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The decision that Bob makes at noon is controlled by “life” that’s part of him. Life is caused, but not predetermined. There isn’t always a reason for every characteristic of new emergent life. When life associated with other systems results in a benefit to you, I would call that luck.

Regarding the journalists, perhaps you could help them to understand your concept of “present luck” by first explaining that life isn’t predeterministic in nature, and therefore a sense of luck is associated with current events. You could follow that by explaining that new forces are an emergent property of life (you could call them “living forces”), and those new forces are the fundamental reason why humans are able to decide freely. In other words, you could first link the ideas of luck and life together, and then explain how life is compatible with deciding freely because “living forces” aren’t predeterministic in nature.

Al: As you know, I'm one of those who has a hard time seeing that there's a problem. Sometimes I think I see it, but most of the time not so much. Tonight is a not so much evening.

Evidently, Bob didn't do all he could to avoid deciding to C. Here' something he could have done: decide at noon to flip the coin then. He could have done this in the sense that he was able to do it and he had every opportunity to do it. So assuming he knew it was wrong to cheat people out of their money by deciding as he did, why shouldn't he be blameworthy? Here's a plausible claim: if someone did something he knew at the time was wrong and could (in the sense just specified) have avoided doing it without doing anything worse, then he's to blame for what he did. This claim seems to imply that Bob is blameworthy for his decision, "present luck" (aka indeterminism?????) notwithstanding.

Justin, what we are trying to explain is Bob's freely and intentionally doing x, such as his deciding to flip the coin, in such a way as his doing so is an exercise of luck-excluding control. How is it any explanation to say he could have flipped the coin? Perhaps in saying that you are saying it it was metaphysically possible that he flip the coin, or he had the capacity to flip the coin. I agree: that's why the problem gets off the ground. Saying that he could have flipped the coin might be saying that there is some explanation of how he could have done so in such a manner as to exercise luck-excluding control, but that's not an explanation of how.

I suspect Al disagrees, but fwiw I deny that present luck = indeterminism; indeterminism is neither necessary nor sufficient for present luck.


Again, thanks for your new post--both are stimulating and great!

As you know, I have presented a putative solution to the luck problem on behalf of the libertarians--someone's gotta do it! Ha, actually, it is not on behalf of libertarians, since part of libertarianism is the doctrine that determinism rules out freedom and responsibility. So: on behalf of those who think that indeterminism in itself would not rule out freedom and responsibility.

Perhaps I'm one of the "compatibilists" whose purported solutions you and Stephen are writing about--I'll look forward to being refuted by you folks. (I'm tired of being refuted by my libertarian friends--better to be refuted by an agnostic/compatibilist pair--if I have Stephen's "denomination" right.)

One amusing feature of the accidents of the way you formulated your post is that you say you reply to Dan Speak in the paper that targets us stupid old compatibilists. Poor Dan--how sad for him to be tarred by this brush! I guess you meant, in an overall paper which targets compatibilists, you also had a part that responds to this aspect of something Dan said.

I am a Supercompatibilistic Semicompatibilist. As a Supercompatibilist, I believe that neither causal determinism nor causal indeterminism in themselves would rule out freedom/responsibility. Thus, I believe that there is a solution to the luck problem. In two papers (one reprinted in DEEP CONTROL) and one forthcoming in the festschrift for Bob Kane I seek to show how the elements that are useful in showing that causal determinism does not rule out freedom/responsibility can also help with the indeterministic side of the equation. Perhaps these don't work, or don't work to everyone's satisfaction--but I still hold the de dicto claim that there is some adequate response.

Well: you have to give me credit for trying, no? [Brent: will you do that at least? I'm not asking for desert-based credit, now...]

Oh, Al!

Well… I want to think more about your real question: how best to express a compelling and tweetable optimism about the compatibility of freedom and indeterministic “present luck”. But in my personal defense—

Dear Pot,

If a person (a very smart person very close to you) takes your presentation of a “problem” and describes it as the backbone of the strongest version of a kind of “argument,” and then another person (not as smart) wants to give you credit by entitling the “argument” with your name, it seems “a little testy” to complain about this.

Kettle ☺

And, for what it is worth, I really didn’t mean to be testy at all. I really was just noting that it was easier to get to the core of the “argument” without Diana in the story (as Randy’s presentations also seems to assume).

