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12/01/2013

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Joe,

Thanks for this interesting post, which I'm sure will be just the beginning of a great month.

I'm wondering what exactly you find problematic in these arguments for skepticism. I'm thinking that a reasonable approach for a skeptic would be to argue that determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility and also that indeterminism is incompatible with moral responsibility. Of course, it would be problematic simply to assume these premises, and not to argue for them or at least to presuppose that *there is* a good argument for them. Is the problem that you see that proponents of moral responsibility skepticism sometimes appear simply to presuppose a crucial premise, such as incompatibilism?

I don't think Derek is guilty of this, though. As you know, Derk has source hood-based worries about determinism.

It may be that a moral skeptic sometimes puts his or her argument in a way that makes it appear as though it illicitly assumes a premise, whereas what is really going on is that the proponent of skepticism has presented the relevant argument elsewhere or holds that there exists such an argument.

Obviously, that should have been "Derk", not "Derek", in my previous post. (Both great philosophers, though!)

Oh--I see. Perhaps you (Joe) are simply arguing that the compatibility questions are important, and you are pointing to free will skepticism as a place where this is evident. When you asked about whether anyone knows of a free will skepticism that does not employ incompatibilism as a premise I (perhaps mistakenly) thought that you found this problematic in skepticism.

Thanks, John! I'll try not to spoil the surprise of Friday's argument too much but certainly I think the skeptical approach you outline above is reasonable. I'm not going to be criticizing that approach directly.

Nonetheless, it is at least somewhat controversial to suppose that all arguments for free will skepticism presuppose incompatibilism. And my criticism of arguments for free will skepticism depends on this claim, the one I am trying to defend today. I fear that if I gave the criticism of arguments for free will skepticism first, then we'd get caught up in this somewhat controversial thesis. So I decided to discuss that before moving on to the criticism.

Also, we can understand both "incompatibilism" and "free will" very broadly. Thus, the point is supposed to apply to skepticism about sourcehood and skepticism about moral responsibility (which is why the main focus for now is Strawson's basic argument) as well as classical free will. I'll have more to say about this tomorrow.

Here is roughly the way things will go. My criticism of arguments for free will skepticism depends on structural similarities between various arguments for incompatibilism (broadly construed) and arguments for epistemological skepticism. These include but are not limited to the use of modal transfer principles. More on that later.

First, I need to show that incompatibilism is an essential premise in arguments for free will skepticism (for it is really in the incompatibilism horn where there are structural similarities). Next I'll discuss the structural similarities in detail. Then I'll give the criticism of arguments for free will skepticism.

I've been watching Twin Peaks lately on Netflix and like that show I'm trying to leave bloggers in continual suspense, so that they'll tune in for the next post!

Great, Joe.
I'm looking forward to Friday, but also mention of Twin Peaks makes me look forward to the next big piece of cherry pie (with vanilla ice cream)...

That show is cool until the aliens come, but I shouldn't give it away (in the spirit of things here). [And please, to you alien abductionists out there: PLEASE, PLEASE no avalanche of emails... I am fully occupied with those of you who communicate with your deceased uncles--and cats...]

Hi Joe--I know you'll make this an exciting month!

With regard to your inquiry here, if I'm not mistaken Richard Double's skepticism is based on a sweeping metaphilosophical analysis that concludes that there is no single stable concept that answers to the covering term "free will". I don't have time to "double-check" my memory on that but I believe that's a fair synopsis of his view. I can't recall specifically what if anything he had to say about incompatibilism, however.

John: I agree about Twin Peaks! I think the show should have ended with the Season 2 episode "Arbitrary Law," which ends with a discussion of whether the Laura Palmer killer was a) possessed by an evil spirit, b) was himself evil, or c) was not blameworthy since he himself was the victim of childhood trauma. I love that philosophical debate in the woods!

Al: I was hoping to get passed the first day without a compelling counterexample to my thesis! A few comments about Double. I'm not as familiar with his work as I should be, so no doubt I might get a few things wrong.

1/ I'm not sure how to characterize Double's view. Doesn't he provide a view of his own (subjectivism)? Thus, it isn't clear whether he is best characterized as a free will skeptic.

2/ Similarly, is his argument an argument for free will skepticism or for some closely related semantic thesis? For instance, if it turns out that the concept of free will is incoherent because it contains several strands, then we could just talk about the individual strands (free will*, free will**, etc.) and see whether the concept possibly applies to some persons. I would contend that any argument for free will* skepticism, etc. depends on incompatibilism. (Of course, there are a LOT of holes in this reply!)

