The traditional disputants in the free will discussion--the libertarian, soft determinist, and hard determinist--agree that free will is a coherent concept, while disagreeing on how the concept might be satisfied and whether it can, in fact, be satisfied. In this innovative analysis, Richard Double offers a bold new argument, rejecting all of the traditional theories and proposing that the concept of free will cannot be satisfied, no matter what the nature of reality. Arguing that there is unavoidable conflict within our (...) understanding of moral responsibility and free choice, Double seeks to prove that when we ascribe responsibility, blame, or freedom, we merely express attitudes, rather than state anything capable of truth or falsity. Free will, he concludes, is essentially an incoherent notion. (shrink)
Why is debate over the free will problem so intractable? In this broad and stimulating look at the philosophical enterprise, Richard Double uses the free will controversy to build on the subjectivist conclusion he developed in The Non-Reality of Free Will (OUP 1991). Double argues that various views about free will--e.g., compatibilism, incompatibilism, and even subjectivism--are compelling if, and only if, we adopt supporting metaphilosophical views. Because metaphilosophical considerations are not provable, we cannot show any free will theory to be (...) most reasonable. Metaphilosophy and Free Will deconstructs the free will problem and, by example, challenges philosophers in other areas to show how their philosophical argumentation can succeed. (shrink)
In “The Moral Hardness of Libertarianism”, I accuse libertarians of being morally unsympathetic if they hold three widely shared beliefs: that persons are morally responsible only if they make libertarian choices; that we should hold persons morally responsible; and that we lack epistemic justification for thinking persons make libertarian choices. In “Hard-Heartedness and Libertarianism”, John Lemos, relying on the Kantian principle of ends, suggests a way for libertarians to accept these three beliefs while avoiding the charge of hard-heartedness. In this (...) paper, I criticize Lemos’s rebuttal. (shrink)
The objection to R-S accounts that was raised by the possibility of external agents requires the acceptance of two premises, viz., that all R-S accounts allow for puppeteers and that puppeteers necessarily make us unfree. The Metaphilosophical reply shows that to the extent that puppeteers are more problematic than determinism per se, pup-peteers may be explicitly excluded since they violate our paradigm of free will. The Metaphilosophical reply also suggests that we should not expect our mature R-S account to supply (...) logically necessary and sufficient conditions for free will, but rather give us answers that agree with our intuitions regarding paradigms of free and unfree decisions. The Irrelevancy reply completed our reply to incompatibilists who continue to object that determinism per se destroys the R-S program. It may be debated whether my autonomy variable account is a satisfactory way to spell out the Irrelevancy reply, but I think that this type of approach suggests the way to vindicating the R-S view from an important type of objection. (shrink)
The following is a criticism designed to apply to most libertarian free will theorists. I argue that most libertarians hold three beliefs that jointly show them to be unsympathetic or hard-hearted to persons whom they hold morally responsible: that persons are morally responsible only because they make libertarian choices, that we should hold persons responsible, and that we lack epistemic justification for thinking persons make such choices. Softhearted persons who held these three beliefs would espouse hard determinism, which exonerates all (...) persons of moral responsibility, or, at least, would not espouse libertarianism. I do not address the view held by some libertarians that we do have epistemic justification for thinking that persons make libertarian choices, a minority position that I believe cannot be sustained. (shrink)
Philosophers’ intuitions about what constitutes autonomy are largely driven by the exemplars or paradigms that we recognize. There are indefinitely many exemplars, inasmuch as there are relatively private personae that serve as autonomy exemplars such as our parents, third grade teacher, or, for the megalomaniac, oneself. But among Western philosophers there are doubtless some exemplars that are widely shared and broadly influential. Philosophical exemplars include Socrates, Aristotle’s magnanimous man, Kant’s noumenal self that is perfectly attuned to the moral law, Mill’s (...) anti-authoritarian non-conformist, Marx’s manin-society, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, and Sartre’s authentic youth who must decide whether to join the French resistance or stay at home for the sake of his mother. Exemplars from outside of philosophy include Antigone, Christ, Faust, Ibsen’s Enemy of the People, Winston Churchill, and even figures from popular culture such as the baseball player Ted Williams, the free spirited flower children of the 1960s, and practically any character that John Wayne ever played. (shrink)
In "The Illusion of Conscious Will," Daniel Wegner (2002) argues that our commonsense belief that our conscious choices cause our voluntary actions is mistaken. Wegner cites experimental results that suggest that brain processes initiate our actions before we become consciously aware of our choices, showing that we are systematically wrong in thinking that we consciously cause our actions. Wegner's view leads him to conclude, among other things, that moral responsibility does not exist. In this article I propose some ways that (...) traditional philosophical defenders of moral responsibility, both compatibilists and libertarians, might accept Wegner's empirical premise regarding the will but amend their theories so that they may reject his conclusion regarding moral responsibility. (shrink)