Dear Kettle (aka Dan),

Oh well. . . I found that bit amusing, but I'm told I have an abnormal sense of humor. I'm going to wait for more comments before I do any *serious* replying.

Your friend,


Neil: Two initial points. First, not all of us are "trying to explain...Bob's freely and intentionally...deciding [at noon] to flip the coin [at 12:02] in such a way as his doing so is an exercise of luck-excluding control." Some solutions to the problem Al identified (the problem of present luck) embrace present luck (Al's own solution, e.g.). Mine does too. Second, I said what I meant by claiming Bob could I have decided at noon to flip the coin then. He had the ability and opportunity to decide at noon to flip the coin then.

What Al asked for was an answer to the problem of present (or cross-world) luck that educated lay folk might find satisfying. I was in a bit of a rush when I made my first post (was off to watch a sporting event), so let me see if I can be a bit clearer. Here's one strategy one might use when trying to develop an answer of the sort Al invited us to provide. Step 1: identify a set of conditions that educated lay-folk would agree are plausibly sufficient for blameworthiness (and thus for acting freely). Step 2: Point out to those educated lay-folk that these conditions are compatible with present luck and with indeterminism in general. This is the sort of answer I was suggesting. Let me develop it more fully and, in doing so, hopefully fend off a few additional objections I see coming.

Step 1: Suppose some person does something he knows at the time is wrong. Suppose further that he was not manipulated in any way, forced, coerced, etc. He believed correctly that he had the ability to do the right thing instead of doing what he actually did and that he had the opportunity to exercise that ability at the time. He was responsive to the reasons for doing otherwise, etc. These conditions are plausibly jointly sufficient for blameworthiness. I mean, what could this person plausibly say to exonerate himself? He can't say he couldn't help doing the wrong thing, for by hypothesis he had the ability and opportunity to do the right thing instead. And he can't plead ignorance, for by hypothesis he knew exactly what he was doing and that it was wrong. So what's his excuse supposed to be?

Step 2: All of the conditions identified in step 1 could be satisfied by Bob in Al's story. Present luck does not take away Bob's knowledge that deciding to C is wrong, nor does it take away his ability or opportunity to do the right thing. It doesn't make him less responsive to the moral reasons for doing otherwise, etc. Finally, Bob wasn't manipulated, forced or coerced to do what he did. So if the conditions I've identified really are jointly sufficient for blameworthiness, then it would appear that Bob is blameworthy for deciding to C, present (cross-world) luck notwithstanding.

Would educated lay folk find the answer to the problem of present (cross-world) luck I just sketched satisfying? I can't really say from my armchair (or rather my kitchen chair), but I think they just might. And if I'm really luck, perhaps some philosophers might find it satisfying too!

Hi Al (again, if I may, and Alan it is for me even if I also am usually Al), and thanks for this.

The Bob scenario seems close to your (and Beebee's) account of Humean compatibilism in that Bob might have had a shared past of laws and states with a completed deterministic-world-Bob but at the point of decision went another way indeterministically. And you allow (in your Mind article) that this admits the luck objection either way under Humeanism. Your present Bob is assumed to be indeterministic but contrasts with a supposed Bob who complies with something like (Humean) determinism, yet luck intrudes nonetheless.

First, the scenario must be something like a Humean one if the counterfactual situation you describe is relevant at all. A neccesitarian form of determinism would not yield luck except in some meta-sense of the formation of necessitarian deterministic worlds or some other epistemic sense compatible with deterministic circumstances.

Second, if Humeanism about laws is right then luck is guaranteed and unavoidable. No conceptual constraints of what makes sense for control can trump what the metaphysical facts are if luck is included as undermining responsibilty and that is posited as a fact. And if the Humean metaphysical facts entail luck, then that is what it is.

So a posited indeterminism under Humeanism entails that logical possibility trumps complete control.

If there is some account of control available to indeterminism--Humean or otherwise--that (i) genuinely shows how agents at one time extend their reach into the future to make events occur in at least a highly (logically) possible/probable way and (ii) reliably anchors a transfer of embraced values from the earlier time to the later events in an at least something like an equal sense of valuation, then indeterminism can be compatible with responsibility. I separate (i) and (ii) only because intention to act in a certain way need not entail that that eventual action reflects values involved in that original intention.