3/ More to the point, Double's view won't affect my overall claim -- the one I'll make on Friday -- if it turns out that there are arguments for epistemological skepticism that are structurally similar to Double's argument.

Let me see what I can come up with and get back to you on this, although I might not be able to give a full reply until week 3. Great example!

Hi Joe,

I agree with John about Derk. I think Derk has an entire chapter in LWFW directed to libertarianism. He also has interesting thought experiments against libertarianism based on the Law of Large Numbers.

I do tend to agree about Galen (but see my caveat below*). When he adopts his "ultimate skeptic" hat, he basically dismisses libertarianism out of hand. This never bothered me much, simply because I find libertarianism to be so intuitively implausible. It's worth mentioning that Strawson also has a strong compatibilist streak, and he's recently pushed back from his reputation as a pure unadulterated skeptic.

One last point is that it's not clear to me (for any skeptic) that the skeptic is assuming indeterminism, so much as the skeptic is making an argument that results in both indeterminism and skepticism (causation vs. correlation). The determinism question is arguably orthogonal to the skepticism question - this is Neil Levy's point, and that's why he says strange things like "I'm a compatibilist and a skeptic about free will."

I think John is right: in my view, most of the smartest skeptics these days are basing their skepticism on sourcehood worries (instead of worries about rationality or consciousness). In my view, "sourcehood" worries are essentially the same as worries about constitutive luck (my view tracks Neil's the closest). As far as I can tell, arguments about constitutive luck work regardless of whether determinism is true. Even in an indeterministic world, people cannot create themselves in a way that prevents constitutive luck.

* Galen's argument is framed so that A. free will requires self-creation, but B. self-creation is impossible, even if indeterminism is true. After a certain point, propositions are so absurd that their denial is not much of an assumption, it simply is correct and not worth much argument. If I say that 2+2 does not equal 5, is that an assumption? What would the argument look like? Galen saying that people can't create themselves is not much of an assumption in that sense, it's just common sense, which is why he doesn't give it much argument.

The far more controversial assumption is that free will requires self-creation (an assumption that Galen does not fully endorse when he wears his compatibilist hat). That's an assumption about the definition of free will, and I think *most* arguments for compatibilism/libertarianism/skepticism are guilty (more or less) of those kinds of assumptions about definitions.

I imagine Neil Levy will show up at some point, but in case he is on holiday or something, I think he claims to be a compatibilist MR skeptic (he says that MR is incompatible with certain kinds of luck, and our errors and successes always depend on that kind of luck, so we aren't responsible for them; as an aside, I wonder if you could interpret Strawson similarly?).

I also seem to remember that Luther argued against MR without relying on determinism, but I'm not sure if he was arguing that we can't be responsible for any acts, or only that we can't be responsible for whether or not we end up saved.


On Strawson, when he does separate the deterministic and indeterministic cases in his argument, is he actually arguing for incompatibilism? I saw his argument as being more like: assume determinism for simplicity; see how our apparently-free acts stem from earlier events? - unless we are responsible for the whole sequence, which is impossible, that means we can't be responsible for our acts; having noticed this, we can generalise to the indeterministic case - this differs only in that some element of randomness is introduced, which can't alter our degree of responsibility, so we aren't ever responsible in that type of case either.

It's true that, in concluding in the first, deterministic case that we are not responsible, Strawson is claiming that determinism and responsibility are not compossible, but every MR skeptic will have to do that. I don't think he is relying on determinism as an explanation of our lack of MR, but just as a way to temporarily ignore causal chains that might be indeterministic (and he can do this precisely because he thinks determinism makes no difference).

I suppose if you thought adding indeterminism could make us responsible, you could adapt Strawson's argument as an argument for incompatibilism ("if determinism is true, then our way of escaping Strawson's argument is unavailable, so we have no MR"; NB, this is saying, unlike Strawson, that if determinism is true, we have no MR only because it is true). He possibly sounds a bit like an incompatibilist for this reason.

Kip and CJ: Nice points. A few clarifications.

First, some of this might have to do with how one defines "compatibilism," etc. I'll have to look closer at Levy's claims before I go much further. Perhaps what I'm calling "free will skepticism," for instance, is better called "impossibilism." Perhaps Levy understands "incompatibilism" in the same way that Vihvelin does (and impossibilism does not entail incompatibilism). Maybe Levy will appear and help us to clean this all up!

