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This has been such a great discussion!

Saul, it seems fair to characterize your view as moral realist compatibilism that nonethless recognizes the contextual relevance of incompatibilist moral intuitions for judging the vast array of cases of MR. Hope I'm close enough on that.

I suppose what at bottom bothers me is that metaphysical assumptions affect what we take to constitute the landscape of objective morality. Incompatibilists are married to ultimacy, and so its loss matters (assuming the falsity of L as you do), and it matters a lot (even to the point of excusing everyone in all senses). Compatibilists traditionally are at least somewhat motivated by that fact because they then embrace moral concepts of desert and responsibility that exclude the relevance of ultimacy to our attributable moral assessments.

However, you seem to say in effect that compatibilists ought not (a deontological claim?) exclude incompatibilist intuitions about at least in some cases or assessing MR. We in effect need both perspectives (thus my motivation for asking the question about pragmatism).

On one hand I can see your point. Say that we have a compatibilist who also endorses the determinism of human nature. Then that person might be motivated by that fact--human nature is subject to cause and effect without exception--to lament the loss of ultimacy. Such a compatibilist might then be further motivated to be CD as you suggest.

But compatibilism of course is not committed to any particular view of human nature as incompatibilists are--it as a cluster of views merely collectively denies in some way that incompatibilism is true. So take a form of compatibilism as John's, which I gather takes no position on the truth of determinism at all. Then such a compatibilist is not motivated by the perceived loss of the assumed truth of determinism the previous kind of compatibilist experiences. It seems to me that in that case compatibilist monism makes perfect sense. (I don't wish to speak for John of course; it just seesm to me that this is one reason to divide compatibilists into two camps based on their commitments to the determinism of human nature.)

Does that make sense?


The fundamental problem that I have with your proposal is that free will can be consistent with determinism, or inconsistent with determinism, but not both. By the same logic, free will exists, or does not exist, but not both.

You might say that one thing A, is compatible with determinism, and another thing B, is incompatible with determinism. And you are surely right about that. But only one of those things A and B can be free will. To quote Highlander, "in the end, there can only be one." That's just the law of non-contradiction.

I know you like paradoxes, but I wouldn't embrace that kind of paradox. As far as I can tell, that kind of paradox isn't an example of wisdom, it's an example of a reductio ad absurdum.

Now, as a last reply, you might say, both A and B have some claim to the term "free will." You might say that free will is a vague term, an umbrella term. In that case, the proper thing to say, I think, is that there is no answer to the questions "is free will compatible with determinism" and "does free will exist?" In my view, that doesn't support dualism about free will; it supports Richard Double's view that free will is too poorly defined to answer questions about it. Perhaps this is where we agree the most.

But, before we get to that point, I think you still have work to do. As far as I can tell, free will could map to just A, or to just B, or to A and B. The fact that both A and B have some claim to the term does not mean that both claims will be vindicated in the end. There is still work to do.

As one final point: one reason why I am attracted to incompatibilism. I think that incompatibilists appreciate the insights of compatibilism. They just find these insights to be less-than-everything there is to appreciate about the free will problem. In contrast, I think that many compatibilists do not appreciate the incompatibilist insight about constitutive luck. Many compatibilists either: 1. do not understand constitutive luck, 2. do not think that constitutive luck exists, or 3. simply duck questions about constitutive luck and its threat to free will. I am not saying that compatibilists can't make good arguments against the problem of constitutive luck (I think they can). I just don't see them make those arguments. My sense is that they just don't get it. So I am attracted to incompatibilism, because I think that incompatibilists tend to appreciate the full range of insights about the free will problem (including compatibilist insights), whereas compatibilists tend to not do so (in my view).


Compatibilists can draw the same distinctions when it comes to constitutive luck that they draw elsewhere. There are those who are constitutively unlucky who are additionally burdened by others or society and then then are those naturally handicapped individuals who are either left alone or assisted by others. Those in the latter group, they would say, are free, despite their handicaps. Perhaps you would consider such a response merely a "wretched subterfuge." Be that as it may, I don't think that they fail to appreciate your problem. They would simply respond in kind: CL is not as important when it comes to FW as you and others take it to be.

Apologies for my delayed response, on account of a time difference and then a long day of meetings and teaching. Thanks to all the recent writers.