Since any form of indeterminism I can imagine can't exclude some interference with (i) and (ii) due to a metaphysical accessibility to logical possibility, then I can't see how luck isn't a problem from any posited indeterminism. Bob's choices are always metaphysically and morally fallible under the assumed indeterminism. Such fallibility is at least inconsistent with notions of ultimate responsibility.

One question to Neil: I can see that indeterminism isn't necessary for luck considerations due to different forms of luck that might affect agents. But why shouldn't indeterminism be sufficient for at least some inherent luck for agents acting under it if agency supposedly entails ultimacy? I can't see that and I hope you can explain that to me.

Justin, thanks. That's helpful. As i understand what you're doing, you are not so mucho trying to solve the luck problem as rejecting it (as a pseudo-problem). Your response may in fact actually be the right one, in the sense of convincing educated laypeople that luck is not a problem. So to that extent I can't fault it. My view is that they would be making a mistake if they were convinced, because what the problem shows us is that the alleged sufficient conditions for responsibility you mention are inadequate. If they did accept the response, I might ask them to reflect on the following facts: that Bob might easily have done otherwise, in precisely the circumstances in which he was, and had he done otherwise nothing at all about his desires, attitudes, volitions and so on would have been different to how they are actually are. I would therefore encourage them to see how luck partially explained his act, including its moral character. I would ask them to reflect on the unfairness of blaming or praising someone when luck explained the fact that the act was good or was bad. If all else failed, I would have them read my book (that *always* convinces the characters in Al's thought experiments, though it might be less effective in real life).

Alan: the main reason indeterminism isn't sufficient for luck is that on my analysis (which is heavily indebted to EJ Coffman), probabilities matter. Suppose I enter the New York State lottery. If I win, I'm very lucky. But if I fail to win, I'm not unlucky: that's the expected result, the probability of which was overwhelming. Similarly, I don't think a good golfer is lucky to make a short putt, if he is makes putts like that 99 times out 100. If he might have missed due to indeterminism, but the probability that indeterminism would have had that effect is tiny (on my understanding of the physics, that's actually a plausible situation), then had he missed due to indeterminism he would have been unlucky, but he is not lucky in sinking the putt despite the indeterminism.

Hi Al,

Interesting post. I find it especially interesting that many educated lay folk find present luck to be problematic. Perhaps we should take this as evidence that many lay folk are 'natural' compatibilists. Perhaps the problem of present luck should be thought of as a way to bring compatibilist sympathies to the surface.

Although I think present luck is problematic, I'm tempted by the idea that luck doesn't undermine moral responsibility, but rather only mitigates it.(I think this is the opposite of what Justin Capes argues in a forthcoming paper...) If compatibilists only claim this much, then they can still argue that luck is problematic for libertarians whilst holding that indeterminism wouldn't rule out responsibility. Maybe lay folk will find this more intuitively plausible than the view that present luck does not affect one's moral responsibility.

It’s great to have Justin’s proposal on the table. Neil has already replied, and the penultimate paragraph of Alan’s latest post applies to Justin’s proposal. So who else wants to weigh in? Are there good counterexamples to the proposal or good arguments against it?

Now, I know that Justin is not a compatibilist. So I’m assuming that when he writes that Bob “had the ability and opportunity to decide at noon to flip the coin then,” he’s thinking that Bob would lack one or both of these things if his universe were deterministic. But I might be wrong about that. If I am, the conditions Justin offers as sufficient for Bob’s freely deciding as he does are compatible with Bob’s decision’s being deterministically caused.

For now, let’s assume that Justin is an incompatibilist (about determinism and free action). Then he might endorse the following claim: Even though no agent in a deterministic world has enough control to act freely, some agents in indeterministic worlds have enough control to act freely. Notice that he makes no appeal at all to agent causation, and recall the following quotations from my post about control:

Derk: Event-causal libertarianism fails because it “does not provide agents with any more control than compatibilism does” (2001 book, p. 56).

Randy: “the active control that is exercised on [an event-causal libertarian] view is just the same as that exercised on an event-causal compatibilist account. [The] view fails to secure the agent’s exercise of any further positive powers to causally influence which of the alternative courses of events that are open will become actual” (2003 book, p. 220).

