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04/09/2013

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Consider the following philosophical exchange. X proposes a hedonic theory of well-being. Y proposes the following counterexample: A man experiences a calm and happy feeling when he violently shoves a long jagged stick through his eyes. Y triumphantly exclaims, “In response to this case, clearly we have the intuition that shoving a jagged stick through his eyes does NOT contribute to this man’s well-being. Therefore X’s theory of well-being is false.”

I think the case proposed by Y is a bad one, i.e., it has little probative value. It is not because his case is bizarre (it is bizarre, but that is not why it is a bad case). Rather, the case works only because it leverages our ordinary and familiar abhorrence of ramming a jagged stick through one’s eye to generate Y’s favored intuitive response. More specifically, we have a very hard time envisioning Y’s case as stipulated because of deeply ingrained tendencies. We automatically mentally “fill in” that shoving the stick through his eye will cause the man excruciating pain. Of course Y can always say that he has *stipulated* that the man will have a calm happy feeling when he rams a jagged stick through his eye. And in deference to Y, we can work REALLY HARD to try to envision the case in just the way that Y intends. But keep in mind that intuitions are fast, automatic, *spontaneous* intellectual seemings. If you have to carefully and effortfully construct a mental scenario and work really hard to keep in mind layers of stipulations, it is doubtful that this is the kind of thing that yields *spontaneous* seemings of any sort.

The stick-in-the-eye case helps us see what goes wrong with manipulation cases. It is not bizarreness that is the problem. Rather, it is that these cases require us to reverse deeply ingrained thought patterns in order to envision them properly. Sure we can stipulate that a victim of comprehensive manipulation acts from a reasons-responsive mechanism, his action is expressive of his deepest self, he is normatively competent, and so on… But it takes great diligence to fight layers of ingrained thought and spontaneous inference patterns in order to envision manipulation cases in just this way. At the end, I don’t see that there is anything remotely like an intuition—a spontaneous intellectual seeming—to be had after all that effort. There is only a puzzling, complex, and hard to imagine scenario that incompatibilists and compatibilists will make different considered judgments about due to antecedently held theory.

I don’t think anyone doubts that manipulation can be a factor in determining the actions of an agent. There are many such factors however, including agent causation. The fact that manipulation exists and has a deterministic affect, doesn’t mean that no other factors exist.

Depending upon the level, manipulation may affect the freedom of an agent, but if there’s sufficient influence exerted from within the agent (i.e., agent causation), then the agent is still relatively free.

To the extent that manipulation influences an agent’s actions, the manipulation is responsible for said actions. Maybe I’m generally missing something, and I should be more excited about manipulation theories. :)

Just a clarification: developing a love for your formerly unwanted child the moment it is born, developing a religious conversion as a result of having spent 10 days alone in the desert, becoming a person who values work after having been a confirmed party animal as a result of "well, I don't know, I just got older", these are not cases of manipulation. However, they exemplify what i think of as the fact that sometimes people change their values, not to mention their desires, as a result of nonrational processes and we still attribute the new values to them and hold them responsible for acting on them. The mystery, I think, is that whether or not we take the nonrational genesis of the new values to be a reason to discount them seem to depend, on many cases, on whether the nonrational process is originated in the deliberate action of another human being (= manipulation) or happened "naturally" (= not manipulation). Why does it matter? A nonrational process is a nonrational process, whether it came from hormones in your brain or from a pill someone intentionally put in your coffee, whether you got lost in the desert on your own or some clever cult leader put you there. A hard incompatibilist might draw the conclusion that we are always analogous to a severely manipulated person. A compatibilist might look at it the other way around, saying that our intuition that the person whose values are the result of manipulation is unfree is not a reliable one, as we don't seem to mind being "manipulated" by things other than the intentional actions of human beings.

As for bizarre cases, I have my suspicions when a theory is based entirely on them - or when they pass a certain threshold of dissimilarity to the real world. Fake barns are ok with me, as you can easily imagine a world that is just like ours, except some nutcase builds fake barns. I even met a barn expert. Honestly! She wrote a book about the barns Of New England and would be useful in FBC. On the other hand, can you imagine a world that's just like ours, except people grow out of seeds floating in the wind, as per JJ Thompson's paper on abortion? Probably not. Any world in which the facts of life were so different would be a world that is too different from ours for us to have any family-planning related intuitions about it that are reliable and that yield conclusions that can be imported back to this world.

