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)
Game theory involves deliberating about what to do in light of what other people are likely to do. One of the central frameworks of game theory is the prisoner’s dilemma, in which participants who make rational choices end up in suboptimal outcomes. Using the prisoner’s dilemma to model competition between firms sets the stage for a new and promising approach to business ethics: the market failures approach.
Local miracle compatibilists claim that we are sometimes able to do otherwise than we actually do, even if causal determinism obtains. When we can do otherwise, it will often be true that if we were to do otherwise, then an actual law of nature would not have been a law of nature. Nevertheless, it is a compatibilist principle that we cannot do anything that would be or cause an event that violates the laws of nature. Carl Ginet challenges this nomological (...) principle, arguing that it is not always capable of explaining our inability to do otherwise. In response to this challenge, I point out that this principle is part of a defense against the charge that local miracle compatibilists are committed to outlandish claims. Thus it is not surprising that the principle, by itself, will often fail to explain our inability to do otherwise. I then suggest that in many situations in which we are unable to do otherwise, this can be explained by the compatibilist’s analysis of ability, or his criteria for the truth of ability claims. Thus, the failure of his nomological principle to explain the falsity of certain ability claims is no strike against local miracle compatibilism. (shrink)
The Ockhamist claims that our ability to do otherwise is not endangered by God’s foreknowledge because facts about God’s past beliefs regarding future contingents are soft facts about the past—i.e., temporally relational facts that depend in some sense on what happens in the future. But if our freedom, given God’s foreknowledge, requires altering some fact about the past that is clearly a hard fact, then Ockhamism fails even if facts about God’s past beliefs are soft. Recent opponents of Ockhamism, including (...) David Widerker and Peter van Inwagen, have argued along precisely these lines. Their arguments, if successful, would undermine Ockhamism while avoiding the controversy over the alleged softness of facts about God’s past beliefs. But these arguments do not succeed. The past facts they rely on must be clear and uncontroversial examples of hard facts about the past, and these facts must be such that an ability to refrain from the relevant future action implies an ability to alter the relevant hard fact. We demonstrate the flaw in these arguments by showing how they rely on past facts that do not satisfy these criteria. The Ockhamist may have troubles, but this type of argument is not one of them. (shrink)
According to the argument from gratuitous evil, if God were to exist, then gratuitous evil wouldn’t; but gratuitous evil does exist, so God doesn’t. We can evaluate different views of divine providence with respect to the resources they are able to bring to bear when encountering this argument. By these lights, theological determinism is often seen as especially problematic: the determinist is seen as having an impoverished set of resources to draw from in her attempts to respond to the argument (...) from gratuitous evil. In particular, there is an important resource – an appeal to free will – that many have claimed is unavailable to the determinist. I argue that the determinist does not in fact suffer from this particular resource deficit. I do so by examining some recent work on determinist responses to the problem of evil, analyzing some of the ways in which they fall short, and proposing a new response that is informed by those shortcomings. This new response is built on an appeal to the reactive attitudes. (shrink)
This case examines the rise and fall of WeWork—a company that experienced one of the most dramatic changes of fortune in technology company history. For several years, WeWork was a Silicon Valley darling, growing at breakneck speed with visionary Adam Neumann at the helm. By some estimates, Neumann’s company was worth $47 billion in January of 2019. But when the company filed paperwork in preparation for going public later that year, investors balked at the details revealed in the documents: billions (...) of dollars in losses and lots of questionable behavior on the part of Neumann (including numerous conflicts of interest involving his personal business dealings). The IPO was postponed and later withdrawn; Neumann was forced to step down as CEO; and by May of 2020 the company’s valuation had dropped to $3 billion. Exploring this recent history will provide an opportunity to ask what lessons can be drawn from the rise and fall of WeWork, and from the economic and social context that enabled its growth. (shrink)
In August 2017, Google executives found themselves in a difficult position. An internal memo written by a disgruntled software engineer, James Damore, had just gone viral. In this memo, Damore claimed that the relatively small number of women in the tech industry was partly due to biological factors, and that many of Google’s diversity efforts were therefore counterproductive. The contents of this memo were offensive to many (and thus were having a negative impact on the overall workplace environment), but the (...) executives were aware that the wrong reaction to it would at least partially vindicate Damore’s claims about the lack of open discussion at Google. In the end, after two days of controversy, Google leadership decided to fire Damore on the grounds that he had violated the company’s code of conduct. This case gives students an opportunity to explore the numerous issues raised by Damore’s memo and the controversy surrounding it. Did Google handle this case properly? Was firing Damore the right thing to do? How could the situation have been handled more effectively? (shrink)
In the one-for-one business model, a purchaser of, for example, a pair of shoes simultaneously purchases a pair of shoes for a child in need. This model, popularized by TOMS shoe company in 2006, has been remarkably successful. The driving force behind the success is most likely the emotional appeal of the one-for-one idea. The TOMS model has been criticized, however—not just for being less effective than advertised, but for arguably doing more harm than good. Whether or not this latter (...) charge is true, the TOMS story serves as an illustrative starting point for an exploration of the ways in which commonsense thinking about charity and philanthropy is often wrong. Examining these criticisms will set the stage for an examination of the influential “effective altruism” movement and invite the reader to think more deeply about different ways of doing good in the world. (shrink)