Also keep in mind Derk’s “disappearing agent” objection, which he summarized and discussed in the thread on control.

Does any of this cause trouble for Justin? Does anything else cause trouble for his proposal? Or has he hit the nail on the head? Can we all rest easy about present luck?

The problem here is not indeterminism, but event causalism. Indeterminism only adds the element of randomness to the situation. As the last thread shows, one lacks self-control even if one’s choices are determined by events. If certain probabilistic relations between events can somehow be shown to amount to a causal nexus, then we could say to someone whose choice didn’t turn out right ‘It’s a shame that the cause of your choice (which wasn’t you) didn’t act differently, which occasionally happens, you know’, indicating bad luck on his part. So it wasn’t up to him AND things didn’t work out his way. But, again, it’s not as if the first problem would be solved were the underlying causes of our choices subsumable instead under absolute laws. One could still lament misfortune- bad luck- in the form of naturally imposed beliefs and desires necessarily connected to poor choices.

Justin asks, “What’s his excuse supposed to be?” See what you think about the following story. (I’m assuming that in it, Justin’s proposed sufficient condition for deciding freely is satisfied, and I won’t bother to fill in all the details – no manipulation etc.) Bob is an exceptionally good man. When he was a kid (50 years ago) he cheated in school a couple of times, but that made him feel miserable. He worked on his character and improved it enormously. Yesterday, owing to a financial hardship, he was considering cheating on his taxes. At the time, he was a participant in a neuroscience experiment. The year is 2212, and neuroscience is amazingly advanced. Scientists have even discovered indeterministic processes in decision-producing streams. A grad student assistant detected Bob’s decision to cheat and confronted him about it. Bob admitted that he made that decision and said that he was very surprised he made it. The assistant’s supervisor overheard the conversation and looked at Bob’s brain charts for a brief period of time just before the decision. He reported that even a few milliseconds before Bob made his decision, the chance that he would decide to cheat on his taxes was very tiny – about one in nine thousand. The supervisor said that, in his opinion, the decision was sufficiently flukey that Bob is not blameworthy for it.

Is the supervisor right or wrong?

Neil: I choose modus ponens.

Ben: in the forthcoming paper of mine you mention, I develop (but do not endorse) a brand of compatibilism according to which (i) determinism mitigates responsibility, e.g., because it deprives agents of regulative control or ultimacy or some such, but (ii) it does not eliminate responsibility because it is consistent with other forms of control (like guidance control) that compatibilists might deem sufficient for responsibility. It is consistent with what I say in the paper that indeterminism also deprives us of regulative control (etc.) and thus that indeterminism mitigates responsibility, too. Unmitigated responsibility could, for all I say in the paper, be impossible.

Al: you're right about my incompatibilism, of course, and you're right that, in my view, if determinism is true, no one can do otherwise (in the sense of "can" I adumbrated earlier).

The question in your previous entry about control causes problems for my position. I don't know how to solve that problem (though I think Chris Franklin's proposals are worth thinking about and developing). That's why I'm (currently) a libertarian who is inclined to think free will is a bit of a mystery. I choose the mysterious (libertarianism) over the (for me) inconceivable (i.e., compatibilism or skepticism about responsibility). But whereas others who embrace this sort of position (e.g., van Inwagen) seem to adopt it because they see present luck as a serious problem for libertarianism, I embrace it because I don't see how to solve the problem of enhanced control discussed in the previous thread (though, again, Chris has me thinking).

About Bob in the latest story, two points are worth mentioning. First, the story can be read in a way that makes his decision seem like it came from out of the blue. But it didn't. He wanted to cheat to avoid financial hardship, he knew it was wrong, he could have avoided doing it, etc. When I keep all these points firmly in mind I'm inclined to think that, yes, Bob merits some (even if it's a minimal amount of) blame for his decision. It's rare for virtuous people to do the wrong thing, but sometimes they do. I'm not inclined to exonerate them for giving into the temptation just because the antecedent chances of their doing so were slim. But then again, perhaps I'm just being hardhearted (and hardheaded).