Robert - I disagree. I think you are keeping the bar of control and moral responsibility too high, not allowing for the lower forms. First, I think that in many cases it is reasonable to be a compatibilist or mostly a compatibilist, because the force of what we see from the hard determinist or ultimate perspective isn't very disturbing. Here contextualism helps, and often plays in favor of the compatibilist side. One way in which this happens is when the stakes are low. The example of the waiter is one I've often used. Unless there is some very unusual story involved, I find little to be disturbed about when on some occasion we blame and punish a waiter who cannot be bothered to give us good service: we can treat him as responsible, expect him to realize the contractual nature of the relationship, hold him accountable for his performance, and reduce his tip. There is nothing tragic in such mundane cases, and hence the HD perspective hardly if at all comes into play. In more troublesome cases where the salience of the HD perspective is greater, then often we still can explain why we ought to climb back some way, as compatibilists. Here, as I already said, I think that the notion of respect for persons comes into play. Becoming an adult, getting a driver's license, accepting a job offer, marrying, becoming a parent, all involve accepting responsibility. We want to take on such responsibility not only for the benefits we thereby incur, but in a deeper way, because this is central to being a person, and is central to self-respect, and to the sort of reactions of respect and appreciation we seek. Once we take upon ourselves such responsibility, then it is - at least to some extent, in certain circumstances - o.k. for others to hold us to the SAME standard that we hold ourselves. This may entail deep appreciation and gratitude, or it might entail some negative reactions. Sure, in the extreme cases of e.g. high penalties the HD perspective will grow in importance, and we might - we should - talk about being a victim of circumstances, and about ultimate, existential injustice. But much of life goes on in more ordinary circumstances. There is of course more to be said here, and I have done so elsewhere, but these are just some quick illustrations of why we need not stay down in the HD hole.

Alan - I am not sure that I follow, please say a bit more. What are the two types of compatibilist? And why does it matter (if this is what you mean) that the compatibilist is dealing with determinism, or with the absence of libertarian free will (which, for my purposes, amount to the same)? I am not trying to connect to the compatibilists particular view of human nature, but, e.g., to her sense of fairness. Someone who ends up serving a 20 years prison sentence is paying a terrible price, while we can see circumstances over which he has no control as TRAPPING him onto riding on the rail tracks that lead to his doom. After all, history for the compatibilist is not a garden of real forking paths. That seems to be all I need in order to expect the compatibilist to be disturbed.

Kip - I am indeed pathologically attracted to paradoxes, but I don't see compatibility-dualism as one, at least in the sense of paradox that refers to a contradiction. [In my book Ten Moral Paradoxes I also introduced the term "existential paradox", the idea that a conclusion can be true but absurd, so that the absurdity is not a sign that we have made an error in our argumentation but is rather a discovery of the absurdity in reality, and this sense of paradox IS prevalent in the free will problem, but this is not the sense you are talking about.] There are, as I've often said, various DIFFERENT forms of free will, moral responsibility, and desert, some we cannot have (and this often matters), and some we can have (and this typically matters). Sometimes both matter, and then we get a complex result, but still not a contradiction.

I also don't see hard determinists as any better, or worse, than compatibilists in how ready they are to see the other side. Beyond falsely believing that one has to choose only one side (i.e. holding the Assumption of Monism), I think that people simply get stuck in one perspective which seems to them manifestly true, and get invested in it. Perhaps (and this makes me think that my earlier attempt at an "error theory" for non-compatibility-dualism was too simple) there is a general tendency for "dissonance aversion", so people seek in general to avoid such a complex, dualistic worldview because of the dissonance it involves.


Is there a commitment to dialetheism? Is it both true and false, for example, that a normal adult is accountable for much of what she does? That a second degree murderer deserves 20 years in prison? That it is just to imprison him for that time? Or any other (what most people would have taken for a classical) proposition?

Thanks for the feedback Saul. I'm there with you a full day of teaching and meetings!

