Incompatibilists believe free will is impossible if determinism is true, and they often claim that this view is supported by ordinary intuitions. We challenge the claim that incompatibilism is intuitive to most laypersons and discuss the significance of this challenge to the free will debate. After explaining why incompatibilists should want their view to accord with pre theoretical intuitions. we suggest that determining whether incompatibilism is infact intuitive calls for empirical testing. We then present the results of our (...) studies, which put significant pressure on the claim that incompatibilism is intuitive. Finally, we consider and respond to several potential objections to our approach. (shrink)
Eddy Nahmias and Dylan Murray have recently argued that when people take agents to lack responsibility in deterministic scenarios, they do so because they take agents’ beliefs, desires and decisions to be bypassed, having no effect on their actions. This might seem like an improbable mistake, but the Bypass Hypothesis is bolstered by intriguing experimental data. Moreover, if the hypothesis is correct, it provides a straightforward error theory for incompatibilist intuitions. This chapter argues that the Bypass Hypothesis, although promising and (...) potentially highly significant, does not provide the best explanation of the data. Results from two new studies strongly suggest that subjects with incompatibilist intuitions do not take determinism to imply that belief, desires, and decisions are bypassed. Together with an independently motivated account of judgments of moral responsibility, the Explanation Hypothesis, they instead suggest, first, that subjects have incompatibilist intuitions because they see agents in deterministic scenarios from an explanatory perspective in which mental states and decisions provide no independent input into what happens, and, second, that this explains why subjects seem to think that these states and decisions are causally bypassed. The results also undermine the suggestion, by David Rose and Shaun Nichols, that subjects make what seems like bypass judgments because they take determinism to exclude he existence of decisions. (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)
There is a new objection to the Consequence Argument for incompatibilism. I argue that the objection is more wide-ranging than originally thought. In particular: if it tells against the Consequence Argument, it tells against other arguments for incompatibilism too. I survey a few ways of dealing with this objection and show the costs of each. I then present an argument for incompatibilism that is immune to the objection and that enjoys other advantages.
The debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists depends in large part on what ordinary people mean by ‘free will’, a matter on which previous experimental philosophy studies have yielded conflicting results. In Nahmias, Morris, Nadelhoffer, and Turner (2005, 2006), most participants judged that agents in deterministic scenarios could have free will and be morally responsible. Nichols and Knobe (2007), though, suggest that these apparent compatibilist responses are performance errors produced by using concrete scenarios, and that their abstract scenarios reveal the folk (...) theory of free will for what it actually is—incompatibilist. Here, we argue that the results of two new studies suggest just the opposite. Most participants only give apparent incompatibilist judgments when they mistakenly interpret determinism to imply that agents’ mental states are bypassed in the causal chains that lead to their behavior. Determinism does not entail bypassing, so these responses do not reflect genuine incompatibilist intuitions. When participants understand what determinism does mean, the vast majority take it to be compatible with free will. Further results indicate that most people’s concepts of choice and the ability to do otherwise do not commit them to incompatibilism, either, putting pressure on incompatibilist arguments that rely on transfer principles, such as the Consequence Argument. We discuss the implications of these findings for philosophical debates about free will, and suggest that incompatibilism appears to be either false, or else a thesis about something other than what most people mean by ‘free will’. (shrink)
The role of freedom in assigning moral responsibility is one of the deepest problems in metaphysics and moral theory. _Incompatibilism’s Allure_ provides original analysis of the principal arguments for incompatibilism. Ishtiyaque Haji incisively examines the consequence argument, the direct argument, the deontic argument, the manipulation argument, the impossibility argument and the luck objection. He introduces the most important contemporary discussions in a manner accessible to advanced undergraduates, but also suited to professional philosophers. The result is a unique and compelling (...) account for incompatibilism’s continuing allure. (shrink)