Second, if Bob is off the hook, it can't be just because the probability of his making the decision was very small. Consider this case. Joe is considering whether to cheat on his taxes. He decides at noon to do so. This was predictable behavior from Joe; he's a selfish guy, and he's done this sort of thing lots of time before despite knowing that it's wrong, etc. Moreover, unlike Bob, he hasn't done much to try to remedy this defect in his character. However, even a few milliseconds before Joe made his decision, the chance that he would decide to cheat on his taxes was very tiny. This is because there was a randomizing device in Joe's head that had a 99.9% chance of rendering Joe incapable of making any decision at noon. If Bob's off the hook in Al's story simply in virtue of their being only a tiny chance just prior to the time of decision that he makes the wrong decision at that time, Joe should be off the hook, too. Right? But of course Joe's not off the hook (or so I and the IRS would say). So, if Bob is off the hook for his decision in Al's latest story, there's got to be some further reason than the one the supervisor provides.

OK I'm going to shut up now (perhaps wisely) and let others have a go at providing the sort of answer to present luck Al has asked us to think about.


Here's the excuse I see in the offing: 'Yes, I wasn't coerced or manipulated to cheat; sure the opportunity to do the right existed and I knew how to take advantage of it. And, but for the Epicrean swerve, I WOULD have taken advantage of it. But the fact is, that Epicurean swerve did occur. This was something over which I had no control and it interfered with my exercise of my ability to do the right thing, i.e., my taking advantage of that opportunity. Thus, don't blame me for the fact that that coin wasn't flipped on time.'

This problem becomes especially pressing if we think back to the punishment scenarios recently discussed here by Prof. Smilansky. To wit, how could God or even society in good conscience punish someone for the result of an Epicurean swerve? Here Bob was, all set to do the right thing, which would have been done but for the aforementioned swerve. A generally decent guy and we can't even say that he went astray because of his financial woes. Fairness seems to dictate writing off his misconduct as an accident.

Maybe we should say that, lack of interfence from OTHERS notwithstanding, Bob wasn't really positioned to do the right thing, that is, didn't really have the opportunity Justin assumes existed. Perhaps holding someone morally responsible entails that NOTHING would interfere with the right thing being done by him should he will as much? Can I be said to have the opportunity to act rightly if I might go morally off course even if I try my best to do the right thing? (Why God did you place me in a universe where even my best might not please you?) The solution to the problem of moral luck, as formulated by Nagel, is to posit and defend the existence of a faculty over which an agent has complete control- the will as conceived by Anselm et al.


I read Justin as offering a sraightforward Humean analysis of 'could have done otherwise' (of the same sort as that favored by John Perry in his recent writings on the subject). This conception is, of course, meant to be compatible with determinism.


You say "I choose the mysterious (libertarianism) over the (for me) inconceivable (i.e., compatibilism or skepticism about responsibility)."

Isn't it commonly acknowledged that "mysterious" libertarianism is, out of all the possible positions, not only the most “mysterious”, but *also* the most "inconceivable"? (actually, I'm not sure why you think one of those descriptors is better than the other. Or do you?)

Skepticism about responsibility seems, in comparison, mundanely plausible (I admit bias, but perhaps compatibilists will agree?)


Thank you for starting this discussion! I am inclined to think both that luck is problematic for libertarian views of free will and that there is a solution.

I take it that what many libertarians want is for their theory to account for the ability of an agent *freely to A rather than B* at a given time t whilst holding fixed the past and the laws of nature. But, even on sophisticated accounts, libertarian views of free will can only account for an agent’s ability either *freely to A at t* or *freely to B at t*. Dr. O’Connor seems to think that agent causation fixes the problem by explaining how it is that an agent can *freely A rather than B* at a given time t whilst holding fixed the past and the laws of nature (see his article in Kane’s 2nd edition of the *Oxford Handbook of Free Will*), but I do not see how agent causation helps.

Although I see luck as a problem for libertarian views of free will, I see it as a problem only insofar as libertarians are concerned with accounting for the ability of an agent *freely to A rather than B* at a given time t whilst holding fixed the past and the laws of nature. Perhaps libertarians need not require their accounts of free will to explain this contrastive fact between the actual world (in which the agent freely does A) and the nearby possible world (in which the agent freely does B). It may be the case that some libertarians (Justin, perhaps?) never saw the need for libertarian views to explain this contrastive fact, and this might explain why present luck never occurred to them to be problematic.