My point was all about compatibilist motivation to account for/construct an adequate sytem of MR/punishment. There seem to be two groups of compatibilists here based on what they take to be important. Some--those invested with an affirmative belief about the determinism of human nature in forming compatibilist accounts--might be sympathetic to incompatibilism in that they realize that determinism eliminates something that might otherwise be in play that produces ultimacy--radical, individualistic and morally particularlist FW that is buck-stopping in a definitive time-origin sense. That might produce the lament I referred to earlier that we could not so hold people responsible, enforced with a form of regret that we could not do so--reality does not allow us to posit the assumption of ultimacy, and so that deterministic fact vacates that most fervent desire for assigning absolute responsibility. I'd call this a wistfulness for ultimacy in the face of causal determinism, and this attitude would be shared with L and HD alike. They would be CDs.

But some compatibilists are more basically skeptical about the fact of the determinism of human nature, and even further about its moral relevance whether true or not in the first place. These compatibilists are focused on (what I'd call) more pragmatic issues of how we can assign MR, and on what empirical bases we might ground our judgements. Issues about endless causal chains of influence and the like do not move them, because whether or not such chains exist, there are criteria of moral importance (reasons-responsiveness, deep identification, etc.) that are (i) temporally fixable as linked to an individual and (ii) indicative of some degree of responsibility as gauged on some scale of relative control (OCD versus abusive-instantiated mindsets versus privileged greed). To the degree we can establish some relative responsibility in terms of depth and influence of all these factors, then we can make sliding-scale claims of how we should punish for reasons of relative desert and wider deterrence. These are CMs, I'd say.

So there are two attitudes about the moral significance of the issue of determinism, one shared by Ls and HDs and CDs. But another attitude is that of CMs, who do not think ultimacy is a relevant moral concern.

That's my take. And thanks again for this great forum, Saul and Thomas.

Paul - Thanks for the post. No, no logically funny business (at least intentionally) here, or indeed in any of my work. When I say that we ought to take seriously the idea that both compatibilism and hard determinism are partly true, I mean that the truth on the compatibility question is complex. So, we need to create a Community of Responsibility that largely follows compatibilist distinctions, and not doing so will be unjust (e.g. it is unjust in one sense not to recognize the good will, efforts and contributions of people). However, once we do this, some ultimate or HD injustice will ensue (e.g. other people will not be appreciated and respected, while ultimately their motivation set was not up to them). What balance we ought to strike here would often be a difficult question, and contextual. Whether the ultimate injustice will matter a great deal is also open, and depends on the specific case (as in my recent replies in this thread). But saying that a certain course of action is both just and unjust is not expressing a contradiction, but rather, as I understand it, a complexity - that in certain respects it is just, in others unjust. Since both relate to (different senses of) free will, moral responsibility, desert, etc, it is appropriate to speak about both senses of justice (or injustice) as lying within the scope of the free will problem.

I don't think that there is anything unusual about the way things work out here, with compatibility dualism; matters often are complex, and we want to evaluate things as being, in some sense and in some respect, both X and not X. H.L.A Hart famously analyzed Nazi legal practice, saying that of course in some sense the Nazi laws were unjust, but that there was also a special form of injustice involved when these laws were not applied consistently. I take it that he did not regret the laxity in the enforcement of such unjust laws, but nevertheless saw arbitrary application as a further and distinct form of injustice. This sort of complex analysis happens all the time in moral life; the surprising thing is rather that the free will debate, and in particular discussion of the compatibility question, rarely recognizes the very possibility of such complex (combined compatibilist and HD) evaluations.

Alan - Thanks. Sure, we will in fact have compatibilists who are more pragmatically inclined and might care less about "ultimate injustice" and the like, and some who will care – either temperamentally or because the notions they work with (such as fairness) may naturally lead them to ask such questions and push them to go deeper. But there would seem to be serious limitations as to how far such "containment" might go, at least for two reasons. First, because of the way actual people will think and what they will care about. I have argued in the past that if we want people to care for compatibilist distinctions and think that they morally matter a great deal, we are probably better off if people believe in a stronger, libertarian grounding for such distinctions. Second, because if one goes too pragmatic, he may completely take himself out of the free will debate, and cease to be relevant. This I find happening to some extent both with certain compatibilists and with certain HDs, who focus on utilitarian-like arguments. As a normative ethical pluralist, I acknowledge the importance of such considerations, but if one goes too far then he is in danger of ceasing to be a compatibilist or HD, properly understood, i.e. as putting forth a position on the free will problem. For example, if one says that we should blame or punish people simply because this is useful, irrespective of what they deserve, then conceptually that is not a free will position. Under the free will paradigm, shared by all sides to the debate, (backward looking) desert is necessary for blame, and (strict liability aside) for punishment. Compatibilists will say that we ought to blame or not depending on desert, i.e. on what the person has done and on whether this makes her deserving or not, and HDs will say that we never ought to blame because there is no free will-based desert. Now maybe a story can be told as to why we must pretend to blame people we think are not blameworthy for consequentialist reasons, or punish people we believe are innocent, but even if plausible, that will not be a position within the free will debate, but a view according to which free will (or its absence) does not matter. I will take this up in a later post.