Second, most of the other comments are consistent with my claims. The devil is in the details. A lot depends on why one thinks determinism or indeterminism undermines free will. Thus, in the case of Strawson, he gives one set of reasons for thinking that determinism undermines free will (or ultimate responsibility) and another set of reasons for thinking that indeterminism undermines free will. This is what I mean by saying that arguments for free will skepticism presuppose incompatibilism, for they depend on one set of considerations that are particular to the way in which determinism poses a problem for free will.

And it won't do any good JUST saying that luck plays a role given either indeterminism or determinism. The relevant question is, What role does luck play in each case? I need to look more closely at Levy's work but my guess is that luck plays a different role in the case of determinism than it does in the case of indeterminism. It doesn't matter much whether it is the same kind of luck either. The question is, How is luck manifested under each model?

Certainly one can present an argument for free will skepticism without reference to either determinism or indeterminism. But if I can find a premise that requires two different kinds of consideration for its support, then my point still holds.

Part of my confidence in holding this position comes from the fact that determinism is a global thesis whereas indeterminism is not. If determinism is true, then every single event is causally determined. The same is not true in the case of indeterminism (meaning: if indeterminism is true, it might still be the case that SOME true propositions are entailed by past propositions together with the laws of nature). Thus (I claim) two different kinds of consideration are required in order to undermine the free will thesis.

Kip: I meant my reply about luck to apply to your comment about self-creation, as well. Let me make the reply more explicit in the hopes of getting my point across.

On the one hand, determinism undermines self-creation since -- were determinism true -- all of our actions would trace back to events that were not self-created, for eventually (given determinism) they trace back to events that occurred prior to our existence. (The Strawson argument is more nuanced since he breaks down the possibilities into several: infinite regress, etc. I'll have more to say about this later in the week.)

The point I want to make clear now is that this kind of consideration would not apply were indeterminism true, for in that case the initial threat -- actions tracing back to events prior to our existence -- is not feasible. Thus, he has to add an extra consideration: indeterminism can't help.

Whereas determinism suggests that our actions flow through us to events occurring prior to our existence, indeterminism seems to break the link between agent and action. If indeterminism is true, how do we know that any action is actually produced by the agent as opposed to being some random event that merely occurs? That strikes me as a fundamentally different kind of consideration than the threat posed by determinism.

In short, determinism links the agent with the action but the problem is that the causal chain goes back much further, leaving the agent a mere puppet. Indeterminism, on the other hand, severs the link between the agent and the action. Both might involve luck and both might involve difficulties about self-creation but each for different reasons.

I'm only going on what I remember of whatever version of Strawson's argument I've read, I don't have any particular text in front of me; that said, I'm not sure "he gives one set of reasons for thinking that determinism undermines free will (or ultimate responsibility) and another set of reasons for thinking that indeterminism undermines free will" is true. It seems to me he thinks that the reason for our lack of free will is always the same - we can't create ourselves from scratch - and he only separates the deterministic and indeterministic cases (a) because the deterministic case is a simpler starting point than the general case and (b) because some people think that indeterminism introduces a factor that thwarts his argument (though he immediately squashes this possibility). I don't get the impression that he sees indeterminism as anything but an irrelevant complication.

It is true that Strawson seems to use the 'randomness' argument against MR in the indeterministic case (and not the deterministic one), i.e. says that undetermined events are merely random and so not the responsibility of agents. But I don't think this is meant as a separate fork of the argument; it is just a way of showing that indeterminism doesn't introduce anything that undermines the argument he made for the deterministic case.

CJ: I think our understanding of Stawson’s argument is similar.

I should point out that I was filling in some gaps since, for the most part, Strawson merely claims that indeterminism can’t contribute to ultimate responsibility. But here are some more quotes from the Routledge Encyclopedia version of the basic argument; they are perhaps more revealing than the two quotes above:

“How can our claim to moral responsibility be improved by the supposition that it is partly a matter of chance or random outcome that we and our actions are as they are?” (http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/V014)

“… indeterministic occurrences cannot possibly contribute to moral responsibility … Indeterminism gives rise to unpredictability, not responsibility. It cannot help in any way at all.” (http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/V014SECT5)

Here the suggestion is that the reason that indeterminism can’t help is that indeterminism leads to random events, and these are not one’s for which we can be ultimately responsible.

