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My overall concern is that sometimes critical intuitions/evidence come from weird sources. The intuitions and evidence that resulted in the Copernican revolution, or the Darwinian revolution, came from, I think, sources that were new and unfamiliar. Certainly, the conclusions were new and unfamiliar. I think of the free will debate, and its progress, as a revolutionary change like those revolutions. And I want to make sure that the debate format leaves open the possibility for those kinds of revolutions and discoveries. The move that you are trying to make here strikes me as a move that would help insulate free will from any kind of discovery like that.

In other words, if you privilege the ordinary and familiar, you are (almost necessarily) going to be privileging common sense. Most of the time that is fine. But every once in a while (Copernicus, Darwin), common sense is dead wrong.

I have a similar concern with Vargas's view on revisionism. It strikes me as a move that would help insulate words/concepts from referring to non-existent things. We need to leave open the possibility that there are terms, like leprechaun and unicorn, that simply refer to things that do not exist. I've never understood why free will couldn't be one of those terms.

Great to have you in the discussion, Carlos! And of course your comment is far from completely useless. It's characteristically thoughtful! I see that you lean in the direction of the strategy Mele endorses. As I've noted at various points above, I certainly feel the pull of moving in that direction, too.

Also, thank you Kip for adding to this conversation as well.

I'll back away from this one folks and not contribute more to it (unless I am 'manipulated' into it the the likes of Eddy from one of his other 15 points). But please feel free to keep discussing. I'll continue posting your comments. I'm planning on posting on a new topic tomorrow.

Thank you all for this invigorating discussion! I learned a lot.


Randy, I think C is true in Mele’s Diana story. But as Patrick’s paper makes clear, there is perfectly good *compatibilist* explanation for this: Given that “wicked and conniving” Diana desired, intended, and brought about that Ernie does A, we are entitled to assume that Diana possesses attitudes towards Ernie’s doing A (for example, the attitude of endorsement) that makes her blaming Ernie *hypocritical*. As Patrick points out in the paper, this is a perfectly good explanation for why C is true that offers no help to the incompatibilist.

In order for Patrick’s incompatibilist argument to work, even though 1) the Designer desires, intends, foresees, and brings about that S does A; it must nonetheless be the case that 2) the Designer lacks attitudes that make a charge of hypocrisy appropriate if she blames S for doing A (since the charge of hypocrisy is a compatibilist-friendly explanation for the truth of C). This is where the tension comes in; 1 seems very much at odds with 2. Patrick does an excellent job arguing that 1 & 2 are co-possible, but I have reservations and various complaints. I don’t want to turn this comment into a discussion of Patrick’s Moral Standing argument (though that would be a great topic for another post). The point is that it is plausible that the Moral Standing argument does involve certain significant internal tensions. And, again, the charge being pressed by us manipulation skeptics is that when cases involve stipulations that are in significant tension, reliability of intuitions is degraded.

Looks like this thread is winding down. Thanks to Michael for insightful comments and remarkably deep engagement with a large and unruly bunch! Much much love from all of us!


Thanks for the reply, and thanks in advance for the beer! I was away from screens all weekend, and so I’m just catching up. Since I’m so late to the game, I don’t expect a response, but here are my thoughts on your comment. You said:

“I would have thought that your condition 1 was not the problem, since proponents of the manipulation argument *want* the pertinent cases to have lots of the features of moral responsibility present. Right? It doesn't beg the question in terms of compatibilism to think this about the internal or intrinsic features of the featured manipulated agent.”

You are right to note my condition 1 (that the case must contain central features of morally responsible action) does appear to be satisfied in the Derk’s cases. As we all know, he is granting that all these purported responsibility-relevant features are present. If case 1 meets my condition 1, then the question of whether it is relevantly bizarre will turn on whether the responsibility-relevant features of the agent have weird or extraordinary backstories (my condition 2). But, I’m still doubtful about whether condition (1) is met in this case (note: I only barely believe that these two conditions actually do any helpful work in picking out relevantly bizarre cases from non-relevantly bizarre ones, but, just for fun, I’m going to roll with it).

Since we are concerned with the reliability of concept application, I think we need to read condition (1) as saying that a case under consideration must contain prototypical features of *bona fide* morally responsible agents. Now, the manipulated agent in Derk’s case 1 does have features that compatibilists *take to be* prototypical of morally responsible agency. When compatibilists try to apply their moral responsibility concepts to agents with certain far out backstories, they seem perfectly analogous to a person trying to apply her ‘cat’ concept to the lab-created, living, breathing, meowing thing before them. They are both applying their concepts, which are reliable in normal cases, to cases that exploit their prototype concepts’ vagueness. Specifically, these cases exploit the fact that the prototype concepts might not have precise causal or historical conditions built in. The important disanalogy, however, is that the features that compatibilists take to be prototypical of moral responsibility might not prototypical of bona fide morally responsibility. I take it that our concern about reliable concept application in weird cases comes down to the question of whether the concept in question picks out some thing (or fact) that actually exists (or obtains). Cats are living, breathing, meowing mammals, and our prototype concept reflects that. Applications of our cat concept are reliable in normal contexts and unreliable in certain abnormal contexts that play on the vagueness of the concept. The disanalogy with moral responsibility rests on the fact that we can’t say with confidence that the compatibilist’s concept of morally responsible action is reliable even in normal contexts – we can’t say that it picks out actions for which the relevant agent is genuinely morally responsible. Indeed, the central features of the concept of ‘morally responsible action’ are precisely what parties to the manipulation debate are arguing about. To illustrate: if a version of agent causalism view is true, the compatibilist’s concept will often misfire, even in purportedly normal cases. The actions of certain unwilling addicts (a fairly ordinary case right?) might count as morally responsible on certain agent causalist views but not morally responsible on certain compatibilist views.

I have proposed that in order to classify a given case as relevantly bizarre, we must first know whether our prototype concept is actually on the right track. Since I am doubtful that we do know this in the moral responsibility context, I’m doubtful about our ability to classify Derk’s cases as relevantly bizarre. I have quite a bit more to say about this, but, since the thread is going into retirement, I’ll spare you all the details.

I hope that clarifies what I was getting at in my comment, and thanks for the great discussion.

My point, Michael, was not merely exegetical regarding Frankfurt. Since he was trying to disprove PAP, I should have thought that he would have been assuming Determinism, so that the act in the question would be unavoidable. But put that issue aside. My main contention against Chandra/Derk was dialectical, viz.: the putative confusion with which they were concerned would be entirely obviated given the unambiguous way in which any competent philosopher would lay out a FC, specifying upfront whether or not his subject is situated in a deterministic universe. Once that stipulation is made there would be no reason for thinking that 2nd order desires were formed any differently than their 1st order correlates. Thus, I still have not seen a clear cut example of Feature Opacity.

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