Saul, this has been extremely helpful for me--thanks! I can't tell if I'm a complete convert to CD or if I still think there's something fishy going on. On the one hand, it seems like once you accept that there is ultimate injustice, that swallows up all the other types of compatibilist injustices since ultimately every little thing we do comes down to luck. On the other hand, it does seem less unjust to punish or reward people based on their efforts or compatilibist control than to disregard these factors entirely. Maybe I'm a dualist about whether to accept dualism? I'm not sure.

If we're judging how to respond in case by case bases, then would the pattern be something like this? We should be least bothered by ultimate injustice considerations in our day to day interpersonal interactions. These kinds of situations are where compatibilist distinctions matter most and the question of ultimate injustice matters least. But in cases where the blame or punishment is severe, the reverse would be true. Or is that to simplify things too much? If it is, is there any kind of pattern that might indicate which perspective has more salience in a given situation?

'There is nothing tragic in such mundane cases, and hence the HD perspective hardly if at all comes into play. In more troublesome cases where the salience of the HD perspective is greater, then often we still can explain why we ought to climb back some way, as compatibilists.' Saul

'(I)s there any kind of pattern that might indicate which perspective has more salience in a given situation?' Tamler

Here you seem to advocating good old fashioned Nietzschean Perspectivalism. But formerly you were talking about "combin(ing) the partial truth(s) in both views," which I see as an entirely different enterprise. It is one thing to "climb back" for the sake of good service or to maintain family ties; it's another thing altogether to believe that a waiter is truly blameworthy for being incompetent or that mom and dad are truly deserving of a rich reward in Paradise. It's not so much that I mind pastiches, it's just that I think there may be a bit of bait and switch going on in CD. Look at the difference between what you are saying about Compatibilism and what someone like Professor Fischer maintains. Contrary to what V. Alan White says above, those who define moral responsibility in terms of guidance control, think that reason responsive agents REALLY are responsible for what they do. They are not just saying so for "pragmatic" reasons. So my question is what are we after here the truth in regards to human agency or simply a means of maintaining those institutions and practices that we find indispensable?

Hi Saul,
Wonderful topic, great discussion, and it has been enlightening not only in helping me to understand your fascinating and nuanced position, but also has elucidated the views of many others who have posted. But I am particularly excited because I think you might have established a philosophical club of which I could be a member: a compatibility dualist club, and I would be delighted to be in a CD club with you and John and Justin Coates and Tamler and Derk, and maybe others. But I'm not sure I'm allowed in. I know you have strong reasons for wanting to keep a deep commitment to a very substantive form of moral responsibility, while also appreciating the insights of those who question ultimate moral responsibility. But could one be a CD member while (on incompatibilist grounds) denying ALL moral responsibility (except such a watered down version that it doesn't seem to me to count as MR at all) but keeping belief in free will (a compatibilist free will, of course)? John seems to suggest in an early post that to be a member of the club, one must be both cool and nondogmatic, and I fail to qualify on both standards. But I must warn you, if one of the conditions of membership in the CD club is that one be a nondogmatic philosopher, then you will not require a very large clubhouse.

Tamler - thanks, I appreciate your saying this. Setting aside your meta-ethical views, you seem pretty CDish to me. It doesn't have to be 50%-50%, if one is willing to talk about compatibilist justice even on some occasions then a monistic HD has been left behind. And in some cases HD injustice is so insignificant, that not much is needed on the compatibilist side to tip things over. Occasional, contextual compatibility-dualism really shouldn't be hard to swallow once we become ready to look at how things work on the ground.

