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02/15/2012

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Not new but (I think) still exciting, the debate over PAP and Frankfurt-style cases seems to be as strong as ever, and doesn't show signs of slowing down.

Also manipulation arguments for incompatibilism have been getting a lot of attention of late, and I suspect they'll get even more in years to come.

My suspicion is that free will and science issues will still be big in 5 years.

-More (and better) elucidations of the connection between moral responsibility (esp. retributive punishment) and free will.
-Manipulation arguments (it will take about 5 years to put them to rest once and for all!)
-More analysis (esp. compatibilist ones) of the ability to do otherwise (capacities, dispositions, opportunities, etc.), as well as rational capacities required for free will.
-Free will as a degree concept. (How about some discussion of the evolution and development of free will?)
-Hopefully at least a bit of x-phi (that's a different part of the SPA session, so you aren't allowed to focus on it anyway)
-And yes, I think there will be (and should be) more discussion of how scientific discoveries are relevant to free will, including neuroscience and psychology, but also physics. But keep your hands off my part of the session!
(Didn't we discuss hot topics in free will on this blog sometime in the past couple years?)

I don't know if it will be 'big', but I hope so...

issues at the intersection of free will and developmental psychology, focusing on how we develop from being non-free and non-responsible agents into (presumably) free and responsible ones.

Justin may be right but I really hope he isn't. There are huge warehouses of papers and books on those topics already (in the Nevada and New Mexico deserts, mostly)--esp. Frankfurt cases. Continuing that trend will yield diminishing returns. This is not to denigrate the work that's been done, only to say that I hope it starts to wind down just a little. Plus I hate metaphysics.

On the other hand, Strawson-style compatibilism and the link between responsibility and the emotions--that's a topic ripe for new warehouses.

I also hope to see more work on

(1) Cross-cultural and cross-historical (if that's a word) attitudes about FW and MR

(2) The implications of denying FW and MR, both for society and the individual.

(3) Dualism (Smilansky's I mean) and variantism. It's rare to find a serious discussion of dualism--everyone focuses on illusionism--and what happened to all that cool stuff that Doris and Knobe were doing on variantism about responsibility?

(4) Revisionism. Manuel can take care of himself though.

(5) Richard Double's work, which I think is remarkable but for some reason is not getting anything close to the attention it deserves.

(6) FW and MR as degree concepts

(7) Criminal responsibility vs. moral responsibility and moral desert.

First, I second Tamler on Double's work. His Metaphilosophy and FW is at once one of the best/most ignored works in the literature in the last 20 years.

Second (to follow up a bit), the relation of axiology to the concepts of FW/responsibility needs a higher profile. Resentment, attributability, and the like certainly are relevant here, but (perhaps as in Double's take--a Double-take??) I'd like to see the relation of freedom and values taken more straight-on, perhaps at a meta-issue level.

Third (shameless self-promotion ahead) I'd like to see a sort of general unification theory of freedom somewhat like Pettit's A Theory of Freedom but explicitly metaphysical in character. (I've been teaching/working on that for the better part of 20 years.)

Fourth (just close your mental ears; you've heard this from me before too), and to again chime in a bit with Tamler, there has not to my knowledge been a serious enough examination of the apparent erosion of concerns about FW in criminal law, especially involving statutory "reforms" since the Hinckley case. As philosophers we should be deeply concerned about that on lots of different levels.

That's enough.

-Empirical and other investigations of the phenomenology of agency.
-X-phi and scientific work on the generation of beliefs about our agency.
-Revisionism.
-And yes, Smilansky's Dualism is fascinating and wrongly ignored, I think.

Remind us what Smilansky's Dualism is.

For the Big Time in 5 years category: the relation of consciousness-issues to FW-relevant issues. Eddy's done some stuff on this, as has Timothy O'Connor, and I know of some recent and current dissertations in the neighborhood. Some of this work is discussed in the Science and FW lit (cf. Mele's Effective Intentions), some in the sense of agency lit (Bayne, Pacherie, Levy), but there's a ton of angles that have hardly been covered, and I do expect interest in some of these angles will increase.

Smilansky's Dualism is the precursor to his Illusionism. Dualism the view that both compatibilist and hard-incompatibilist-type views are in important respects correct: there are aspects of the compatibilist's arguments that the hard incompatibilist can't (shouldn't?) deny, and aspects of the hard incompatibilist's arguments that the compatibilist can't (shouldn't?) deny. Smilansky thinks Dualism results in practical and theoretical confusion. So he opts for illusionism instead. Compatibilism/ hard incompatibilism here is in relation to the conditions of MR. Whatever about the viability of dualism on this issue, dualism may be viable about other aspects of agency.

Oh, and another two cents: I wonder whether the adoption among naturalistically-minded free-will philosophers of stronger *methodological* naturalism has the potential to transform how we think about agency and determinism.

