This is going to be my last post. I want to thank everyone for this terrific opportunity and for the helpful comments I got. I really appreciate your having taken the time to think through these (in some cases, quite underdeveloped) ideas with me. Thanks to Thomas, especially, for the invitation, and for doing such a great job at running this blog. This has been my first serious blogging experience, and I feel like it has been a very positive one. I hope you enjoy my last post!
Many of us are interested in “the problem of determinism and free will.” But what is the problem of determinism and free will? Last year Joe Campbell came to Arizona (as an Arizona alum) and we discussed some of his work on free will in a workshop. As most of you probably know, Joe wrote a very interesting paper in Analysis (“Free Will and the Necessity of the Past”) where he argued that the consequence argument is flawed or at best proves a weaker conclusion than incompatibilism. My reaction to Joe’s objection to the consequence argument (a reaction that I share with others, although not with everyone, by all means) was, and still is, that we shouldn’t conclude that this is a problem for incompatibilism (or for incompatibilists that rely on the consequence argument) but, rather, that incompatibilism is a weaker thesis than we have typically taken it to be. And this is because the threat to our freedom is not determinism per se, or not just determinism, but determinism plus something else. Let’s call this claim “the demotion claim” about the problem of determinism and free will.
I know that it’s a debated issue whether the demotion claim is really true, and I’m not going to try to persuade everyone of its truth (although we can of course discuss this, if you want). Instead, I’ll briefly explain my reasons for believing in the demotion claim and what I take the “missing ingredient” in the problem of determinism and free will to be, and then I’ll argue that, on the assumption that my thoughts about the demotion claim are true, it follows that two important source-incompatibilist arguments fail. (“Source-incompatibilist” arguments are arguments that attempt to show that determinism is a threat to our free will, not on the basis of alternative-possibilities considerations, but on the basis of considerations having to do with actual sources or actual causal histories.) The moral will be that, whereas the demotion claim may be bad news for leeway-compatibilists, it’s good news (in fact, great news!) for source-compatibilists, in particular, for actual-sequence theorists like me.