The belief that only free will supports assignments of moral responsibility -- deserved praise and blame, punishment and reward, and the expression of reactive attitudes and moral censure -- has fueled most of the historical concern over the existence of free will. Free will's connection to moral responsibility also drives contemporary thinkers as diverse in their substantive positions as Peter Strawson, Thomas Nagel, Peter van Inwagen, Galen Strawson, and Robert Kane. A simple, but powerful, reason for thinking that philosophers are (...) correct in making moral responsibility the prize of the free will problem is this: If we disassociate free will from deserved praise, blame, punishment and reward, reactive attitudes and moral censure, then why care about free will? If free will is not pinned down as that degree of freedom in our choices that we need for moral responsibility, it is difficult to see why anyone would or should care about free will. In this article I argue that some of the most prominent recent writing on free will becomes sidetracked from this key issue. For this reason, a good deal of the literature is so much spilled ink as philosophers misdirect their energies. In section 1 I elaborate just what I believe the key issue in the free will problem is. In section 2 I illustrate what an answer to the key issue requires. In section 3 I suggest motivations for misdirection. In sections 4, 5, and 6 I provide detailed examples of misdirection from compatibilists and libertarians. In sections 7 and 8 I describe some non-misdirected answers to the key question. (shrink)
John searle has recently claimed to have dissolved what daniel dennett calls 'hume's problem'--The question whether the explanation of behavior by appeal to mental representations can be done without circularity or infinite regress. Searle argues that a careful analysis of the concept of an intentional state shows that mental representations do not require intentional "homunculi" to explain how intentional states have their contents, And, Hence dennett's worry is groundless. I argue that searle's conceptual analysis of intentional states, Even if correct, (...) Provides no clue of an answer to the worry underlying hume's problem. (shrink)
Adopting meta-level Free Will Subjectivism is one among several ways to maintain that persons never experience moral freedom in their choices. The other ways of arguing against moral freedom I consider are presented by Saul Smilansky, Ted Honderich, Bruce Waller, Galen Strawson, and Derk Pereboom. In this paper, without arguing for the acceptance of free will subjectivism, I argue that subjectivism has some moral and theoretical advantages over its kindred theories.
One of Thomas Nagel’s premises in his argument for panpsychism is criticized. The principal criticisms are: Nagel has failed to provide a clear sense in which mental properties are nonphysical. Even within the framework of Nagel’s argumeent, there is no strong reason to think that the psychological lies outside the explanatory web of physical properties. This is because certain reducing properties common to both the psychological and nonpsychological may well be physical.
Beginning Philosophy offers students and general readers a uniquely straightforward yet challenging introduction to fundamental philosophical problems. Readily accessible to novices yet rich enough for more experienced readers, it combines serious investigation across a wide range of subjects in analytic philosophy with a clear, user-friendly writing style. Topics include logic and reasoning, the theory of knowledge, the nature of the external world, the mind/body problem, normative ethics, metaethics, free will, the existence of God, and the problem of evil. A concluding (...) chapter outlines the worldview developed in the text and connects that view to questions about the meaning of life. The interconnection of philosophical problems and the relationship of philosophy and science are emphasized throughout. The book includes both extensive quotes from historical figures such as Aquinas, Descartes, and Hume and references to philosophically minded nonphilosophers like Dostoevski, Stephen Jay Gould, and Carl Sagan. Beginning Philosophy is designed for use in introductory philosophy courses at a wide range of institutions. It contains numerous pedagogical materials at the end of each chapter: sections called "misconceptions" list errors that introductory readers should avoid; guide questions prompt students to explain in their own words what the text is saying; review questions help students prepare for examinations; open-ended discussion questions call for independent judgment; and annotated bibliographies provide suggestions for further reading. The volume is further enhanced by a list of famous quotations from philosophers, a glossary of philosophical terms, a glossary of names of the most famous philosophers and scientists discussed in the text, and an extensive bibliography listing every work cited. (shrink)
Psychologists and common sense recognize blaming the victim as a cognitive error (fallacy) that many of us use to support the just-world hypothesis — the view that life is basically fair. In this article Richard Double compares a related phenomenon, blaming the culprit. When we commit the fallacy of blaming the culprit we mistakenly conclude that judging a culprit to deserve blame for an action exonerates everyone else from blame for that action. Double provides several examples of the fallacy.
This concise monograph argues that experiments on patients who have had radical commissurotomies disconnecting their right and left cerebral hemispheres do not show that such patients, or nonpatients in general, are not unified persons. For Marks "the split-brain patient has one mind and is one person, although he has on occasion, a disunified consciousness. The experimental results pose no special threat to our concept of the unity of a person". Marks's position relies on three sources: the Wittgensteinian view that philosophical (...) problems are often created by philosophers' seduction by inept metaphors where careful attention to language is needed; the functionalist view that the mind just is that which the most satisfactory scientific explanation of human behavior postulates; and a burden-of-proof attack against his opponent. (shrink)
Derk Pereboom has written a wonderfully clear, comprehensive, and meticulous treatment of the current free will debate. Pereboom’s position, hard incompatibilism, maintains that persons never choose in a way that is necessary for them to be morally responsible for their behavior.. In the first four chapters, Pereboom argues that: Determinism is incompatible with moral freedom, Event-causal libertarianism is incompatible with moral freedom, Agent-causal libertarianism is logically possible, but is empirically unlikely to be true, and Therefore, we in fact lack moral (...) freedom, whether determinism is true or not. In the last three chapters, Pereboom argues that denying moral responsibility need not be destructive of morality, love, value, our concept of ourselves as deliberative agents, our ability to deal with criminals, and meaning in our lives. (shrink)