The traditional view of heaven holds that the redeemed in heaven both have free will and are no longer capable of sinning. A number of philosophers have argued that the traditional view is problematic. How can someone be free and yet incapable of sinning? If the redeemed are kept from sinning, their wills must be reined in. And if their wills are reined in, it doesn’t seem right to say that they are free. Following James Sennett, we call this objection (...) to the traditional view of heaven ‘the Problem of Heavenly Freedom’. In this paper, we discuss and criticize four attempts to respond to the Problem of Heavenly Freedom. We then offer our own response to this problem which both preserves the traditional view of heaven and avoids the objections which beset the other attempts. (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)
In current debates about moral responsibility, it is common to differentiate two fundamentally different incompatibilist positions: Leeway Incompatibilism and Source Incompatibilism. The present paper argues that this is a bad dichotomy. Those forms of Leeway Incompatibilism that have no appeal to ‘origination’ or ‘ultimacy’ are problematic, which suggests that incompatibilists should prefer Source Incompatibilism. Two sub-classifications of Source Incompatibilism are then differentiated: Narrow Source Incompatibilism holds that alternative possibilities are outside the scope of what (...) is required for moral responsibility, and Wide Source Incompatibilism holds that while ultimacy is most fundamental to moral responsibility, an agent meeting the ultimacy condition will also have alternative possibilities, thereby also satisfying an alternative possibilities condition. The present paper argues that the most promising incompatibilist positions will be versions of Wide Source Incompatibilism. (shrink)
From the first time I encountered the problem of free will in college, it struck me that a clear-eyed view of free will and moral responsibility demanded some form of nihilism. Libertarianism seemed delusional, and compatibilism seemed in bad faith. Hence I threw my lot in with philosophers like Paul d’Holbach, Galen Strawson, and Derk Pereboom who conclude that no one is truly moral responsible. But after two decades of self- identifying as a nihilist, it occurred to me that I (...) had continued to treat my friends. (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)
In the context of his highly influential defence of compatibilism, P. F. Strawson 1962 introduced the terms "reactive attitude" and "objective attitude" to the free-will lexicon. He argued, in effect, that relinquishing such reactive attitudes as resentment and moral indignation isn't a real possibility for us, since doing so would commit us to exclusive objectivity, a stance incompatible with ordinary interpersonal relationships. While most commentators have challenged Strawson's link between personal relationships and the reactive attitudes, Tamler Sommers 2007 has taken (...) up Strawson's claim that exclusive objectivity would preclude meaningful relationships. Here I set out a defence of this claim by identifying a kind of interpersonal caring that is plausibly both required for such relationships and excluded by the objective attitude. I then argue that this defence helps to support Strawson's more controversial claim about personal relationships and the reactive attitudes. (shrink)
Following P. F. Strawson, a number of philosophers have argued that if hard incompatibilism is true, then its truth would undermine the justification or value of our relationships with other persons. In this paper, I offer a novel defense of this claim. In particular, I argue that if hard incompatibilism is true, we cannot make sense of: the possibility of promissory obligation, the significance of consent, or the pro tanto wrongness of paternalistic intervention. Because these practices and normative (...) commitments are central to our relationships as we currently conceive of them, it follows that hard incompatibilism has radically revisionary conclusions. (shrink)
Arguments for the incompatibility of determinism and moral responsibility sometimes make use of various transfer of non-responsibility principles. These principles purport to specify conditions in which lack of moral responsibility is transmitted to the consequences of things for which people are not morally responsible. In this paper, after developing what I take to be the most serious objections to extant principles of this sort, I identify and defend a new transfer of non-responsibility principle that is immune to these and other (...) objections. This new principle says, roughly, that if you are not morally responsible for any of the circumstances that led to a particular outcome, and if you are not morally responsible for those circumstances leading to that outcome, then you are not morally responsible for the outcome either. After defending this principle against a number of objections, I use it to argue for the conclusion that no one is even partly morally responsible for anything, if determinism is true. (shrink)
To have free will is to have what it takes to act freely. When an agent acts freely—when she exercises her free will—what she does is up to her. A plurality of alternatives is open to her, and she determines which she pursues. When she does, she is an ultimate source or origin of her action. So runs a familiar conception of free will.
