Religion. Published over forty years ago, it has elicited many different kinds of replies. We shall set forth some of the main lines of reply to Pike’s article, starting with some of the “early” replies. We then explore some issues that arise from relatively recent work in the philosophy of time; it is fascinating to note that views suggested by recent work (...) in this area and related areas of metaphysics have implications for Pike’s argument - implications perhaps not previously noticed. (shrink)
I present two different models of moral responsibility -- two different accounts of what we value in behavior for which the agent can legitimately be held morally responsible. On the first model, what we value is making a certain sort of difference to the world. On the second model, which I favor, we value a certain kind of self-expression. I argue that if one adopts the self-expression view, then one will be inclined to accept that moral responsibility need not require (...) alternative possibilities. (shrink)
In his recent book on the problem of evil, Peter van Inwagen argues that both the global and local arguments from evil are failures. In this paper, we engagevan Inwagen’s book at two main points. First, we consider his understanding of what it takes for a philosophical argument to succeed. We argue that while his criterion for success is interesting and helpful, there is good reason to think it is too stringent. Second, we consider his responses to the global and (...) local arguments from evil. We argue that although van Inwagen may have adequately responded to each of these arguments, his discussion points us toa third argument from evil to which he has yet to provide a response. (shrink)
We have argued that it is rational to have asymmetric attitudes toward prenatal and posthumous non-existence insofar as this asymmetry is a special case of a more general asymmetry in our attitudes toward past and future pleasures. Here we respond to an interesting critique of our view by Jens Johansson. We contend that his critique involves an inappropriate conflation of the time from which the relevant asymmetry emerges and the time of the badness of death.
I am very grateful to the thoughtful and probing critical discussions by the nine authors who have discussed themes from my two collections, My Way: Essays on Moral Responsibility, and Our Stories: Essays on Life, Death, and Free Will. In this essay I seek to respond to some of the points raised in these essays. I am unable to address all of the critiques, but I have certainly learned a great deal from these extremely insightful and generous papers, and I (...) hope to address more of the issues in future work. (shrink)
In a fascinating recent article, Michael Otsuka seeks to bypass the debates about the Principle of Alternative Possibilities by presenting and defending a different, but related, principle, which he calls the “Principle of Avoidable Blame.” According to this principle, one is blameworthy for performing an act only if one could instead have behaved in an entirely blameless manner. Otsuka claims that although Frankfurt-cases do undermine the Principle of Alternative Possibilities, they do not undermine the Principle of Avoidable Blame. In this (...) brief paper, we offer a critical discussion of the core of Otsuka’s argument, especially the claim that his favored principle cannot be refuted by Frankfurt-cases. We do not believe that Otsuka has offered good reason to suppose that the Principle of Avoidable Blame—and the related incompatibilism—fares any better than the original Principle of Alternative Possibilities. (shrink)
I seek to reply to the thoughtful and penetrating comments by William Rowe, Alfred Mele, Carl Ginet, and Ishtiyaque Haji. In the process, I hope that my overall approach to free will and moral responsibility is thrown into clearer relief. I make some suggestions as to future directions of research in these areas.
I explore two thought-experiments in Judith Jarvis Thomson’s important article, “A Defense of Abortion”: the violinist example and the people-seeds example. I argue (contra Thomson) that you have a moral duty not to unplug yourself from the violinist and also a moral duty not to destroy a people-seed that has landed in your sofa. Nevertheless, I also argue that there are crucial differences between the thought-experiments and the contexts of pregnancy due to rape or to contraceptive failure. In virtue of (...) these differences, it would not follow from my conclusions about the violinist and people-seeds cases that abortion would not be permissible in a case of rape or in a case of voluntary intercourse with contraceptive failure. (shrink)