I had absolutely no trouble, Chandra, being "deferential" to Y. No "great diligence (was required) to fight layers of ingrained thought and spontaneous inference patterns." I just imagined something freakish occurring, in no way "complex." My reaction to that image, my intuition proper- a judgment the case is supposed to elicit, which you seem to be conflating with the act of imagining, was "spontaneous": hedonism is false. (The intuition, as Dennett would say, is what the example is supposed to "pump.") Likewise in a manipulation scenario, I readily think of someone being programmed (say) a la a computer, supplying only as much detail as necessary to render it plausible, and instinctively react unfavorably to the supposition that the subject is free, despite his (say again) "reason-responsiveness."

Thanks for your response.

Hi Folks, Sorry I was not able to reply at all yesterday. I was manipulated. I was explaining this topic to my son Coen, now almost two years old, and when describing the bizarre cases to him, he learned to say "freaky", but he would say it "Freak-ay!" while dancing a little bit with his arms in the air, knowing full well the effect it would have on me. So I spent the day playing with him--freely I might add.

I any event, I'll now try to reply to everyone who has contributed since my last post. But of course I can only do so briefly. Please forgive me if I don't give your comment proper attention. Anyway, here is a response to the next five in the queue:

Steve, I haven't read Rosen's paper, and so I suppose I should just defer to you. It sounds like maybe he does over-reach. I only meant to point out that the 'as if' claim is really embedded in the structure of any of these manipulation arguments so as to get from 'manipulated-is-objectionable' to 'determined-is-objectionable'. I agree with you that manipulation is an important concept to assess, thought not the most important for this debate. There are lots of others: freedom, control (as James noted earlier), luck, and so on.

Robert, I appreciate your spirited resistance to treating intuitions as evidentiary. And there is, after all, the unaddressed problem of just what the hell intuitions are, but even granting there is some uncertainty about this, I'll bet that you too, in some fashion, do treat something an awful lot like intuitions as evidentiary. Surely certain results that conflict with judgments about concrete cases in which you have a high degree of certainty are going to play *some* role in your theorizing, right? Now, call those judgments intuitions, or call them something else. But I'll bet they matter to you, and I believe that what we are all talking about here is something quite similar.

Chandra, Look, I really like what you say in your post, both the earlier one and the latter one. And there is a way in which I do NOT want to resist you. You're dead right: My MAIN argumentative strategy in resisting Derk in my PPR paper is to point out that he and others running similar cases under-describe them in ways that make it easy to elicit the preferred incompatibilist judgment while almost completely overlooking the rich way these agents had darn well better be really really really just like us. Right? You and Eddy are right to press on that. And you are right, as Eddy notes, to point out that the real-world manipulation cases cloud our intuitions *because* they are cases in which the manipulation does not really preserve (compatibilist) conditions on free agency. Nevertheless, even granting that, I guess I think it only fair in this debate to give Pereboom and others a little here. Isn't there *some* pull toward a judgment of non-responsibility in the "extreme" cases? And isn't Pereboom correct that they make vivid hidden causes? I just cannot see how I can deny that without it simply amounting to table pounding that my compatibilist view is the correct one. (So as not to mislead, I don't mean to suggest that you are doing that.) There is, of course, the problem of just what metric we use to measure what counts as extreme or not, and that is why I really dug Phillip's post. I'm still thinkin' hard on that. I have something more to add about your example of Galileo, but I'll defer for now. Just quickly, though: I am not indicting all thought-experiments that are further from ordinary life cases. I am only essaying for a judicious weighing of them when they bump up against others that are closer to home. Note that one of the things that allowed Galileo's thoughts to command credence is that they would be aligned with and account for our intuitions or judgments about ordinary cases.

Alan, that's a very insightful comment. I am not sure, however, that the important observations you make about different sorts of cases speak directly against my query about closer-to versus more-unusual thought experiments. It's just that any of them worth reflecting upon will need to be alive to causal sources that are in some manner internal to the agent's action-generating psychic constitution. Now, having said that, you also highlighted another dimension that I have glossed over, a really important one. Many like Fischer, Haji, and Mele will stress that examples that build in history (as in your racist skinhead case) will be friendlier to a compatibilist diagnosis, since it is consistent with a history-sensitive compatibilism that an agent be manipulated in certain ways and still come to acquire and freely act from certain values. (This is one reason why, say, Kristin Demetriou has argued that we should jettison Pereboom's Case 1 as a non-starter and begin with is case 2.)

Chris, thank you also for your post--even though you too are showin' me no love. Whatever. I'm over it. (Kidding of course--maybe, a little.) Anyway, let me just say about your last point regarding your worry about this undecided theoretically unpolluted audience, I get the worry. In a paper now up for resubmission at a journal, I am careful to use the language of asking what this (perhaps imaginary) audience both would and ought to say about relevant cases. The ought-to-claim seems resistant to x-phi inquiry. But the would-claim isn't. Regardless, this is a tricky issue, and if in the end, it is just us philosophers theorizing about what a hypothetical, actually non-existent audience of such inquirers ought to say, well, why not just drop this and talk about what we philosophers think? (Sorry I cannot comment on your other good points, but this is really hard, time-consuming work!)