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)
A style of argument that calls into question our freedom (in the sense that involves freedom to do otherwise) has been around for millennia; it can be traced back to Origen. The argument-form makes use of the crucial idea that the past is over-and-done-with and thus fixed; we cannot now do anything about the distant past (or, for that matter, the recent past)—it is now too late. Peter van Inwagen has presented this argument (what he calls the Consequence Argument) in (...) perhaps its clearest and most forceful way, but debate over the argument has arguably reached a stalemate. -/- Recently, however, Wes Holliday has attempted to break this seeming stalemate by presenting a new argument for the Principle of the Fixity of the Past. Holliday’s argument is subtle and ingenious, and worthy of serious consideration, especially given the promise it holds for genuinely advancing this old debate. In what follows, however, we argue that despite its considerable ingenuity, Holliday’s argument fails to convince, and the stalemate appears to remain. (shrink)
Deliberation incompatibilism is the view that an agent being rational and deliberating about which of (mutually excluding) actions to perform, is incompatible with her believing that there exist prior conditions that render impossible the performance of either one of these actions. However, the main argument for this view, associated most prominently with Peter van Inwagen, appears to have been widely rejected by contemporary authors on free will. In this paper I argue first that a closer examination of van Inwagen's (...) argument shows that the standard objections are based on a misunderstanding of the notion of ‘deliberation’ presupposed in this argument. Second, I attempt to strengthen the case for deliberation incompatibilism by offering a different argument in its support. (shrink)
The present essay is about this problem of the intelligibility of incompatibilist freedom. I do not think Kant, Nagel and Strawson are right in thinking that incompatibilist theories cannot be made intelligible to theoretical reason, nor are those many others right who think that incompatibilist accounts of freedom must be essentially mysterious or terminally obscure. I doubt if I can say enough in one short paper to convince anyone of these claims who is not already persuaded. But I hope to (...) persuade some readers that new ways of thinking about the problem are necessary and, more to the point, that new ways of thinking about the problem are possible. As Nagel says, "nothing approaching the truth has yet been said on this subject." Parts V and VI of this paper present one new way of thinking about the problem. Parts II through IV prepare for this way by distinguishing and discussing two kinds of incompatibilist theories. (shrink)
The past 25 years have witnessed a vigorous discussion of an argument directed against the compatibilist approach to free will and responsibility. This reasoning, variously called the “consequence argument,” the “incompatibility argument,” and the “unavoidability argument,” may be expressed informally as follows: If determinism is true then whatever happens is a consequence of past events and laws over which we have no control and which we are unable to prevent. But whatever is a consequence of what’s beyond our control is (...) not itself under our control. Therefore, if determinism is true then nothing that happens is under our control, including our own actions and thoughts. Instead, everything we do and think, everything that happens to us and within us, is akin to the vibration of a piano string upon being struck, with the past as pianist, and could not be otherwise than it is. While a number of philosophers take this reasoning to crush the prospects of compatibilism, others challenge its assumption that unavoidability “transfers” from sufficient condition to necessary condition or from cause to effect. The ensuing debate has occasionally been vitriolic— Hume once remarked that the free will issue is “the most contentious question of metaphysics, the most contentious science”—yet undeniably fruitful in generating more detailed examinations of ability and practical freedom. Whether we incline towards compatibilism or 2 incompatibilism, this latter development is likely to be of lasting value. As a compatibilist, I believe that the consequence argument fails to prove incompatibilism, and here I will develop criticisms of it that, for the most part, are already in the existing literature. Although a short essay cannot provide the theoretical account of practical freedom needed to underpin and justify this compatibilist critique, it will clarify the tasks that lie ahead. (shrink)
The problem that divine foreknowledge poses for free will is one that is notoriously difficult to solve. If God believes in advance how an agent will act, this fact about the past eradicates all alternatives for the actor, given the infallibility of God’s beliefs. And if we assume, with many theists, that free will requires alternatives possibilities, then it looks as if God’s omniscience is incompatible with our free will. One solution to this problem, introduced and defended by David Hunt, (...) draws on the source incompatibilist position in the secular free debate. According to source incompatibilists, free will does not require alternative possibilities but is also not compatible with causal determinism. Hunt argues that because God’s foreknowledge does not eliminate future alternatives through causal means, it is compatible with free will. In this paper, I challenge Hunt’s position using Kevin Timpe’s distinction between “wide” and “narrow” source incompatibilists. I argue that if one wishes to be an incompatibilist concerning free will and causal determinism, one must accept that alternatives are required for free will. And if one must accept that alternatives are a necessary condition for free will, then Hunt’s solution to the foreknowledge dilemma will not succeed. (shrink)
Incompatibilists often claim that we experience our agency as incompatible with determinism, while compatibilists challenge this claim. We report a series of experiments that focus on whether the experience of having an ability to do otherwise is taken to be at odds with determinism. We found that participants in our studies described their experience as incompatibilist whether the decision was (i) present-focused or retrospective, (ii) imagined or actual, (iii) morally salient or morally neutral. The only case in which participants did (...) not give incompatibilist judgments was when the question was explicitly about whether one’s ignorance of the future was compatible with determinism. This lends empirical support to claims made by incompatibilists about the experience of agency, while also showing that compatibilist accounts of ability are inadequate to the reported phenomenology. Our results also inform recent debates about the presuppositions of deliberation. (shrink)
