One of the most frequently voiced criticisms of free will skepticism is that it is unable to adequately deal with criminal behavior and that the responses it would permit as justified are insufficient for acceptable social policy. This concern is fueled by two factors. The first is that one of the most prominent justifications for punishing criminals, retributivism, is incompatible with free will skepticism. The second concern is that alternative justifications that are not ruled out by the skeptical view per (...) se face significant independent moral objections. Yet despite these concerns, I maintain that free will skepticism leaves intact other ways to respond to criminal behavior—in particular preventive detention, rehabilitation, and alteration of relevant social conditions—and that these methods are both morally justifiable and sufficient for good social policy. The position I defend is similar to Derk Pereboom’s, taking as its starting point his quarantine analogy, but it sets out to develop the quarantine model within a broader justificatory framework drawn from public health ethics. The resulting model—which I call the public health -quarantine model—provides a framework for justifying quarantine and criminal sanctions that is more humane than retributivism and preferable to other non-retributive alternatives. It also provides a broader approach to criminal behavior than Pereboom’s quarantine analogy does on its own. (shrink)
Perhaps no one has written more extensively, more deeply, and more insightfully about determinism and freedom than Ted Honderich. His influence and legacy with regard to the problem of free will—or the determinism problem, as he prefers to frame it—looms large. In these comments I would like to focus on three main aspects of Honderich ’s work: his defense of determinism and its consequences for origination and moral responsibility; his concern that the truth of determinism threatens and restricts, but does (...) not eliminate, our life-hopes; and his attack on the traditional justifications for punishment. In many ways, I see my own defense of free will skepticism as the natural successor to Honderich ’s work. There are, however, some small differences between us. My goal in this paper is to clarify our areas of agreement and disagreement and to acknowledge my enormous debt to Ted. If I can also move him toward my own more optimistic brand of free will skepticism that would be great too. (shrink)
Existentialism is a concern about the foundation of meaning, morals, and purpose. Existentialisms arise when some foundation for these elements of being is under assault. In the past, first-wave existentialism concerned the increasingly apparent inability of religion, and religious tradition, to provide such a foundation, as typified in the writings of Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, and Nietzsche. Second-wave existentialism, personified philosophically by Sartre, Camus, and de Beauvoir, developed in response to the inability of an overly optimistic Enlightenment vision of reason and the (...) common good to provide such a foundation. There is a third-wave existentialism, a new existentialism, developing in response to advances in the neurosciences that threaten the last vestiges of an immaterial soul or self. With the increasing explanatory and therapeutic power of neuroscience, the mind no longer stands apart from the world to serve as a foundation of meaning. This produces foundational anxiety. This collection of new essays explores the anxiety caused by this third-wave existentialism and some responses to it. It brings together some of the world’s leading philosophers, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and legal scholars to tackle our neuroexistentialist predicament and explore what the mind sciences can tell us about morality, love, emotion, autonomy, consciousness, selfhood, free will, moral responsibility, law, the nature of criminal punishment, meaning in life, and purpose. (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)
One of the main libertarian arguments in support of free will is the argument from introspection. This argument places a great deal of faith in our conscious feeling of freedom and our introspective abilities. People often infer their own freedom from their introspective phenomenology of freedom. It is here argued that from the fact that I feel myself free, it does not necessarily follow that I am free. I maintain that it is our mistaken belief in the transparency and infallibility (...) of consciousness that gives the introspective argument whatever power it possesses. Once we see that consciousness is neither transparent nor infallible, the argument from introspection loses all of its force. I argue that since we do not have direct, infallible access to our own minds, to rely on introspection to infer our own freedom would be a mistake. (shrink)
What would be the consequence of embracing skepticism about free will and/or desert-based moral responsibility? What if we came to disbelieve in moral responsibility? 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 perhaps increase anti-social behavior as some recent studies have suggested (Vohs and Schooler 2008; Baumeister, Masicampo, and DeWall 2009)? Or would it rather (...) have a humanizing effect on our practices and policies, freeing us from the negative effects of what Bruce Waller calls the “moral responsibility system” (2014, p. 4)? These questions are of profound pragmatic importance and should be of interest independent of the metaphysical debate over free will. As public proclamations of skepticism continue to rise, and as the mass media continues to run headlines announcing free will and moral responsibility are illusions, we need to ask what effects this will have on the general public and what the responsibility is of professionals. (shrink)