Another installment later today, folks...

Hey Michael -- only time to drop in to ask a quick question: do you think the idea about trusting intuitions in esoteric cases will likewise apply to judgments about the Frankfurt cases? The "latest and best" FSCs are pretty complicated, after all, and pretty weird -- and PAP is a pretty firmly ingrained part of our pre-theoretical outlook on moral responsibility. So if you press this line in response to the manipulation scenarios, should you also press it in response to the FSCs? What do you think?

Robert:
It seems I am more skeptical than you that we are *authoritative* about what we are responding to when we have an intuition. Here is what I mean. A paradigmatic feature of an intuition is that while the target intuited proposition seems true, the feature(s) of the case that justify the intuitive judgment are not themselves apparent or even introspectable. For example, presented with a Gettier case, I spontaneously judge the agent lacks knowledge. The feature of the case that justifies this judgment is not itself consciously available. Indeed this must be true to make sense of the fact that epistemologists cleverly construct hypothetical cases to try to figure out whether the relevant intuition is a response to tracking, safety, etc… Call this attribute of intuitions “Feature Opacity”.

If intuitions are indeed feature opaque, then we should have more humility about saying that we know exactly what we are responding to when we have an intuition. It may very well be that when presented with an emotionally provocative scenario such as a manipulation case or my silly stick-in-the-eye case, we automatically (i.e., unconsciously/subpersonally/mandatorily/etc.) impute features into the case that are contrary to the case stipulation, and because of Feature Opacity, we are not aware that it is these contrary-to-stipulation features we are responding to. I just want to emphasize that none of this implies the method of cases should be abandoned (I love the armchair!). It is just that we have to have more humility and recognize we are not always authoritative when we believe we have mentally constructed the hypothetical case in exactly the way stipulated and are responding to certain features of the case and not others.

Michael:
You write, “I think it only fair in this debate to give Pereboom and others a little here. Isn't there *some* pull toward a judgment of non-responsibility in the "extreme" cases? And isn't Pereboom correct that they make vivid hidden causes?”

I think it may depend on what the audience is. To a lay audience, I do think manipulation cases help to bring out certain potentially problematic implications of determinism, which is why I do use them when teaching undergraduates. I don’t know how else to get them to “see” certain points in a vivid way. To a philosophically sophisticated audience (folks who have thought carefully and reflectively about free will, determinism, etc.), I have to say I don’t really see how manipulation cases clarify or reveal hidden causes/issues over and above what we can expect these philosophers to already have thought about and carefully considered. If you or others want to take this on, it would be helpful to hear exactly what manipulation cases help to reveal or make clear that was not already made clear in standard formulations of determinism, and standard source incompatibilist or skeptical arguments (such as the Basic Argument) that don’t involve the idea of manipulation.

Robert, now in response to Alan (and Chandra), I guess I disagree with both you and Alan about the strong deflationary attitude toward what we can learn from our reaction to real life cases, as regards metaphysics. You probably recall Strawson's distinction between descriptive and revisionary metaphysics. Seems to me all metaphysicians have some burden to at least start with our common-sense real world assumptions before being prepared to chuck them. I mean think about those working in areas like the problem of material constitution. Some just find the prospect of co-location cookoo, and it is largely because it just bumps up against common sense. In any event, we're not going to solve this here, I am sure. And I respect your preference for a more immediately revisionary attitude toward the edicts of our everyday judgments (intuitions), but I think such a wholesale rejection is not warranted. As for what you wrote to Chandra, seems to me his reply to you is useful here. I'll leave that to you two to sort out.

Okay, now for Derk, the central figure in this saga! Glad you chimed in, Derk. About your comment that these thought experiments are not all that wild: you might recall that in my PPR paper, when speculating about the relative value and force of your Case 1 and Case 2 , I openly wondered how much stock we should place in our intuitive reactions, and I noted that as our intuitive responses have evolved along with our practices at this world, some imaginings are closer to home than others. We do have a history where we (or some close to us) have consider the possibility that we were all created by, as I put it, 'Team Yahweh' or 'Team Allah' rather than 'Team Plum' (the team of neuroscientists). And in these cases, people's manipulation "worries" are less decisive in any direction, aren't they? Note that a huge difference is that when we imagine the possibility of, say, theological determinism, we are imagining the setting of all of nature, including all humans, as part of a entire state of the world. We are not imaging just one or two folks, singled out for a certain sort of special destiny. Martians and mad neuroscientists differ a lot when they are just dorking with poor Plum, were they creating the workings of an entire world, of which our conduct is just part of the goings on of nature, that seems quite different to me, and not as far away from more ordinary reflections.

