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11/17/2012

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Bruce - thank you. I didn't mean to impose homework on you, it is just that my thinking on the phenomenology of freedom, and what its distinctly non-HD feel means, is not as well developed as some other aspects where I feel more sure what is going on, and there was not much HD response to my challenge. As I see it, there is a discrepancy here between coming into a choosing situation with a belief that there is no FW and MR, and what happens in a case such as my Zelda one. Again, because you acknowledge FW your situation is somewhat different, but still, while you can of course continue to have a no-MR set of beliefs, I do not see how you can feel not responsible AT THAT MOMENT, if you imagine yourself confronted by Zelda. I just don't see what you can tell her, not about your general beliefs, but about what is missing, that is preventing you from holding yourself responsible at that moment. Now perhaps the apparent contradiction between the beliefs and living-as-HD does not matter, but then I would like to hear more about it; i.e. why not. In any case, the topic seems interesting but quite neglected relatively to its potential importance.


Paul - thanks, this is very helpful. I think that there are two issues left in dispute between us. The first is whether there is a difference between the criminal justice and medical examples, i.e. between the nature of the moral problems. One way to capture what I see as a difference is to think about the "enemy". In criminal justice it is human beings trying to better themselves at the expense of others: this applies both to the criminals and to members of society who then punish wrongdoers, even if we don't deny all compatibilist differences between them. In the medical example the "enemy" would be external things like diseases. So yes, in principle the ultimate or hard determinist side exists even if we speak only about laws of nature or about optimizing our fight against disease, but I simply find that it makes things more salient if we think about social practices whereby we willfully ruin people's lives, as in punishment. Moreover, the compatibilist is saying that the criminal is morally at fault, that he is blameworthy and deserves what he gets; this has no parallel in typical attitudes towards the ill. My Trap story is intended to capture the problem with compatibilist justifications of punishment under ideal conditions for the compatibilist – and focusing on the sphere where control, responsibility, blameworthiness etc are paramount (i.e. the criminal justice sphere) helps, I hope, to see the limitations of compatibilism IN THOSE VERY TERMS of control, responsibility, and blameworthiness.

Secondly, and more importantly, you say that while the burglar's going to jail is a moral problem, it is not an injustice. I wonder whether you haven't conceded too much already here: the compatibilist insists that there is NO moral problem with that scenario, merely bad people getting what they deserve in light of their own free choices. So if you see a moral problem then perhaps The Trap has already had an effect. The rest depends, I feel, on how we think of the ideas of justice and injustice. You seem to feel that as long as society has does its best, or something close to it, then there can be no injustice. But while clearly sometimes we use the notion of injustice in this narrow way, i.e. to represent optimal social arrangements within the constraints, I see limiting ourselves to it as unmotivated, particularly in the context of the free will disputes. Notice, again, that the same logic would apply to optimal arrangements under utilitarianism, yet I assume you would not want to deny the idea that optimal utilitarian arrangements can be unjust! But then you must give a reason what the difference here is, and this reason cannot be compatibilist desert, for that would beg the question against incompatibilism.

According to the Book of Acts (chapter 9), when Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute the heretics (i.e., the followers of Jesus, not the Semicompatibilists, but, well, the similarities are obvious), Waul was struck to the ground by a heavenly light, and a voice called out, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

Hey, what (else) can I say?

John - not sure what you are referring to here, perhaps my other post, on "crazy ethics"? But (a) the idea that ideas are "crazy" in this new sense I am proposing is consistent with the thought that they are TRUE; (b) the idea of craziness (again, in this sense) applies almost to any FW view, so compatibilism or semi-compatibilism isn't singled out, and (c) are you committed to the idea that semi-compatibilism could be widely accepted, as you (naturally) are to the idea that it is true? I am certainly not committed to the idea that my ideas can be widely accepted by the folk, yet hope they are close enough to the truth. So, on all accounts no persecution intended, just doubts about whether any of the plausibly true views, including yours, and my own, can in fact serve as a basis for folk beliefs, attitudes and practices if we enter a post-libertarian era. I hope you think that this is a legitimate question.

Saul,

Really and truly: I was just joking around.
As an atheist, I'm not a big fan of the Bible anyway!

Please understand that I think your posts have been SUPER-GREAT, and I was just kidding.

You are not only a wonderful person, but I can't imagine anyone by whom I'd rather be "persecuted".

Oh well, there goes my deterrence... Thanks, John.

Saul,

Sorry for the late reply. It's true that blameworthiness has no parallel in the medical case. But no analogy matches every detail, or it couldn't do any work. The question is why the burglar's causal predicament undermines his blameworthiness, which seems to land us right at square one. I thought your TRAP story was trying to take a novel approach, where we could put aside that question for a moment and see some *other* kind of injustice in our legal system. I guess I was mistaken.

