[A quick final thought on some of Eddy Nahmias's contributions from Josh Knobe.]
I'm delighted that Flickers has chosen to devote this month to showcasing the work of Eddy Nahmias, and I thought this might be a good opportunity to say a few words about one of his most innovative and important discoveries -- the phenomenon he calls bypassing.
The basic idea behind bypassing is simple enough. Suppose people are told about a universe (Universe A) in which everything that happens is caused by some prior state or event. Now suppose that they are asked whether they agree with the statement:
- In Universe A, what a person believes has no effect on what they end up being caused to do.
Surprisingly enough, people say that this statement is true! In this sense, people seem to think that causal determinism would involve our agency being 'bypassed.'
In looking at this result, it might at first seem that people are clearly making some kind of mistake. So one might at first think that this phenomenon is just getting in the way of our ability to understand how people really think about free action. But it seems to me that the experimental evidence is pointing more and more toward exactly the opposite view. In particular, the evidence seems to suggest that people's bypassing intuitions are actually showing us something fundamental about how people see free action as different from other kinds of behavior.