But these details are beside the point. We both can agree that the comments – which are the only kinds of criticisms of indeterminism that I can find in Strawson’s writings – suggest that the structure of his argument is something like this:

1. Either determinism is true or it is not.
2. If determinism is true, no one is ultimately responsible for anything.
3. Indeterminism cannot contribute to ultimate responsibility.
4. Therefore, no one is ultimately responsible for anything.

In other words, as I see it, there is an argument for incompatibilism and then some comments supporting the claim that indeterminism can’t help (cf. Campbell 2011, p. 24). There are not, I claim, one set of criticisms that apply equally given both deterministic and indeterministic models.

But let’s suppose that you are right and that the considerations of pessimism that Strawson considers apply equally – given determinism or given indeterminism. In that case, it would still follow that the argument for pessimism is cogent ONLY IF the argument for incompatibilism between determinism and ultimate responsibility is also cogent. Either way – whether my interpretation or your interpretation is correct – Strawson’s basic argument depends on an incompatibilist thesis. That is the main point that I am trying to establish today.

I *hope* my view does not depend on a hidden incompatibilist presuppositions or intuitions. My claim is that (understanding free will as the agential power that is necessary for moral responsibility) we lack free will no matter what the causal structure of the universe. Whereas other skeptics seem to think that compatibilist views and libertarian views fail to secure free will for different reasons, I think that libertarianism is parasitic for its plausibility - in particular for its ability to see off the luck objection by showing that undetermined action need not be random - on compatibilism. It is by borrowing heavily from compatibilism that libertarianism is made plausible. So my fundamental aim is to undermine libertarianism *by undermining compatibilism*; showing that the luck objection can't be seen off by taming indeterminism because it arises with full force even given determinism. So structurally my view targets the adequacy of compatibilism, but without turning on the premise that determinism causes problems. Luck is supposed to arise in precisely the same way for both plausible (seeming) libertarianism's (those that don't allow for actions to be wildly random) and for plausible (seeming) compatibilisms.

Of course it is always possible that there is some deep incompatibilist intuition that is doing some kind of causal, though not justificatory, work in my thinking. In fact, that's the biggest worry I have about my view: not that I have identified a point at which such an intuition might play a role, but that there might be such a point.

OK, I think my concern is best expressed like this: if I assume determinism and argue from there that we lack MR, is that sufficient for me to have argued for incompatibilism? I'd suggest that incompatibilism requires that we lack MR *because* determinism is true; if the assumption of determinism is only a simplifying assumption, for the better presentation of the argument, then there's no warrant for inserting the "because" clause. Since I don't think Strawson is arguing at any point that we could lack MR *because of* determinism, I don't think it's accurate to describe him as making an incompatibilist argument at any point.

If you think that incompatibilism requires only that you argue from determinism to a lack of MR, without adding the "because", it looks as if you will have to potentially count any MR skeptic as an incompatibilist straight off the bat (which is what you want, of course, but it shouldn't be this easy). Say I'm making an argument for MR skepticism to another philosopher. I'm not relying on any incompatibilist assumption - it may be that I've never really thought about the implications of determinism before. The other philosopher asks something like 'mightn't indeterminism allow us MR in spite of your argument?'. I'll have to give some reason why indeterminism doesn't make a difference. But now I'm in the same position you claim Strawson is in - I'm adding separate considerations to rule out MR in the indeterministic case, so you can separate out the deterministic case and say 'well, your argument depends on this bit about determinism working, and that amounts to an incompatibilist argument, so you were clearly a closet incompatibilist all along'. In that case, I don't think I should be committed to a position I've never considered before just because I mentioned (in)determinism, so there has to be more to what makes someone an incompatibilist.

Another point is that, if Strawson were really an incompatibilist, he should believe that no being could achieve MR in a deterministic world. But imagine a god-like being that is responsible for all the events lying in its causal history, which happens to be deterministic - Strawson's argument doesn't rule out that being having MR. So, his argument doesn't show that determinism and MR are incompatible (though they are for humans, because MR is impossible for humans whatever the status of determinism), and it is therefore not accurate to call him an incompatibilist.

A final point is that, in your original post, you suggest you want to show that skeptical arguments *presuppose* incompatibilism. So, even if Strawson were committed to incompatibilism, you wouldn't quite have as much as you want, because it might be that he got incompatibilism out of his more general argument, rather than assuming it at the beginning.