Regarding your second point about the degree to which we would be willing to generalize my proposal (weigh less heavily those cases that are further from ordinary contexts when there is a conflict with closer-to-home intuitive reactions), please bear in mind that this proposal is meant to attend to cases where the far-fetched cases conflict with judgments about more mundane ones. They are not cases where the more esoteric are able to dovetail with and account for the more mundane cases. Here I cannot run through the various examples you offer, but I do think that, especially when the subject matter is about a folk notion directly linked to social practices (and not highly derivative metaphysical theses about the status of modal claims), there is some pressure to show some deference to the closer-to-home cases. Sorry, that was done in a fairly hurried way, but I am late for a colloquium talk (Mark Schroeder!)

More soon, folks! I'm trying! You're a tough audience!

Michael, one thing I just have to say is that I strongly admire how your replies have been exemplary in tone and thorough in content, and that is a rare conjunction of good qualities in blogging. My appreciation.

I'm an armchair kinda guy too, Chandra, especially on Friday night after a week of trying to teach recalcitrant students. My reaction to Gettier cases was also the same as yours, except that I had at least a vague sense that the lack of knowledge was somehow due to the way in which the subject's belief was acquired. Of course, there were still plenty of blanks to fill in, but it was not like I was clueless as to where I wanted to look to support my judgment, the intuition proper. I, thus, didn't see myself confronting opacity, but puzzlement, prompting a philosophical task. I realized that I would have to search well beneath the intuition pump to find the justificatory source of my judgment. But I also knew what I was after: the epistemic principle that was violated in the subject’s acquisition of his belief, which, BTW, I’ve yet to find, having long ago abandoned epistemology to tend the garden of forking paths.

What is supposed to be the “contrary to stipulation feature” in the stick case or a GC? My students are experts at coming up with them- I wish I had a dollar for every time I have had to say 'Let's stick to the case as I presented it'- but, aside from the goriness of your example, I'm not seeing anything that would distract me from the task at hand: giving an off the top of my head assessment.

Phillip's response really rocks the house. I'd like to try to partially cancel his note of caution, however.

"In order to judge that an agnostic’s intuition about Pereboom’s case 1 is unreliable, we must be able to say that is *relevantly* bizarre. This requires us to be able to say confidently that it (1) contains many core features of moral responsibility, but (2) is bizarre with respect to the causal history of these features (or something like that)."

I take it that the relevant type of unreliability is epistemic, not metaphysical. That is, when we call the intuition unreliable, we're not saying that it has a high objective-probability, like a quantum propensity, of being wrong. We're just saying that it falls into a reference class of judgements that are frequently wrong (and isn't known to fall into any smaller class that are largely correct). Perhaps "farfetched scenario intuitions that seem to conflict with other, everyday-life intuitions" is such a reference class.

I'd like to suggest another reason to favor realistic examples over farfetched ones in some areas of philosophy. This is particularly compelling in normative areas, I think. (By the way, I include much epistemology and logic as normative.) In normative areas, I am certain that, for example, it would be wrong to kill my neighbor for mowing his lawn too early in the morning. I am much less certain about whether Kant or Aristotle is on a better track toward explaining why it would be wrong. More generally, by and large, everyday life judgements seem much more credible than general principles in all normative areas.

Responsibility is obviously normative. That freedom is a normative concept is not so obvious (but it's still true).

Hi Folks, Okay, back to it. Eddy, indeed, you are right! 16 points would have been manipulation--cruel manipulation. It's Friday night and here I sit, with no vodka cocktail, responding to all of you. Anyway, much of my comment to Chandra applies to you as well, and I took care to mention you then. As you know, I really like that paper and strategy of yours which fixes on how our intuitions are/can be manipulated. But I would say that there are real-life cases and then there are real-life cases. The ones Nomy mentions--not strictly manipulation, but with relevant features--are cases where there's not bypassing and the like, or any other weird monkey business; there's just weirdness that we face every now and then in the normal course of human life. Anyway, your skepticism about finding any such ideal audience is wise. So there is a way in which Derk's and my imagined audience is an idealized gathering. But let me ask, Eddy, can you make sense of and design experiments that help us assess norms informing how subjects *ought* to respond, not just how they do or will? It seems to me that Derk and I are in dispute, at least in part, about how this audience ought to respond, not just how they will respond. This is, for one reason, because there should be nothing surprising about the possibility that people might very well systematically misapply their concepts. (Not to say it would be surprising to you.)

