I'm curious about the role of sociological arguments in philosophy, and in free will in particular. I'm thinking of arguments that have something like the following structure:
1. Population X, with awesome epistemic credentials, regards View L as awesome/lame
2. Therefore, we epistemic inferiors should also regard View L as awesome/lame
There are, of course, lots of ways to refine the basic argument. But, I take it that we all accept some version of this as a matter of ordinary belief management. (Imagine I go on to mutter words like "testimony" and "epistemic division of labor" and "doxastic economy") The most familiar case is individual. My views about the effectiveness of organic pest management is shaped by a friend of mine who does this stuff for a living. More prosaically, my sense about the plausibility of, say, Darwinism is parasitic on what biologists and philosophers of science tell me (my beliefs adapt to what they say, so to speak), and my sense about whether Toyota Siennas are better than Honda Odysseys is shaped by what my betters at Consumer Reports tell me.
Now let's add a temporal dimension to the picture. Should we care what our future epistemic betters will think? Suppose the philosophers of the future will be even smarter and more epistemically awesome than we are. I suspect something like this is very likely to be true. They will know more stuff than we know, they will stand on the shoulders of taller giants, and they will have the benefits of whatever cognitive enhancements the tech and pharmaceutical companies of the world figure out between now and then. Plus, the Flynn Effect.
So what? Well, I wonder whether there are interesting consequences for how we think about some current philosophical debates.
Here's one. Suppose, for example, that we could show that rates of religious belief tend to drop as education levels go up, that religious belief is associated with lower IQs, and so on. [Let's just suppose social scientists think such things because, well, they largely do.] Suppose that we thought that it is plausible, even likely, that the philosophers of the future would be theists at relatively low rates—even lower than they are now. Also, suppose that we had good reason to think that libertarianism was, in large part, a product of theistic convictions. Finally, suppose we thought that in some arbitrary future time period our smarter, less theistic successors will be such that there were trivially few libertarians running around (So, there will still be a few Balaguers (i.e., Godless Heathen Libertarians), but virtually no theistic libertarians). In short, suppose that our smarter philosophical succesors will very infrequently accept libertarianism, so infrequently that they are akin to, say, Process Philosophers or Personalists right now (i.e., folks at the philosophical periphery, largely ignored by People and Places That Matter). If we were convinced of all of this, or at least regarded it as a live possibility of some non-trivial probability, what effect should this have on us now?
Here's a view: if our epistemic betters regard view L as lame, we should, too. Our epistemic betters (future philosophers) will regard view L (libertarianism) as lame, so we should, too. QED, AMDG.
(We've recently talked about some related issues here, in a blog post by Mighty Michael McKenna. And, as was noted in the comments thread, a bunch of people are going to be talking about theism and libertarianism in a forthcoming volume by Kevin Timpe and some joker going by the name "Dan Speak")