Compatibilism is the view that determinism is compatible with acting freely and being morally responsible. Incompatibilism is the opposite view. It is often claimed that compatibilism or incompatibilism is a natural part of ordinary social cognition. That is, it is often claimed that patterns in our everyday social judgments reveal an implicit commitment to either compatibilism or incompatibilism. This paper reports five experiments designed to identify such patterns. The results support a nuanced hybrid account: The central tendencies (...) in ordinary social cognition are compatibilism about moral responsibility, compatibilism about positive moral accountability, neither compatibilism nor incompatibilism about negative moral accountability, compatibilism about choice for actions with positive outcomes, and incompatibilism about choice for actions with negative or neutral outcomes. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider whether an argument for compatibilism about free will and determinism might be developed from the thought that God’s agency seems consistent with the rational determination of at least some divine actions by the True and the Good. I attempt to develop such an argument and then consider how to respond to it from the point of view of my own position, which I call Agency Incompatibilism. I argue that a crucial premise in the argument (...) is ambiguous and offer responses to the argument on behalf of the Agency Incompatibilist, on each of the two disambiguations. (shrink)
In their rich and impressive book Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility, John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza offer an account of moral responsibility in terms of guidance control. On their view, an agent has guidance control in virtue of acting on a moderately reasons-responsive mechanism which is his own, and guidance control is “the freedom-relevant condition necessary and sufficient for moral responsibility.” It is an advantage of this account, they think, that it is compatible with both the (...) truth and the falsity of causal determinism. All of these claims raise questions which are worth pursuing. In this very brief paper, I can consider just one aspect of their account, namely, their rejection of incompatibilism. (shrink)
Determinism is a claim about the laws of nature: very roughly, it is the claim that everything that happens is determined by antecedent conditions together with the natural laws. Incompatibilism is a philosophical thesis about the relevance of determinism to free will: that the truth of determinism rules out the existence of free will. The incompatibilist believes that if determinism turned out to be true, it would also be true that we don't have, and have never had, free will. (...) The compatibilist denies that determinism has the consequences the incompatibilist thinks it has. According to the compatibilist, the truth of determinism does not preclude the existence of free will. (Even if we learned tomorrow that determinism is true, it might still be true that we have free will.) The philosophical problem of free will and determinism is the problem of understanding, how, if at all, the truth of determinism might be compatible with the truth of our belief that we have free will. That is, it's the problem of deciding who is right: the compatibilist or the incompatibilist. (shrink)
Michael Rota has identified a problem in my argument for theological incompatibilism, and claims that it also undermines my argument against divinetimeless knowledge. I acknowledge the problem, but show that it is easily corrected and leaves my arguments unscathed.
In the free will literature, some compatibilists and some incompatibilists claim that their views best capture ordinary intuitions concerning free will and moral responsibility. One goal of researchers working in the field of experimental philosophy has been to probe ordinary intuitions in a controlled and systematic way to help resolve these kinds of intuitional stalemates. We contribute to this debate by presenting new data about folk intuitions concerning freedom and responsibility that correct for some of the shortcomings of previous studies. (...) These studies also illustrate some problems that pertain to all of the studies that have been run thus far. (shrink)
Traditional theorists about free will and moral responsibility endorse the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP): an agent is morally responsible for an action that she performs only if she can do or could have done otherwise. According to source theorists, PAP is false and an agent is morally responsible for her action only if she is the source of that action. Source incompatibilists accept the source theory but also endorse INC: if determinism is true, then no one is morally responsible (...) for any action. This paper is a critique of a kind of source incompatibilism, namely, direct source incompatibilism. Direct source incompatibilists reject PAP on the basis of Frankfurt-style examples. Since PAP is one of two premises in the traditional argument for INC, direct source incompatibilists opt for a version of the direct argument, which argues for INC with the aid of some non-responsibility transfer principle. I demonstrate that this option is not available, for there is a tension between the following two claims. (shrink)
Joseph Keim Campbell has attempted to say “farewell” to a particular version of source incompatibilism, viz. direct source incompatibilism, arguing that direct source incompatibilism is committed to two theses that are in tension, thereby threatening the coherence of the position. He states that direct source incompatibilism is committed to the following claims: SI-F: there are genuine Frankfurt-style counterexamples. SI-D: there is a sound version of the Direct Argument. Campbell argues that both of these theses cannot be (...) simultaneously held since a sound version of the Direct Argument would undermine Frankfurt-style counterexamples, and vice versa. After laying out Campbell’s argument, I will first make some preliminary comments regarding actual direct source incompatibilists and their commitment to SI-F and SI-D. I then object to Campbell’s argument, arguing that one can accept both SI-F and SI-D, thereby vindicating direct source incompatibilism from the charge of incoherence. (shrink)
Wallace does not provide an explicit account of moral fairness. Rather he gives substance the notion by articulating two concrete principles governing blame which are meant to be—and in some sense clearly are—demands of fairness.