One thing I've found over time is that what becomes and/or stays "big" is unpredictable and not subject to one's control, as it were. I have frankly been surprised at how incredibly resilient the interest in the Frankfurt cases has been--it is amazing to see. I wouldn't venture to guess what will remain of interest, or emerge as "big", except very tentatively.

I agree with some in the thread above that there is a lot of interest now in "manipulation" and perhaps "initial design" arguments, and I wouldn't be surprised if that continues. There is some really interesting work here.

Also, I think there might be a resurgence of interest in fatalism and foreknowledge and such issues, in part because of D.F. Wallace's essay and in part because of new work in metaphysics (sorry, Tamler) on dependence and grounding. This stuff relates in interesting ways to the traditional questions, and I think that some exciting new stuff from young philosophers will explore these connections with new work in metaphysics.

Based on the thread above and also my own experience and observation, the FW/MR "area" is extremely broad, and those of us working in it have a diversity of interests and methodological orientations. And I think this is a good thing.

What about the epistemic condition of moral responsibility? It's something I think about quite a bit, so I'm almost certainly biased. But, I really feel like the discussions between Rosen/Levy/Zimmerman and Sher/Fitzpatrick are a just getting going.

Related to this, I think tracing literature is off to a great start, and it certainly merits further attention.

What about ontology and free agency? Recent work on powers has breathed new life into both defenses of agent-causalism and traditional leeway compatibilism.

The same is true (but to a lesser degree) of work on laws of nature. While Helen Beebee and Al Mele's paper on Humean compatibilism that appeared in Mind back in 2002, in which they make use of a Humean account of laws of nature to make room for robust dual ability, did not receive the attention it deserves, Bernard Berofsky appears to be offering a very similar view in his forthcoming book. Hopefully, Berofsky's book will get more attention than Beebee and Mele's paper and perhaps lead folks to have a look at their excellent article.

If you don't mind self-promotion, I think my Analysis criticism of the consequence argument is interesting, especially since it applies to other arguments as well. Of course, most folks think that argument is a dead horse, which I can understand -- though I still disagree with the viewpoint. They are doing a workshop on my book at Arizona in a few weeks and that will give me a chance to write up a reply to some criticisms of my argument.

Personally I think the manipulation argument is an intuition pump and nothing more. It will tell you what you do believe, not what you should believe. Not to say that you shouldn't talk about it though! Certainly it is influential!

Another area of current and I think continued interest is in figuring out the preconditions for distinctively interpersonal relationships, and the implications for approaches to moral responsibility (and related notions). This is, broadly speaking, "Strawsonian", but goes considerably beyond Strawson himself.

What will the big issues be in the next few years? Here’s my take on it:

We’re going to discover that a person’s consciousness isn’t what “drives” his free will. Instead, a person is simply conscious *of* his free will. Yes, there’s a short delay from the time when you form a conclusion to when you’re conscious of it. There’s also a short delay from the time you touch something to when you’re conscious of it. Both your finger and the processes in your brain are part of “you”.

The real question: do your thoughts exert new emergent forces that aren’t determined by the 4 fundamental forces of physics? We’re going to make significant progress resolving that question, and here’s some supporting logic… Thoughts are patterns of complex neurological activity that emerge in your physical brain. A thought is associated with billions of neurons. When one thought affects another there’s interaction at the “pattern level”, not just the neuron level. Neurons are affected when your thoughts interact, but the control doesn’t happen at the neuron level, it happens at the thought (pattern) level. If not, your logic wouldn’t be based upon interaction of thoughts, it would be based upon interaction of electro-chemical reactions controlled by the 4FFOP.

We’ll prove that free will is compatible with determinism, by showing that your thoughts exert new emergent forces (i.e., living forces) that are part of what determines the path of reality. The forces exerted by your thoughts are in a different field than the electro-chemical forces that cause your thoughts to emerge, and since forces in different fields don’t add directly with one another, the electro-chemical forces don’t determine your thoughts.

Sorry about the length – that’s it for me.

Any chance of posting these remarks, Manuel? Some of us won't be able to make the Pacific (alternatively, send me a plane ticket).

Sure.

I'll probably just give off the cuff remarks at the panel, but I expect I'll type up some slightly longer notes to arrange my thoughts in advance. I'll post those, unless they bear no relationship with my actual remarks.

I'm jumping in a bit late here, but wanted to throw out one overlooked suggestion. Contra Galen Strawson's remark that free will "is the conventional name of a topic that is best discussed without reference to the will", one might think that the will has everything to do with free will, especially if we are to draw a distinction between free will and free action. It might be nice to mention some recent work on the will (by, e.g., Wallace, Watson, Hieronymi, Velleman, Ferrero) and how it might relate to the topic of free will. Additionally, questions about how narrative and character relate to free will might (I hope) become more prominent in the near future.

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