In The Stubborn System of Moral Responsibility (2015), Bruce Waller sets out to explain why the belief in individual moral responsibility is so strong. He begins by pointing out that there is a strange disconnect between the strength of philosophical arguments in support of moral responsibility and the strength of philosophical belief in moral responsibility. While the many arguments in favor of moral responsibility are inventive, subtle, and fascinating, Waller points out that even the most ardent supporters of moral responsibility (...) acknowledge that the arguments in its favor are far from conclusive; and some of the least confident concerning the arguments for moral responsibility—such as Van Inwagen—are most confident of the truth of moral responsibility. Thus, argues Waller, whatever the verdict on the strength of philosophical arguments for moral responsibility, it is clear that belief in moral responsibility—whether among philosophers or the folk—is based on something other than philosophical reasons. -/- He goes on to argue that there are several sources for the strong belief in moral responsibility, but the following four are particularly influential: First, moral responsibility is based in a powerful “strike back” emotion that we share with other animals. Second, there is a deep-rooted “belief in a just world”—a belief that, according to Waller, most philosophers reject when they consciously consider it, but which has a deep nonconscious influence on what we regard as just treatment and which provides subtle (but mistaken) support for belief in moral responsibility. Third, there is a pervasive moral responsibility system—extending over criminal justice as well as “common sense”—that makes the truth of moral responsibility seem obvious, and makes challenges to moral responsibility seem incoherent. Finally, there is the enormous confidence we have in the power of reason, which mistakenly leads us to believe that our conscious, rational, and critically reflective selves are constantly guiding our behavior in accordance with our deep values. -/- In these comments, I would like to discuss the many points of agreement I have with Waller, providing along the way additional fuel for his skeptical fire (i.e., his moral responsibility skepticism and his skeptical analysis of the source of our strong belief in moral responsibility). I will also discuss, however, my one main point of disagreement—i.e., his desire to preserve the conception of free will. Waller believes free will can “flourish” in the absence of moral responsibility (see Ch.8), while I maintain they that the variety of free will that is of central philosophical and practical importance is the sort required for moral responsibility in a particular but pervasive sense. This sense of moral responsibility is set apart by the notion of basic desert and is purely backward-looking and non-consequentialist (see Pereboom 2001, 2014; Caruso and Morris, forthcoming). Understood this way, the sort of free will at issue in the historical debate is a kind of power or ability an agent must possess in order to justify certain kinds of desert-based judgments, attitudes, or treatments in response to decisions or actions that the agent performed or failed to perform. (shrink)
Derk Pereboom’s Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life provides the most lively and comprehensive defense of free will skepticism in the literature. It contains a reworked and expanded version of the view he first developed in Living without Free Will. Important objections to the early book are answered, some slight modifications are introduced, and the overall account is significantly embellished—for example, Pereboom proposes a new account of rational deliberation consistent with the belief that one’s actions are causally determined and (...) develops a forward-looking theory of moral responsibility con- sistent with free will skepticism. A significant contribution to the field, Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life is destined to become a classic and is essential reading for anyone interested in free will and moral responsibility. (shrink)
Michael Devitt’s views on realism and naturalism have a lot in common with those of W.V. Quine. Both appear to be realists; both accept naturalized epistemology and abandon the old goal of first philosophy; both view philosophy as continuous with the empirical procedures of science and hence view metaphysics as similarly empirical; and both seem to view realism as following from naturalism. Although Quine and Devitt share quite a bit ideologically, I think there is a deeper, more fundamental dissimilarity between (...) the two. I will explore the difference between them in an attempt to bring out the subtle complexities surrounding the issue of realism--complexities, I will argue, Devitt sometimes overlooks. I will also explore a real tension in Quine between his earlier, more pragmatic (or anti-realist) tendencies and his later, more austere realism. I will conclude by defending a more Quinean brand of realism I call internal realism. (shrink)
Shaun Nichols has recently argued that while the folk notion of free will is associated with error, a question still remains whether the concept of free will should be eliminated or preserved. He maintains that like other eliminativist arguments in philosophy, arguments that free will is an illusion seem to depend on substantive assumptions about reference. According to free will eliminativists, people have deeply mistaken beliefs about free will and this entails that free will does not exist. However, an alternative (...) reaction is that free will does exist, we just have some deeply mistaken beliefs about it. According to Nichols, all such debates boil down to whether or not the erroneous folk term in question successfully refers or not. Since Nichols adopts the view that reference is systematically ambiguous, he maintains that in some contexts it’s appropriate to take a restrictivist view about whether a term embedded in a false theory refers, while in other contexts it’s appropriate to take a liberal view about whether a token of the very same term refers. This, according to Nichols, affords the possibility of saying that the sentence “free will exists” is false in some contexts and true in others. In this paper I argue that even if we grant Nichols his pluralistic approach to reference, there is still good reason to prefer eliminativism to preservationism with regard to free will. My argument focuses on one important difference between the concept of “free will” and other theoretical terms embedded in false theories—i.e., the role that the phenomenology of free agency plays in reference fixing. (shrink)