I certainly don't think that there is any simple algorithm. One consideration would be severity of sanction. Another would be the personal sphere versus more public institutional settings, as you say. This has been partly captured in P.F. Strawson's work and in work inspired by it. Time matters too (I'll post on this in a few days). I am sure that there are other factors which will form other patterns. In addition to this there is the pragmatic worry: since a genuine (free will-concerned) HD has trouble differentiating among people (everyone is innocent, whatever he does), it cannot form a basis for social life. This I show in detail in my "funishment" argument which we discussed last year in Flickers -

But the point is quite general. This means that we have no real choice but to rely on "compatibilist" forms of life not only when, say, greater injustice (or harm to respect for persons) will result from neglecting the compatibilist considerations than from following them, but also when questions of deterrence and incentives more generally are crucial. In other words, the balance between the compatibilist and HD elements in CD will often be tilted towards the compatibilist side just for pragmatic reasons, and not because of, say, all-considered free will-related justice or respect considerations. This makes matters morally even less pleasant.

Robert - thanks for your comments. I can see the motivation for your view but of course I see "the truth in regards to human agency" as already fundamentally dualistic. Becoming more aware and being willing to take responsibility and such things enhance compatibilist control, and then on this basis we can build justifications for talking about compatibilist desert, justice and the like. Because I lower the bar on freedom, I have more to work with when I move to moral responsibility and what follows. This does not deny the truth of our embeddedness and the ultimate level injustice which results - surely I have done more than almost anyone to emphasize this – but it then needs to be taken as only part of the true picture about the relationship between human agency, morality, respect, justice and so on – a picture that I understand as fundamentally dualistic.

Bruce - thanks as well for the kind words - most credit surely goes to THOMAS. I would have loved to get you on board the CD bandwagon as well, but I think you are still with Derk, on the HD side. This is because on my view the real money in the free will problem is with moral responsibility and desert, and here you are (still?) a HD. But giving up monism on free will, as you do, is surely welcome. As I wrote in my recent review of your book in NDPR, I don't see a sufficiently compelling reason to keep the bar so high for moral responsibility, and particularly once one has lowered it with respect to free will or control; and even admit "take charge responsibility", as you do. But who knows where the exact truth lies, we are just trying to make sense of these very difficult issues as best we can.


So let's suppose I crawl back far enough to regard the incompetent waiter as blameworthy and deserving rebuke for being reasons responsive, not just because it would improve service. Why am I not then required to scorn and punish those criminals who happen to exhibit this trait? Aren't like cases to be treated alike? How can it be "unjust" to hold them responsible when they had as much control over their conduct as the waiter? And if I do decide at the end of the day to stay my hand because of their "embeddedness," don't I then owe the poor waiter an apology? His bad behavior, though far less grave, can also be traced to forces beyond his control. I just don't see how the stakes involved with holding someone responsible should affect my judgment. Should I not at least try to be consistent? You seem to be flirting with a denial of the Law of Non-contradiction.

Thank you for your willingness to dialogue.

Saul -- To recap the funishment problem you mentioned in the last post: you argue that there is good reason to think that my incapacitation account -- the one that trades on an analogy to the legitimacy of quarantining non-responsible carriers of dangerous diseases -- is unworkable. The reason derives from the claim that the criminally dangerous need to be preventatively detained despite the fact that they are not morally responsible in the core sense at issue in the free will debate. So they would be owed compensation, which would require their confinement to be highly pleasurable. You say:

Hard determinists cannot, however, permit incarceration in institutions of punishment such as those that currently prevail. Instead of punishment, they must opt for funishment. Funishment would resemble punishment in that criminals would be incarcerated apart from lawful society; and institutions of funishment would also need to be as secure as current prisons, to prevent criminals from escaping. But here the similarity ends. For institutions of funishment would also need to be as delightful as possible… Since hard determinism holds that no one deserves the hardship of being separated from regular society, this hardship needs to be compensated for.

You then point out that such a policy will be extremely expensive: “the cost of funishment will be incomparably higher than that of punishment,” in fact so high that it will be practically intolerable.