Brent, I agree with you about how incompatiblists (able ones) are using the word 'manipulation', but I don't agree (as you might have guessed) that compatibilists will only consider intuitions. I think there is a long history of very important work, and lots of contemporary folks whose books and articles show that this is just not true.

Santi, building on Manuel's point, that is an especially insightful application of it--that some revisionary projects might actually gives us reason to remain closer to home. Never thought of that--was just sure the revisionary stuff would align readily with an embrace of the more divergent sorts of cases. Very cool!

Randy, et tu? It's a nice challenge: Why not just go, as you would put it, "old school" and *argue* that, say, Plum in Case 1 or 2 is not responsible? Sorry to be brief here, and I really do not mean to be dismissive, but it seems to me that if we are out seeking further arguments for the pertinent premise (what Al calls the Manny premise in his version), then the force of the manipulation argument fades and we are now in the game of just assessing a different argument. That's a viable, option, I suppose, but I had assumed that folks like Taylor and Kane, and as well as Mele and Pereboom all assumed that the mere intuitive or pre-reflective judgment about such cases was offered as direct, unmediated evidence for the incompatibilist thesis, not something that itself called for argument. I suppose I am open to considering this alternative. So go ahead, let me have it, Brutus (er, I mean, Randy)!

Chandra, again, now in reply to your stick-in-the-eye case, man is that a nice example, and very well put! I guess I would note though that your diagnosis might help with some manipulation cases but not others. Anyway, I'll have to think more about this.

James, thanks for those qualifications about manipulation. I don;t have much to add.

Another set of replies by me coming soon.

Hey everyone, we've got Nomy Arpaly in the mix! Welcome, Nomy! And thank you for putting much more elegantly what it took me most of my PPR paper to say. To all of you resisting me here, let me just say now, "What Nomy said!" I'd also like to recommend Nomy's excellent 2006 book *Merit, Meaning, and Human Bondage*. See pp 109-113 where she explains her suspicion about those very bizarre cases we've been discussing. An especially insightful point Nomy makes, one I discuss in my most recent paper on this topic (unpublished), is that if indeed we were to face some wild and unexpected moral crisis, what we would do, and what it would be reasonable to do, would NOT be to consult our intuitions about the new cases and then force revisions to our more familiar responses to more familiar cases. We'd work in the other direction, cautiously learning from our more reliable, familiar reactions how we might best react to the dramatic cases.

Patrick, thank you for chiming in. You ask about Frankfurt cases. The quick answer to your question is, yes. I do think my proposed rationale applies. And that means our preparedness to accept the lessons offered by Frankfurt's argument should diminish as the intuitive force of the examples get harder to discern. I've got a longer story here. But the short version is that while some versions are complicated in a certain kind of way (like the way a gasoline engine is for a new car is very complicated), the complications need not threaten the intuitive ease of seeing what is going on in the examples. (Think of Mele and Robb's bbs case. It's just not that puzzling of a story.)

Chandra, let me just say, in reply to your response to me that I appreciate the partial concession. I gather from your closing remarks that you are asking me what I might say to show how, to an audience of, say, trained philosophers, relevant manipulation cases make vivid hidden causes in a way that alternative means of approaching the free will problem fail to provide. Here, let me just say that I feel badly that I'll disappoint. That's the task of at least a considerable article, and I just cannot do all of that here. But I guess I would defer to Mele's exploration in his 2006 *Free Will and Luck* of what advantages he thinks reflection on a manipulation (or creation) argument might have for an audience of philosophically informed agnostics. But I agree with you that this question needs answering.

Paul, I agree, Phillip's comment does rock the house. So does yours. I'd add more, but your comment really is well put, and honestly, folks, I'm tired.

Alan, thanks for your kind words. Really.

Night all.

Mea culpa: I left out a key premise on normativity. To wit, I think we simply care *more* about capturing normative verdicts on real life cases than on farfetched scenarios. But without an explanation for that (discourse a la Habermas? evolution?), I've come close to begging the question.

I also think that the points that Nomy makes are right and insightful, and that, as Michael argues, if cases are in some sense unusual, we should exercise caution. But let me emphasize that this should all be a matter of degree, which Nomy and Michael in fact accept. We don’t want to be skeptics about applications of concept in non-paradigmatic contexts. Apply our concepts in such contexts is an important tool we have in advancing knowledge. And I’d add that the context of my Case 2 isn’t relevantly very bizarre – it’s like the theological deterministic world that’s quite common in human culture and in philosophy (e.g., Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza). The sporadic local manipulation version of Case 1 isn’t very bizarre either – we arguably deterministically locally manipulate each other all the time, for instance with prospects of rewards.