This book explores the philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism and their implications. Skepticism about free will and moral responsibility has been on the rise in recent years. In fact, a significant number of philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists now either doubt or outright deny the existence of free will and/or moral responsibility—and the list of prominent skeptics appears to grow by the day. Given the profound importance that the concepts of free will and moral responsibility play in our (...) lives—in understanding ourselves, society, and the law—it is important that we explore what is behind this new wave of skepticism. It is also important that we explore the potential consequences of skepticism for ourselves and society. This edited collection of new essays brings together an internationally recognized line-up of contributors, most of whom hold skeptical positions of some sort, to display and explore the leading arguments for free will skepticism and to debate their implications. It includes original contributions by Derk Pereboom, Galen Strawson, Ted Honderich, Bruce Waller, Neil Levy, Saul Smilansky, Thomas Nadelhoffer and Daniela Goya Tocchetto, Benjamin Vilhauer, Susan Blackmore, Manuel Vargas, Shaun Nichols, John-Dylan Haynes and Michael Pauen, Thomas Clark, Mark Hallett, Susan Pockett, and Maureen Sie. (shrink)
Derk Perebooms Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life (2014) provides the most lively and comprehensive defense of free will skepticism in the literature. It contains a reworked and expanded version of the view he first developed in Living without Free Will (2001). Important objections to the early book are answered, some slight modifications are introduced, and the overall account is significantly embellished—for example, Pereboom proposes a new account of rational deliberation consistent with the belief that one’s actions are causally (...) determined (ch.5) and develops a forward-looking theory of moral responsibility consistent with free will skepticism (ch.6). A significant contribution to the field, Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life is destined to become a classic and is essential reading for anyone interested in free will and moral responsibility. (shrink)
This introductory chapter discusses the philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism and their implications--including the debate between Saul Smilansky's "illusionism," Thomas Nadelhoffer's "disillusionism," Shaun Nichols' "anti-revolution," and the "optimistic skepticism" of Derk Pereboom, Bruce Waller, Tamler Sommers, and others.
Much of the recent philosophical discussion about free will has been focused on whether compatibilists can adequately defend how a determined agent could exercise the type of free will that would enable the agent to be morally responsible in what has been called the basic desert sense :5–24, 1994; Fischer in Four views on free will, Wiley, Hoboken, 2007; Vargas in Four views on free will, Wiley, Hoboken, 2007; Vargas in Philos Stud, 144:45–62, 2009). While we agree with Derk Pereboom (...) and others that the compatibilist’s burden should be properly understood as providing a compelling account of how a determined agent could be morally responsible in the basic desert sense, the exact nature of this burden has been rendered somewhat unclear by the fact that there has been no definitive account given as to what the basic desert sense of moral responsibility amounts to. In Sect. 1 we set out to clarify the compatibilist’s burden by presenting our account of basic desert moral responsibility—which we call retributivist desert moral responsibility for purposes of clarity—and explain why it is of central philosophical and practical importance to the free will debate. In Sect. 2 we employ a thought experiment to illustrate the kind of difficulty that compatibilists of any stripe are likely to encounter in attempting to explain how determined agents can exercise the kind of free will needed for retributivist desert moral responsibility. (shrink)
One of the central assumptions made in much of contemporary philosophy of mind is that there is no appearance-reality distinction when it comes to sensory states. On this assumption, sensory states simply are as they seem: consciousness is an intrinsic property of sensory states—that is, all sensory states are conscious—and the consciousness of one’s own sensory states is never inaccurate. For a sensation to be felt as pain, for example, is for it to be pain. This assumption, which I call (...) the Cartesian assumption, can be seen everywhere from the standard arguments against physicalism—such as those advanced by Kripke, Nagel, and Levine—to current theorizing about consciousness. I here argue that this assumption is false and that it goes wrong in two ways. I further argue that the appeal of the Cartesian assumption is due to a commitment many still have to a poorly motivated and misguided Cartesian model of consciousness and its relation to mental states. As an alternative to this Cartesian concept of mind, I argue for a theory of consciousness which claims that the “phenomenal character” of a sensation or perception—the “what it’s like” to have that sensation—is determined by the content of a higher-order thought one has of that sensory state. (shrink)
Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility is an edited collection of new essays by an internationally recognized line-up of contributors. It is aimed at readers who wish to explore the philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism and their implications.