I don’t currently have a quick and easy solution that educated lay folk will find convincing, but, were I to attempt to develop one, I would start with compatibilist sufficient conditions for free will and then explain how an agent in an indeterministic universe may meet these conditions despite present luck at the time of action.

Hi Taylor,

If you haven't already, you should read chapter 6 of Fischer's *Deep Control*. You'll find an ally there.

There are two things in Justin’s latest post I’d like to comment on. (1) Justin writes: “But whereas others who embrace this sort of position (e.g., van Inwagen) seem to adopt it because they see present luck as a serious problem for libertarianism, I embrace it because I don't see how to solve the problem of enhanced control discussed in the previous thread. . . .” This is a question for everyone: In what ways is the problem of present luck similar to the problem of enhanced control and in what ways is it different?

(2) Justin also writes: “So, if Bob is off the hook for his decision in Al's latest story, there's got to be some further reason than the one the supervisor provides.” I got in my time machine and asked the supervisor. He said he thought the grad assistant would understand that the chance of Bob’s deciding not to cheat was extremely high, given the brain readings. (In this, Bob differs from Joe, of course.)

Instead of believing that all events are either predeterministic or indeterministic in nature, perhaps there’s another angle that’s worthy of consideration: Perhaps the universe is deterministic in nature *and* new forces emerge across the spectrum of 3-D scale (i.e., forces associated with life), add into the mix, and are part of what determines the path forward. There are many different kinds of emergent properties that we see all around us. Why can’t new forces be an emergent property? The reason science doesn’t believe in them, is because humans can’t sense those forces directly – we only perceive of the *result* of the net sum of forces after the sum has already occurred for each moment of time. It’s a fundamental human reference problem, and that’s what’s making it so hard for us to discover the truth.


What is the "randomizing device" in the Joe scenario? An almost fool proof conscience, irresistible qualms that almost always surface when it's a question of right vs. wrong? But Joe's a "selfish guy," so that's not it. It's then something extraneous to Joe and we’re dealing with an indeterministic Frankfurt case, calling for an actual sequence analysis of the underlying (possibly deterministic) process whose outcome was Joe's conduct. But the indeterminism in Bob’s case is intrinsic: even his best effort can be followed by him going morally astray. Joe is likely, maybe even certain, to act wrongly based on a character resulting from HIS past misdeeds. The improbability of wrongdoing on his part has nothing to do with anything he has done. Bob, on the other hand, had the small chance of misconduct built in, so to speak, to his ‘very best’- that is what would be morally troubling about holding him responsible.


You ask:
“In what ways is the problem of present luck similar to the problem of enhanced control and in what ways is it different?”

It seems that what Clarke says about event-causal libertarianism and control might help connect the two problems:

“the active control that is exercised on [an event-causal libertarian] view is just the same as that exercised on an event-causal compatibilist account. [The] view fails to secure the agent’s exercise of any further positive powers to causally influence which of the alternative courses of events that are open will become actual”

It’s the second sentence of the above quote that seems to connect the problem of enhanced control to the problem of present luck in a way. Suppose that an agent decides to A at t1 and that her decision is indeterministically (and non-deviantly) caused by her reasons to A and an intention to make up her mind. Because her decision is caused non-deviantly by the right sorts of mental events, she exercises active control over it. In another possible world with the same laws and the same past up until t1, she decides to B. In this world, she exercises active control in making a different decision. In each world she exercises the same active control as on a compatibilist account (I take it that this is Clarke's point, but I may be mistaken). However, since her decision to A was indeterministically caused, nothing about the agent immediately prior to t1 can settle whether she decides to A or B, and so she does not, as Clarke puts it, exercise any further control over which action she performs. This resembles the problem of present luck: In another world with the same laws and the same past up until t1, the agent makes a different decision than she does in the actual world. Since it’s not under the agent’s control whether the she makes one decision rather than the other, the difference between the two worlds seems to be just a matter of luck.