I’m really intrigued by the idea Chandra has added to the mix. A philosophical example may feature a stipulation that is at odds with other features of the example, and this may make it hard or impossible to evaluate in a way that is illuminating. My colleague back at the University of Vermont Arthur Kuflik pointed this potential problem out to me 25 years ago, and I was convinced by him that this sort of problem shows up quite frequently. So maybe this problem arises when it’s specified that an agent is deterministically manipulated by another agent but isn’t deeply self-discordant; for example, if it’s specified that another agent – suppose it’s God – causes Plum to perform some action in a way that fits Harry Frankurt’s condition on moral responsibility, that his will to act is endorsed by a second-order desire he has. It may initially be intuitive for many people that such second-order endorsement requires indeterministic origination, so that it can’t be causally determined by factors beyond the agent’s control (I actually think that this is a very natural supposition). We would then have an instance of the problem that Chandra notes. Against this, the manipulation argument is directed against compatibilists, and they wouldn’t have the intuition that second-order endorsement can’t be causally determined by factors beyond the agent’s control. And Leibniz and anyone with his sort of view would experience no intellectual conflict in imagining second-order endorsement being causally determined by God. So the compatibilist’s intuitions about manipulation cases that feature second-order endorsement should be in the clear. Furthermore, suppose a libertarian thinks that second-order endorsement requires indeterministic origination, and someone who is undecided thinks it might. Still, upon understanding that the manipulation argument targets compatibilists, it’s possible for them to think themselves out of their own views and into the compatibilist position and assess the case from that perspective. This is what we generally do when we assess thought experiments that target positions we don’t hold ourselves. But even if all of this is right, it’s important to factor in Chandra’s point when we’re assessing intuitions about manipulation cases, especially when it comes to the philosophically untutored.

I think Nomy asked exactly the right question: "The mystery, I think, is that whether or not we take the nonrational genesis of the new values to be a reason to discount them seems to depend, on many cases, on whether the nonrational process is originated in the deliberate action of another human being (= manipulation) or happened 'naturally' (= not manipulation). Why does it matter?"

I'll venture an answer. It matters because in the case of manipulation there's another agent we can reasonably blame (I say "blame" because it's harder for me to think of an uncontroversially praiseworthy case of manipulation). The manipulated agent is to at least some degree a puppet, and we don't blame puppets, but only because there's a *puppeteer*. There's no puppeteer, properly so-called, in non-manipulation cases. Now, *why* does it matter to us if there's a puppeteer? Another good question, one I'm not confident I can answer. But clearly it does matter to us: we don't want to nail the street dealer as much as we want to nail his supplier or, even better, the kingpin. Obama's "I want to know whose ass to kick" is a politically successful line because it resonates with (enough of) us for some reason. This belief of ours that the puppeteer, not the puppet, is to blame strikes me as Moorean in its solidity.

Derk writes: “A philosophical example may feature a stipulation that is at odds with other features of the example, and this may make it hard or impossible to evaluate in a way that is illuminating.”

I think this is an important point. Many, many compatibilists (including me) have suggested that it is hard not to see a manipulated agent as volitionally damaged in some way. My version of this kind of argument says that we can’t help but see manipulation as producing discordance between the agent’s action and his deepest self. If so, stipulations that the agent is manipulated and at the same time his action is expressive of his deepest self are at odds, creating poor conditions for reliable or “illuminating” intuiting.

But Derk sees another, different internal tension. He suggests that we (or at least many ordinary people) naturally understand genuine expression of one’s self as involving a kind of indeterministic origination. For example, Frankfurtian higher-order endorsement may covertly appeal to (or be seen to appeal to) a self that stands above one’s various motives and chooses among them, where this self is not itself subject to causal/motivational determination. If this is right, then once again stipulations that the agent is manipulated and at the same time his action is expressive of his deepest self are at odds, though this time for very different reasons.

My and other compatibilists’ version of the “stipulations are in tension” argument is well known and compatibilist-friendly. Derk’s is new (at least it is new to me) and incompatibilist-friendly. One response to this development is to say the two kinds of arguments—one compatibilist-friendly and the other incompatibilist-friendly—cancel each other out. No harm, no foul. Another response is to say that Derk’s argument is just more grist for the mill for the view that manipulation arguments are problematic—now there are two completely different ways in which they exhibit significant internal tensions and thus make for unreliable intuiting. I favor the latter response. I am not sure about Derk’s or others’ take.