Since the 2011 Flickers discussion, Neil Levy has published a reply in his 2012 Law and Philosophy article, “Skepticism and Sanction: The Benefits of Rejecting Moral Responsibility. First of all, because the free will skeptic rejects basic desert, no basic desert requirement to compensate those who are preventatively detained will be in effect. Further details of the skeptic’s reply would depend on which general moral theory she thinks can be defended. She could consistently endorse an axiological moral theory which includes better consequences as valuable, where morally fundamental rights being honored and not violated count among the good consequences. Neil plausibly points out that such a consequentialist who is also moral responsibility skeptic “will naturally hold that no one should be treated any worse than is needed to bring about the best consequences, with all agents’ welfare – including the welfare of criminals – taken into account.” So the preventatively detained would not be treated worse than would be needed to protect against the danger they pose. Also, it’s open to the skeptic to add that the right to live a fulfilling life is in play and weighs heavily, and we would thus have a serious moral interest in those who are preventatively detained being provided with the requisite opportunities and conditions. On the issue of cost, providing these sorts of opportunities may add expense, all else equal, to our system for dealing with criminal behavior, but not the expense required to provide all of those detained with five-star hotel accommodations. Finally, as Neil also points out, “rejecting the notion that some agents deserve punishment opens the way for us to adopt policies that respond to crime at much lower costs, economically, socially and morally. So what do you think about this response?

Robert – I do try to treat like cases alike, be consistent, and never toy with the Law of Non-Contradiction, but various considerations can make cases not alike, and one of those considerations is the price involved. There is nothing unique about compatibility-dualism here. A lie is a lie, but still not all lies are alike, and we even have a term for less weighty lies, i.e. "white lies". Inequality is inequality, but (even assuming that inequality as such always matters, and that you and I are relevantly alike), we would not take my complaint that I happen to receive a slice of cake that is smaller than the one you received, as we would my complaint that you were consistently receiving much better life-saving treatment for cancer. Likewise, there is ultimate injustice when the waiter's tip is reduced, but this should worry us less, and is more easily countervailed by other considerations (such as respect for agency), as compared to years of harsh incarceration.

Derk – First, just one point of clarification: the problem in my "funishment" challenge to hard determinism goes much beyond the price funishing (rather than punishing) people would involve. I claim that HD is committed to funishment, but replacing prisons with institutions of funishment (where conditions resemble a five star resort) will destroy deterrence, hence be self-defeating for hard determinism. If the risk one took when opting for crime would be that one ended up pampered in a luxury hotel, then we could expect more people to be tempted, and hence many more people than today would take the risk, making things worse from the point of view of hard determinism. Hence EVEN IF TRUE, HD breaks down as a theory that can guide our practice. Neil's response to my challenge is rich and interesting, and I intend to write a paper in reply and address many of his points in detail. Here I will only respond in brief. On the first issue you mention, I think that it is crucial to distinguish between a genuine free will position, i.e. a position which cares for free will (or its absence), and a utilitarian-like consequentialism. The utilitarian will not care if people are victimized for the greater good, but the sort of moralized HD I am speaking of will, because it holds that the fact that everyone is innocent (and given some basic assumptions about an egalitarian baseline) means that such victimization is unjust. If no one deserves to be treated worse than another on account of his actions, then this only means that desert cannot be used to justify such treatment, i.e. any divergence from the egalitarian baseline, and hence that doing so would be unjust – rather than that "anything goes". Similarly for other consequentialist balancing acts. On the issue of responding to crime differently I do not of course wish to defend everything in current penal practice, and some reform is surely possible. But so far even the most humane and liberal societies have found no real alternative to mass criminal incarceration; even Neil admits, at the end of his paper, that changing the paradigm would require that we first radically change our societies.

Saul, it is a fair point that my alternative is dramatically different from the prevailing set of circumstances. But it is not clear to me that the nearest possible world with funishment is CLOSER than the nearest possible world in which my alternative is implemented. So the appeal to counterfactual scenarios seems as much a problem for you as me.

One other point, not mentioned by Derk in his generous summary of my view. I believe that in general philosophers should constrain speculation by the best data. In assessing the possible consequences of this or that view concerning punishment, we need to be guided by the best sociology and criminology. My reading of this literature is that we could be punishing very much fewer people for VERY much shorter amounts of time, in circumstances which are not very harsh, at least in some ways, and thereby achieve much better outcomes for those punished and for society at large than we currently do. The relevant empirical literature is, however, large and debates are heated, and I don't pretend to have a good enough handle on it to be very confident (I have chosen to attend to a different set of sciences and simply don't have the time to really be conversant with others). Still, the question is open, and appealing to our differing intuitions here won't begin to settle it.