Clarke might be right that an agent in an indeterministic world doesn’t exercise any more active control than one in a deterministic world. However, I think that a libertarian might be fine with not being able to secure any more active/direct control over an action. The libertarian might be more concerned with securing a different kind of control: what Fischer calls regulative control (the kind of control that involves the ability to do otherwise, holding the past and laws fixed). You suggest something like this (in “Libertarianism and Human Agency”) when discussing what you call the “Control Argument.” If one is a libertarian because of an adherence to some PAP-type principle, then one might be more concerned with avoidability or the ability to do otherwise than with enhanced active/direct control.

Brent: Libertarianism has it's problems, to be sure. But, to my mind at any rate, it's better than it's alternatives. In particular, I find it more plausible than a no-responsibility view. Such a view implies, for instance, that Bernie Madoff isn't really to blame for the loss of people's life savings, that no one he duped can justifiably resent him or be indignant towards him for what he did to them, that he doesn't deserve punishment for hims crime, and so on. Perhaps that's all true, but none of it strikes me as "mundanely plausible." Now, compare the implications of the no-responsibility view with one relevant implication of the sort of libertarianism I favor. The latter view implies that Bob merits at least some blame, however minimal, for his deciding to C, present-luck notwithstanding, and that he's got more responsibility-relevant control over his deciding to C than he does in deterministic versions of Al's story. I don't have an account of how that could be, but it doesn't sound (to me) any less plausible than the implication of the no-responsibility view. In fact, it sounds to me a lot more plausible. But that's just me. I realize others might disagree.

Al: next time you get in your time machine, please tell the supervisor my story about Joe, with the following alteration: given the presence of the randomizing device in Joe's brain, a few milliseconds before Joe made his decision, the chance that he would decide to cheat on his taxes was very tiny – about one in nine thousand. Then could you ask the supervisor a pair of questions for me? Here they are: (1) do you think Joe had sufficient control over whether he decided at noon to cheat on his taxes to be blameworthy for that decision? (2) If so, what is it about Bob and his circumstances that precludes his having sufficient control over whether he decided at noon to cheat for him to be morally responsible for his decision, especially given that the chance that he would make that decision is just as tiny as the chance that Joe would make his decision? I'd be interested to know the supervisor's answers to these questions if he has any to offer.

In our American criminal justice system people are guilty--mens rea presumed--if they have committed the act beyond reasonable doubt.

So we allow that there is a logical possibility that someone is innocent (they did not do it) yet that is not credible against overwhelming evidence that we've got the right person for that action. Some fallibility of judgement is tolerated but not much (in theory).

But then mens rea (the "guilty mind")--with a voluntary component--may come into play (except for 4 states). Then one question (in many states including my own) is whether the accused (now determined as the perpetrator) had a "substantial mental capacity" to conform behavior to the law. Irrespective of standards of evidence of this assessment (some are preponderance, some clear and convincing, a few proof beyond reasonable doubt) then this simply is an assessment of whether the accused was capable of choosing otherwise. Indeterminism can supply this automatically. (And some compatibilist accounts as well perhaps.)

But even if indeterminism--like Bob's--is assumed, then this troublesome fact about metaphysically accessibile logical possibilities does not constitute an answer to the question about "substantial capacity". Neil's point about the probability of possibilties enters here: does the mere logical possibility of what may occur significantly detract from the actual processes of intention and thought that embrace what most probably occurs? I guess that the introduction of the idea of a "substantial capacity" answers that and aligned with what Neil suggests: what is good enough for that capacity eliminates the mere potential influence of logical possibility otherwise. That seems what (some) law says.

Good enough indeed--pragmatically at least. But does any of that really undercut the problem of indeterministic luck for claims of ultimacy about responsibility that arise from instances like Bob's? It does not seem to, but side-steps it. "Substantial capacity" allows for some conceptual room for the interference of luck, and thus current law is so disposed, but I can't see it as grounds for supporting ultimate desert-based responsibility. "Substantial capacity" is about some diluted desert-based responsibility, or about another kind of deterrence/correction such as compatibilists or hard-incompatibilists like Derk endorse.

The (most restrictive) law we have does not in fact presume a ground for ultimacy, and allows at least conceptual room for luck. While that is hardly metaphysically a cogent refutation of incompatibilism, it puts an onus on that view to prove its case and thus enhance our focus on the relevance of choice (as opposed to an OCD for example) and its basis for purely retributive punishment.

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3QD Prize 2014: Marcus Arvan