Thanks Derk, for this comment. So it seems we've made come progress here, with much of it owed to contributions by Chandra and Phillip. Very cool.

I had forgotten, Derk, that you have revised your Case 1 example so that the manipulation is now sporadic and local. That does, of course, alter my assessment of relative proximity, but as you know from conversations we have had about this, it also makes me far less worried that it exposes the compatibilist to the worry that even an undecided audience would be or instead ought to be inclined toward an incompatibilist diagnosis--so long as it is made vivid to them that the very same alterations could be made by periodic low blood sugar or a momentary drop in hormone levels, or an extra half a martini.

(As I am writing this, Chandra's post has just appeared in my inbox, and some of it covers territory I was about to cover, so I'll leave this aside.)

One other important qualification: My reply to Randy was really poor last night. Sorry, Randy! I was so interested in making my stupid 'et tu, Brutus' joke that I overlooked an important point. Here it is:

I take it that the incompatibilist *advancing* the argument does indeed take the grounds for accepting a pertinent Manny premise (the manipulated agent is not responsible) as based on intuition. And I do think that, instead, if they started arguing for it, they would be in the business of just advancing a new argument for incompatibilism (e.g., Because Plum is not the ultimate originator of his act he is not responsible... and here is why ultimate origination is required... where what then follows is an argument *for* origination that does not issue *from* a manipulation argument).

But I, on the other hand, have taken on the burden of *arguing* that the relevant Manny premise is false in the face of conceding that there is indeed some intuitive weight favoring the judgment that the manipulated agent is not responsible. Or rather, to be more cautious, I have taken on the burden of arguing that it is not clearly true, and is subject to sufficient doubt that the incompatibilist is not entitled to the truth of it. And in doing that, one thing I have done, and is featured in this post, is reflect on the crediblility of the procedure issuing in the intuitive judgments (Randy's noted second strategy). But I have also argued, in keeping with Randy's first strategy, that we have to weigh the force of these intuitive assessments (that might well yield an incompatibilist reaction), against a clear demonstration of how these agents really do satisfy a rich set of compaitbilist conditions, and so really are very much like us. This allows for a theoretical contention that the force of "residual" incompatibilist intuitive reactions to the cases should be trumped by compatibilist arguments that relevant conditions for freedom and responsibility are after all sufficient.

Okay. There. That's better! My former response to Randy had been eating at me all morning. Sorry Randy. Hope that engages you more directly and fairly.

Patrick Todd's argument in his Phil. Imprint paper might count as an example of the first strategy I had in mind regarding the not-responsible premise--what Michael called the Manny premise. (Terrific paper, Patrick.) If I recall it correctly, it goes: The manipulators can't fairly blame Manny. If the manipulators can't fairly blame Manny, no one can. If no one can fairly blame Manny, he's not blameworthy. There are points that one might dispute, but debating them doesn't require asking whose intuitions are corrupted or distorted.

One might think that grounding in intuition provides some justification for a judgment without thinking that there can't be any other justification for it--justification that can come from other beliefs. I don't think that someone who advances a manipulation argument has to rest everything on intuition, or on a defense of intuition.

Michael, I think the several strategies could compliment each other. I don't think Brutus came with compliments, did he? Anyway, I'm enjoying the discussion.

For what it's worth, I have never been tempted, in evaluating a FC, to treat higher-order desires as originating indeterministically. Frankfurt's own FCs were always set in a deterministic context, so as refute PAP. The compatibilist, as I understood him, had to accept that these evaluations were themselves determined by other beliefs and desires, so that the agent himself never really has a say in the matter, unless he is to identified with those states of mind, a la Hume. We never escape here the web of desire in developing ourselves.

The laity, I'm quite sure, make no assumptions along the lines Derk suggests, to the extent that they think about higher-order desires at all (students will usually chuckle when the notion is first presented). Nor would any competent philosopher import indeterminisic notions into a FC specified as deterministic. So just who is supposed to be a guilty of this inconsistency?

Randy, I am curious to know why Patrick’s Moral Standing argument (which I agree is an absolutely superb argument) stays at the “object level”, where we evaluate the truth or falsity of p, and avoids the need to go to the “meta-level”, where we evaluate the reliability of judgments that p. The charge being pressed against manipulation cases is that they make stipulations that are importantly in tension (conceptual, nomological, or some other form of tension), and thus make for unreliable intuiting. Patrick’s argument relies on an intuition we have about IDA cases--that the manipulator cannot justifiably blame the agents they manipulate. But IDA cases are cut from similar cloth as manipulation cases, so it seems that the very same “stipulations are in tension” charge would appropriately apply to Patrick’s IDA case, and so we are off now at the meta-level.