Neil - Thanks. On your first point, that seems to me a mistake. I agree that Funishment World is not closer to actuality than Neil's World, but surely that is more of a problem for your position than for mine. You are offering a proposal, I merely presented a reductio of another position (hard determinism). Funisihment World cannot realistically be implemented, and it shouldn't be, even if one is a HD. That's why it is a practical reductio.

On real life: yes, and that's important to remember. From my reading (which I am sure is less extensive than yours) there is, as you say, great disagreement. I'll want to study this issue more before I reply in detail to your paper. But the only point I made in my reply to Derk still seems to me valid: so far even the most humane and liberal societies have found no real alternative to mass criminal incarceration; and that is telling. At least with serious crimes of violence, and repeat offenders, "Short and soft" does not seem that promising. Ordinary penalization is very expensive, and there are many liberal societies that have been ready to experiment with radical revisions in policy on other matters. Yet there hasn't been much change in policy in the directions you point to. In fact, there is widespread understanding that the hopes of earlier decades for rehabilitation have been dashed. Surely practical recommendations should be more nuanced (depending on the nature of the crimes, the target population and so on), and as you said made by people more informed than ourselves. But most of what I have read does not support a lot of optimism.

Saul, this struck me in your reply to Thomas way above:

"...desert is required for a lot of worthwhile and important things (justification for social practices that we cannot avoid that goes beyond what utilitarianism can offer, moral worth, deep self-respect, and the like."

Curious as to what social practices are unavoidable, and if they are, doesn't that mean that a justification for them is really just a rationalization?

Desert, in the standard non-consequentialist sense, strikes me as a rationalization for responsibility practices that can't be justified on any utilitarian basis, but instead are driven by the sorts of retributive emotions that have taken Tamler from being a MR skeptic to a meta-skeptic. But those emotions don't mean that the practices driven by them are unavoidable; we just need to second-guess them in light of determinism and the competing claim of humanitarian harm minimization that Neil champions, as quoted by Derk: "no one should be treated any worse than is needed to bring about the best consequences, with all agents’ welfare – including the welfare of criminals – taken into account."

Re utilitarianism not being a happy place: As Derk suggests, it isn't obvious that utilitarianism can't deliver the goods you want: the free will skeptic who rejects desert can "consistently endorse an axiological moral theory which includes better consequences as valuable, where morally fundamental rights being honored and not violated count among the good consequences."

Lastly, your pessimism about rehabilitation is perhaps empirically unwarranted: it hasn't really been tried all that consistently, given the prevailing view that prisons shouldn't be country clubs. But of course the other, far more effective approach is to prevent criminogenic conditions in the first place. The naturalist-determinist perspective that says people don't have the unconditional ability to have done otherwise (they really and truly are *caused* to become criminals) is ideal for drawing attention to the need to change those conditions so that mass imprisonment and/or rehab won't be necessary. This perspective also helps to keep retributive emotions in check. Too bad you want to keep it under wraps!

Tom - thanks for your comments. I am all for improving social conditions that lead to crime, and there are enough good reasons to do so even if one doesn't completely deny free will and moral responsibility. It is a bit too easy to focus only on retributive emotions: first, even if we are thinking about punishment, one can, for example, insist that the institution of punishment requires utilitarian-like justification, so that we would not punish if this were not socially necessary, but nevertheless also believe that desert-like considerations as to WHO we punish (and perhaps how much we punish) are crucial in establishing a just and civilized moral order. Second, there is much to life beyond the spheres of punishment. The idea of desert is crucial in making sense of central forms of appreciation (moral valuing, gratitude, self-respect, some forms of love); giving up desert even in compatibilist forms would be a huge impoverishment of our moral, emotional and inter-personal worlds.