Maybe I should have mentioned earlier on that I am a Vihvelin-style, old-school compatibilist who thinks we really do have alternatives. So I have to take a lot of your descriptions (like "trap") with a grain of salt.

On the moral problem, I see it as completely analogous to the medical case, which is also a moral problem. Even if the hospital has done its best, the fact that patients still die is a moral problem. Just look at the fully apropos troubled reactions on the hospital administrator's face. If she nonchalantly said, "nothing to worry about, I did my best," there would be something wrong with her, *even if it's true* she did the best that could have been done up to then. Sometimes the best isn't good enough. If that's Ethical Craziness, sign me up.

Why isn't the problem an injustice problem, whereas utilitarian-optimal systems DO have injustice problems? In short: because Scanlon. Something along those lines.

Clarification: because Scanlon = because Kantian Contractualism.

Paul - thanks for these comments. A Scanlonian understanding of justice does have the advantage over utilitarian-like views that it IS about justice. However, it has a problem which makes it similar to utilitarian-like views, and that is that it isn't about free will; it addresses a different notion of justice than that raised by the free will problem. This came out in my interchange with Tamler over how we can understand Parfit on fair punishment. If any result of a (hypothetical or actual) contract is just by stipulation, then why do we care about the FW problem? You are at once trying to (a) defend a compatibilist interpretation and (b) trying to defend the justice of optimal social arrangements through contractual means. But as far as I can see there is no inherent relation between the two: even if the hard determinist interpretation is completely true, then an agreed-upon social arrangement can still be completely just, by contractual lights. But that seems to me to mean that contractualism is irrelevant to the sense of injustice under contention in the FW problem. That, I take it, is that IF people have no free will, then blaming and punishing them is unjust. Saying that they are just because of some other, contractual story, does not meet the original challenge from justice confronting compatibilism.

Saul,

Sorry this is late, again. I am probably the only one still checking this thread, but at the risk of talking to myself...

Suppose we have (b) an ethical-and-metaethical approach to justice which is of a Kantian contractualist variety, and also (a1) some views on justice in intellectual property, and (a2) some views on justice in sexual relations, and (etc etc etc), and (aN) some views on environmental justice, AND (a) some views on justice in praise and blame and punishment and the like. These are all interrelated, I believe, or should be. If our approach (b) survives reflective equilibrium with (a1) thru (aN), in addition to any meta-ethical considerations, then it can carry a lot of weight, in my view, when we get to topic (a). Especially if our intuitions on (a) are highly conflicted.

Now of course the influence goes both ways, and if an otherwise OK-looking ethical theory gave crazy results on punishment, that might cost the theory first place in one's credence ranking. But I don't see that happening.

Thanks for your comments, Paul, and glad to continue thinking about all this together. Perhaps we just have irreconcilable fundamentally different intuitions here, but I find what you say to have much more potential if you start from meta-ethical skepticism than if you stay on the normative level. For, I don't find it at all plausible that many people WILL have firm intuitions on the nature of justice in intellectual property, the family, and the environment, that will give any run for their money to their intuitions on justice in punishment. I do not think that the "worse off" get a fair deal in a Rawlsian setup, but one of the reasons why Rawls convinced many people is because justice in the distributive sphere is so vague and uncertain to begin with, and we are so ready to compromise it for pragmatic reasons. It is no accident that he didn't see retributive justice in the same way. I doubt if people's intuitions about "environmental justice", or indeed about whether such a thing exists, go even as far as they do with traditional distributive justice; and arguably intellectual rights are mostly a pragmatic notion. And so on. On the other hand, the idea that only the guilty may be blamed and punished is a fundamental moral intuition, and many would take it to be analytic. Likewise, the importance of justice for the way blame and punishment are run seems manifest; otherwise we cannot make sense of why the punishment of the innocent issue has been so significant in criticism of utilitarianism.

So, if you say that you cannot make meta-ethical sense of the idea that it is unjust to be punishing people who (because of what we believe on FW) are innocent, then I disagree, but I find no coercive arguments to shift your meta-ethical stance. But if you say you will grant me as robust a meta-ethics as I want, but still you don't see, on the NORMATIVE level, any problem with taking upon the sons the sins of their fathers, then I find that shocking. I suspect that you also do, and similarly for collective punishment, and that you do greatly value moral innocence in blame and punishment, in itself. Yet from there it is only one natural step away, to recognizing ultimate or HD injustice. I don't see why you resist.

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