Actually, the “stipulations are in tension” charge has, if anything, *more* bite against Patrick’s specific IDA case. We normally take someone who desired, foresaw, intended, and brought about that S does A to have an attitudinal structure that makes blaming S for A an act of bad faith (in the sense of hypocrisy). But for Patrick’s argument to work, we need to read the IDA case as taking place in the fairly exotic circumstances in which this link does not hold (that anyhow is my understanding and if I am wrong, I should be corrected). So if anything, Patrick’s case exhibits still more stipulations that are in tension than standard manipulation or IDA cases, thus warranting even more so the detour into the meta-level.

Hi Randy, Yes, I see. I had forgotten about that argument by Patrick, which I actually saw in draft form early on. Sorry, Patrick! I'll go back and look at it. But Randy, I agree, there might well be complimentary strategies. I'll have to think about this a bit. Chandra's chimed on on this point, I myself am not sure what to say yet, in part because I should just study Patrick's paper again.

Robert, I believe that you were largely taking issue with Derk, and so I'll leave it to him, if he wants, to reply. But I would note that I guess I disagree with you about the assumptions that should be imported into how Frankfurt and others developing his idea advance Frankfurt cases. Although I can understand why you and others think differently about this. I think it better to assume that Frankfurt was making no assumptions about determinism *or* indeterminism in the cases. But whatever he was assuming, it is probably better, dialectically, to assume indeterminism in those cases--as those like Ginet, Kane, and Widerker have essayed. In any event, people like Mele and Robb, Pereboom, Hunt, and Haji have all tried to run Frankfurt examples under the assumption that we need to assume indeterminism.

In any event, consistent with Derk's comment, I think it a fair criticism of Frankfurt's positive account of freedom in papers like his 71 concept of a person paper, that a good deal of mileage might be gotten by the assumption that the higher-order identifications are free in a way that at least makes room for libertarian freedom, and that when that possibility is foreclosed, many who originally found the proposal appealing tend to back off.

Here is one way, when lecturing to my students, that I make the point (well a related one) really vivid: take the willing addict and now imagine that his addictive first-order desires are causally influencing his higher-order identifications. The original appeal almost complete vanishes and until we start tinkering with qualifications about ways that the higher-order identifications should *not* be causally generated. But then we're off to the races again in the classic debate. Or so it seems to me...

Thank you very much, Michael, for your excellents posts and for your efforts in leading this debate. Thanks also to the rest of participants. I'm trying to contribute a bit to it. Hope this is not completely useless.
I think that examples in philosophy are designed with a similar aim to experiments in science, that is, in order to control the intervening variables (say, APs or not, robust or not, agent's upbringing, kind and degree of manipulation, etc.) Without this effort to control the variables, intuitive judgments about them may not be too illuminating. We may not know what is actually fueling the corresponding intuition. If variable control is thus important, it seems to me that people without knowledge of the relevant theoretical background are likely to find it difficult to give a verdict, and the verdit may be unstable. I think philosophers working in this area are better positioned to do the job, though, in examining the cases, they should make an effort to put their theoretical views, as much as possible, 'within brackets'. Moreover, it is not enough to emit a judgment about the moral responsibility of an agent in an example. One should also justify that judgment, especially if it differs from that of others, which corrects for the pure spontaneity of intuitions about cases.
I agree with Michael that vignettes closer to real life may raise more reliable intuitions than more bizarre examples, even among philosophers.
As a further consideration, in addition to designed examples and thought experiments, philosophers might also benefit from a more frequent and thourough examination of real cases. Consider how used and useful Robert Harris's case has been since Watson introduced it in the discussion. And there are lots of other interesting cases. Think for instance of the striking case of the Scott sisters, or of financial executives making decisions that have led (with their foresight?) to the ruin of millions of people, etc. Real life sometimes overcomes fiction.

With regard to Diana and Ernie, consider the claim (C) that Diana can't fairly blame Ernie for A-ing. I suppose one MIGHT appeal to intuition to back up C. But one needn't. There might be no need to back it up. And if the need arises, there is the option of trying to argue directly for C, without appeal to the reliability of anyone's intuitions.

If intuitions are a kind of seeming, then I suppose that, like visual seemings, we sometimes know that things aren't as they intuitively seem. And of course sometimes they are--and we can know that they are--even in situations in which the way things seem isn't a reliable guide to how they are.

Chandra, with regard to C, is it your view that it is false, or is your view that the case is so weird we can't tell whether C is true or not?

I confess I've always had trouble seeing how Derk's case 1 was supposed to be understood. But I don't see the difficulty in the Diana story. What things are in tension?

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