As to utilitarianism: the merits and demerits of utilitarianism are of course a big topic which we won't settle here. But (1) as I have argued with my "funishment" paper and in other ways, it is not at all clear that a genuine, morally deep hard determinism can embrace utilitarianism, a view that is fundamentally uncaring about the free will problem. And even if one opts for some form of FW-and-MR-denial-coupled with utilitarianism, that leaves one with a very dubious single leg to stand upon. No reasonable person would deny the moral importance of utilitarian-type considerations, but surely much of the progress of the human race has depended upon notions (such as fairness and justice and respect for persons) which a utilitarianism-like consequentialism cannot give any intrinsic weight to. Trusting that all will be well when we pass through the utilitarian calculus seems to me dangerously naïve.

You are not being consistent, Saul; how could you be? HD says that no one is ever free/MR. Compatibilism says that some agents exercise freedom and are responsible. They are, thus, clearly contradictory philosophies. Even after someone like Hume has disambiguated liberty/necessity, a Hard Determinist would still refuse to believe in either one of those things. Or if he does, it’s in the way that Berkeley would have philosophers believe in the “loose and popular” sense of persistence: they are just not the real deal. Thus, once you “climb back” to Compatibilism for the sake of the truth, not on utilitarian grounds, you ipso facto forsake HD. (I was taught to defend my philosophy as a necessary truth and to, thus, regard my opponents’ positions as necessary falsehoods.) The most a Compatibilist can do based on the “insights” of HD is decry harsh punishment, adjusting his philosophy of retributive justice, a la Derk’s post. He must still regard criminals as responsible, their embeddedness notwithstanding: mercifulness is not the same thing as the unwillingness to hold someone responsible. If he is conceding anything to the Hard Determinist here, it is that responsibility comes in degrees, not that it is entirely non-existent, which, again, is what someone like Spinoza or d’ Holbach would maintain. If the latter is to remain faithful to his philosophy, the most he can concede to a Compatibilist is that there may be pragmatic reasons for holding individuals responsible and even punishing some of them, thus increasing ultimate level injustice. He is, thus, on the road to Illusionism, not a ringing endorsement of Compatibilism. He is nowhere near accepting that that philosophy is true either in whole or part, just that we must live in certain respects as if it were the case.

Robert - Well, you can say that if there is one tiny compatibilist free act, then hard determinism has been refuted, or that if there is something to be said for hard determinism, then compatibilism is false. But that's not a necessary way to see the compatibility question. And I am suggesting that it is not a fruitful way to view it. We are interpreting the implications of determinism (or of the absence of robust libertarian free will, irrespective of determinism). On my interpretation, there are various forms of relevant control or free will, moral responsibility, and desert - some are compatible with determinism some not. It matters that we typically can have the compatibilist forms (and when we do not, this matters to), and it matters that we never have the ultimate or HD forms. That's all, no inconsistency, just complexity.

I suspect that there are some deep issues behind our disagreements, Saul. First, on the relevance of counterfactual scenarios. You offer a reduction of FW scepticism. But if I am right that scepticism is compatible with a happier scenario than the one you contemplate, then it seems to me that the relevant accessibility of the scenarios is relevant to settling what the implications of scepticism are. Second, on the point that no actual society has been able to dispense with relatively harsh punishment... I have argued elsewhere the past is not a good guide to what is possible, nor even to what is likely (this is a consequence of my externalism about developmental resources). This is where things get hard to resolve: some thinkers look at history and anthropology and see variations on a small number of themes. Others, like me, see a dizzying variety of dramatically different possibilities.

Neil - If my reductio doesn't work then it doesn't matter, if it works then the fact that the proposal being reductio-ed cannot plausibly be applied isn't a fault. On the bigger question, you are right that it’s a general and large question. I tend to be philosophically daring but socially suspicious of optimistic scenarios. Temperamentally I am perhaps similar to Hume, my philosophical saint (without of course commitment to his philosophical views). I do however think that here the crucial question is whether we are talking about human beings as they are, or of some radical future change in human nature due to genetic modification or some unimagined ways of control. With human beings as they are now, there is limited room for change, and experiments (e.g. communism) have not given room for optimism, to say the least. If human nature itself is up for grabs, then I want to hear more, and Brave New World fears would come up, but in principle, sure, who knows? So we might both be right, i.e. my suspicious of utopia under current conditions might be convincing, but your hopes for a bright future might be too, once we can radically change the building blocks of humanity.

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