All this said, I do like the idea that MR skeptics wouldn't be MR skeptics if they hadn't already swallowed some kind of incompatibilism, or at least some ideas very much in the spirit of incompatibilism. I just think it will take more to show than looking at the structure of specific arguments, because that won't reveal why the philosopher giving the argument accepts the premises they need for it. In Strawson's case, the question really is why he thinks that MR requires being responsible for your whole causal history, and whether his error in thinking so is independent of the errors of incompatibilism, or somehow connected to them. Even if he never mentioned determinism at all, he could still be guilty of assumptions that were essentially incompatibilist in spirit.

(Perhaps I should just look forward to your next example to see where you're going with this approach.)

Neil: Thanks very much – and a very interesting view you have!

It is not essential to my first thesis to claim that all free will skeptics have “hidden incompatibilist presuppositions or intuitions” – although admittedly that’s the way I initially framed it. The point is more that arguments for free will skepticism are parasitic on incompatibilist arguments and considerations. Without looking at the details – which I haven’t done yet – it is difficult to say whether this is true in your case.

Certainly, there are some kinds of luck worries that are parasitic on incompatibilist concerns. Consider Nagel’s worry about what is sometimes called “causal luck”: “Everything seems to result from the combined influence of factors, antecedent and posterior to action, that are not within the agent’s control. Since he cannot be responsible for them, he cannot be responsible for their results …” (1976) As an argument, this is very similar to the consequence argument.

But from the little bit of research I did this morning this is not your worry. You borrow Al Mele’s (2006) distinction between remote and present luck. Nagel’s problem is a problem about remote luck but your claim is that compatibilism suffers from worries about present luck, as well; similar to the kinds of worries that traditionally plague libertarians.

Thus, on the face of it, I’d have to say that you don’t neatly belong to the free will skepticism club I was hoping to assemble. On the other hand, I think I can fold your view into the more general argument that I’m working toward this week. But I’ll need to do a bit more reading first.

I just downloaded “Luck and History-Sensitive Compatibilism” and I also noticed a paper entitled “The Luck Problem for Compatibilists,” though I was unable to obtain a copy of that paper. If you could send me a copy and anything else related to this, I’d appreciate it. I’ll have to wait before getting and reading the book!

Thanks again, CJ. I realize that I am not expressing my first thesis as clearly as I could.

I can admit that, when presenting the basic argument, Strawson never offers premises followed by something like “therefore, free will is incompatible with determinism.” Thus, it would be contentious to claim that he is offering an argument for incompatibilism. My claim – or my intended claim, at least – is subtler. What I claim is that within Strawson’s argument for free will skepticism (or pessimism, as he calls it) IS an argument for incompatibilism. What I mean by that is that if you take all the premises of Strawson’s argument for free will skepticism and remove his criticisms of libertarianism – the “indeterminism can’t help” part – then you would have an argument for incompatibilism. Furthermore, the basic argument is cogent only if the aforementioned argument for incompatibilism – which admittedly Strawson does not explicitly give – is also cogent. In this way, Strawson fits into the free will skepticism club I was trying to assemble: his argument for free will skepticism is parasitic on arguments for incompatibilism. To say that it “presupposes” incompatibilism is too strong of a claim, as you and others have now made me realize.

Nor does it matter to me much what the free will skeptic thinks he is doing. Suppose he doesn’t even think about determinism. Suppose he is giving a general argument for free will skepticism, independent of any considerations about determinism or indeterminism – something like Nagel’s worry about causal luck noted in my previous response to Neil’s post. If the argument bears important and interesting structural similarities to arguments for incompatibilism, then that is enough to support my first thesis. As I noted in the previous post, my aim is not to classify free will skeptics as closet incompatibilists.

I’m not certain why you think that Strawson’s basic argument applies only to human beings. Why doesn’t he show – if he shows anything – that no creatures are causa sui, God included?

Lastly, I realize that my approach is a bit annoying since I have yet to reveal where I’m headed. So let me spill the beans and give the argument I was originally saving for Friday, the one that I’ll still be working toward throughout the week.

1/ Arguments for free will skepticism are no better or worse than arguments for epistemological skepticism.
2/ If any argument for epistemological skepticism is cogent, then among the things we don’t know is that we don’t know that we don’t have free will.
3/ Thus, there are no cogent arguments for free will skepticism.