Should we kill animals to save animals? This question lies at the heart of this case study. Sovereign nations have an interest in protecting and conserving their natural resources, and in particular their distinctive flora and fauna. As they seek to promote these interests, they inevitably face the economic question of how they are going to finance their conservation efforts. One way of answering this question is to engage in the practice of selling big game hunting licenses and using the (...) revenues to fund conservation programs. This strategy is counterintuitive (and to some, morally repellent); but it has a partial track record of success in places such as Namibia, South Africa, and the United States. Despite its successes, there are some who believe that the moral objections to such a strategy outweigh any potential benefits. This case study provides the student with an opportunity to explore the tension between the desire to save endangered animals and the possibility that the best way to do that involves killing some of them. (shrink)
There have been several recent lawsuits in which problem gamblers (or those affected by problem gambling) have sued casinos or other gaming companies for damages relating to bankruptcies, suicides, and other negative consequences of compulsive gambling. Although the legal cases have been decided in favor of the gaming companies, it can seem as though there is a moral residue in some of these cases: perhaps some of the actions of the gaming companies, though legal, have been morally problematic. This case (...) invites students to explore this possibility by introducing them to the facts surrounding the lawsuits and highlighting some of the most salient moral considerations. Students will also be asked to reflect on the public policy implications, if any, of their findings. (shrink)
Are the wishes of the dead more important than the needs of the living? This question is prompted by consideration of the Hershey Trust Company, a perpetual charitable trust that not only owns and operates the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania, but also owns a controlling interest in various Hershey-related for-profit entities. This unusual arrangement, and the conditions under which it was formed, have produced a situation in which a small, private boarding school for low-income students has an endowment of (...) $12 billion (in addition to its other corporate and real estate interests). The trust has been operating according to its founder’s wishes for decades, but some have wondered whether its resources could be put to better use for more urgent needs. This case will invite students to consider the question of how we should weigh the needs of the living against the wishes of the dead. (shrink)
Since Uber’s founding in 2009, individuals associated with Uber have engaged in (or been accused of engaging in) numerous categories of corporate malfeasance: failure to protect data privacy, theft of trade secrets, sexual misconduct (including sexual assault and sexual harassment), lack of worker safety, lack of consumer safety, and racial discrimination. Thus, Uber is a good test case for the question of whether corporate behavior can provide moral justification for a boycott. More specifically, an examination of the 2017 #deleteUber controversy (...) will invite the reader to consider questions such as the following: When is a personal boycott morally justified, and when (if ever) is a personal boycott morally obligatory? How are personal boycotts related to larger-scale organized boycotts? What are the factors that make an organized boycott morally justified (or unjustified)? Is there a sound argument for the conclusion that we should #deleteUber? (shrink)
Causalists about explanation claim that to explain an event is to provide information about the causal history of that event. Some causalists also endorse a proportionality claim, namely that one explanation is better than another insofar as it provides a greater amount of causal information. In this chapter I consider various challenges to these causalist claims. There is a common and influential formulation of the causalist requirement – the ‘Causal Process Requirement’ – that does appear vulnerable to these anti-causalist challenges, (...) but I argue that they do not give us reason to reject causalism entirely. Instead, these challenges lead us to articulate the causalist requirement in an alternative way. This alternative articulation incorporates some of the important anti-causalist insights without abandoning the explanatory necessity of causal information. For example, proponents of the ‘equilibrium challenge’ argue that the best available explanations of the behaviour of certain dynamical systems do not appear to provide any causal information. I respond that, contrary to appearances, these equilibrium explanations are fundamentally causal, and I provide a formulation of the causalist thesis that is immune to the equilibrium challenge. I then show how this formulation is also immune to the ‘epistemic challenge’ – thus vindicating (a properly formulated version of) the causalist thesis. (shrink)
In this paper I attempt to capture the essence of Nelson Pike’s contribution to the philosophy of religion. My summary of his insights will revolve around three general topics: omniscience (and in particular its relation to human freedom), omnipotence (and in particular its relation to the existence of human suffering), and mysticism (with a focus on the question of whether and in what sense mystic visions can be sources of knowledge). Although the details vary in interesting ways, his work on (...) these topics largely consists of recognizing an important challenge to the viability of the relevant doctrine or framework, sharpening that challenge by presenting it in a more forceful way, and then offering and assessing potential responses. Pike’s writings are characterized by exemplary rigor and relentless clarity, and together they constitute a rich (and under-appreciated) source of insight. (shrink)
Edwards’s views on the nature of the human will demonstrate his unique ability to unite philosophical rigor and theological fervor. Edwards was a staunch defender of the Reformed doctrines of absolute divine sovereignty and meticulous providence, but he was also a proponent of the intellectual tools and methods of early modern philosophy (and of John Locke in particular). His ultimate statement of his doctrinal position, Freedom of the Will, is the masterful result of these dual commitments.
This volume collects a set of papers that were presented at a conference on “Big Questions in Free Will,” held at the University of Saint Thomas in October of 2014. It is dedicated to its editor, who passed away shortly after completing the manuscript. I will briefly summarize each of the 11 chapters and then offer a few critical comments.
In this new kind of entrée to discussions of free will and human agency, Pendergraft illuminates 50 puzzles, paradoxes, and thought experiments. Assuming no familiarity with the topic, each chapter describes a case, explains the questions that it raises, summarizes some of the key responses, and provides suggested readings.
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. (shrink)