This book argues two main things: The first is that there is no such thing as free will—at least not in the sense most ordinary folk take to be central or fundamental; the second is that the strong and pervasive belief in free will can be accounted for through a careful analysis of our phenomenology and a proper theoretical understanding of consciousness.
There are a number of important links and similarities between public health and safety. In this extended essay, Gregg D. Caruso defends and expands his public health-quarantine model, which is a non-retributive alternative for addressing criminal behavior that draws on the public health framework and prioritizes prevention and social justice. In developing his account, he explores the relationship between public health and safety, focusing on how social inequalities and systemic injustices affect health outcomes and crime rates, how poverty affects brain (...) development, how offenders often have pre-existing medical conditions (especially mental health issues), how involvement in the criminal justice system itself can lead to or worsen health and cognitive problems, how treatment and rehabilitation methods can best be employed to reduce recidivism and reintegrate offenders back into society, and how a public health approach could be successfully applied within the criminal justice system. Caruso's approach draws on research from the health sciences, social sciences, public policy, law, psychiatry, medical ethics, neuroscience, and philosophy, and he delivers a set of ethically defensible and practically workable proposals for implementing the public health-quarantine model. The essay begins by discussing recent empirical findings in psychology, neuroscience, and the social sciences that provide us with an increased understanding of the social and neurological determinants of health and criminal behavior. It then turns to Caruso's public health-quarantine model and argues that the model provides the most justified, humane, and effective approach for addressing criminal behavior. Caruso concludes by proposing a capability approach to social justice grounded in six key features of human well-being. He argues that we cannot successfully address concerns over public health and safety without simultaneously addressing issues of social justice—including the social determinants of health (SDH) and the social determinants of criminal behavior (SDCB)—and he recommends eight general policy proposals consistent with his model. (shrink)
Are science and religion compatible when it comes to understanding cosmology (the origin of the universe), biology (the origin of life and of the human species), ethics, and the human mind (minds, brains, souls, and free will)? Do science and religion occupy non-overlapping magisteria? Is Intelligent Design a scientific theory? How do the various faith traditions view the relationship between science and religion? What, if any, are the limits of scientific explanation? What are the most important open questions, problems, or (...) challenges confronting the relationship between science and religion, and what are the prospects for progress? These and other questions are explored in Science and Religion: 5 Questions—a collection of thirty-three interviews based on 5 questions presented to some of the world's most influential and prominent philosophers, scientists, theologians, apologists, and atheists. (shrink)
This paper presents existing results and experimental evidence in social psychology to argue against the compatibilist thesis that our folk-psychological notions of freedom and moral responsibility are completely consistent with the acceptance of determinism. In section 1, I spell out the compatibilist position and briey discuss the standard incompatibilist argumentthe so-called consequence argument. In section 2, I take a closer look at the folk psychology of free will and argue that, contra the compatibilist, recent empirical research by Shaun Nichols, Joshua (...) Knobe and others, reveals that our folk-psychological intuitions are essentially incompatibilist and libertarian in nature. I conclude in section 3 by examining the phenomenology of agentive experience and argue that it further undermines the compatibilist thesis. (shrink)