Premise 1 is complicated by the fact that some of the structural similarities that I’ll be noting in the next few days are most apparent when comparing arguments for incompatibilism with arguments for epistemological skepticism. Thus, I thought that I needed to establish a link between incompatibilism and free will skepticism, which I tried to do yesterday and today. Yet interesting counterexamples given by Al and Neil (and others) suggest a broader approach. After all, there are metaphilosophical and luck related worries about knowledge as well as free will. In any event, there is a lot of work to do in the rest of the week!

Aside from Neil Levy perhaps, I think Joe is right. It's no coincidence that free-will-skeptical arguments either construct a determinism / indeterminism dilemma or something parallel to it. That's just too hard to believe.

Consider the argument built on the assertion that free will requires self-creation. Although this makes no explicit mention of determinism, it draws on similar themes of controlling the causes of the causes of ... behavior. You're still on the same map, matey. Here, there be transfer principles!

The debate over incompatibilism has to do with PAP satisfaction, which is thought to be necessary for FW/MR. Putting the Hume/Perry version of compatibilism aside, determinism is thought to preclude PAP satisfaction and, hence, FW/MR. But what if your main concern here is not PAP satisfaction but self-control, or, as others have put it, 'sourcehood?' That is, what if you thought that FW/MR hinged on the possibility of one being a causa sui, the Ultimate Source of one's conduct? And what if you thought further that the whole idea of a mere mortal being a causa sui made no sense, that such a being must have a 'nature' causing its choices? Then you would have an argument against FW/MR that had nothing to do with incompatibilism. In attacking agent causalism, GS posits just such an argument towards the conclusion 'The Bounds of Freedom' (OHFW). Now one might at the end of the day ask the compatibilist question 'What is so bad freedom wise about having a nature causing your choices?' But I don't see an incompatibilist answer being presupposed by GS's premises. The problem from his perspective is that it seems impossible for the buck to stop in assigning personal responsibility with an agent himself. To rebut him, it would be pointless to bring up Frankfurt cases. One must instead somehow show that having a nature need not militate against being a causa sui.

On the one hand, I'm still not sure that taking Strawson's premises and ignoring the criticism of libertarianism does get you an indeterministic argument because, if the argument works, it doesn't depend on determinism at all, and incompatibilism requires that the reason for our lack of MR in deterministic worlds is the determinism. Imagine I argue that knowledge of mathematical objects would require causal interaction with them, so if there are any they aren't abstract; someone says 'What if the world were indeterministic - wouldn't that leave room for knowledge of abstracta?' and I'd answer 'No, of course not, there's no way indeterminism could introduce knowledge where none could be had before'. Will you show up and say that, if you strip away my criticism of the knowledge-through-indeterminism claim, you're basically left with an argument that knowledge of abstract mathematical objects is incompatible with determinism? That could only be true in the trivial sense that anything impossible is also incompatible with everything else. But for your claim that MR skepticism is parasitic on incompatibilism to be interesting, don't you need to be talking about real incompatibilism, on which determinism plays a real role in ruling out MR, as in consequence and manipulation arguments and so on?

(Also, why say that MR skepticism is parasitic on incompatibilism rather than the other way around? I think Strawson thinks of himself as showing that what incompatibilists have discovered is really the general impossibility of MR, but they mistakenly think determinism is required. As far as I can tell, Neil Levy thinks that anyone arguing that MR is incompatible with *indeterminism* for luck-related reasons has also only discovered that MR is impossible. In both cases, it seems fairer to say that the previous arguments were parasitic on underlying arguments for general MR skepticism.)

On the other hand, if all you want is a structural similarity between Strawson's argument and incompatibilist ones (and the arguments of epistemological skeptics), well, I'd like to see it happen, and I can see how Strawson's assumption that self-creation is necessary for MR looks similar to incompatibilist assumptions, except just a bit stronger so that it is also incompatible with indeterminism. I'll have to wait to see how the comparison works in practice. I just don't think that the way to get a structural similarity is to take Strawson's argument and delete the bits dealing with indeterminism, because determinism isn't doing any real work in the remainder.

(On MR in god-like beings, I was imagining one with a history containing a completed infinity of events, all of which it was responsible for, so there was no regress. It would be a self-caused in the sense that it would be responsible for all causes of its state at any time, without an arbitrary beginning. I suppose Strawson could argue that there is no explanation for why that particular infinite sequence of events happened rather than another, and so, in a sense, there is some luck in the being being what it is, so it isn't fully responsible for its actions. I'm pretty sure only God Himself, at least as typically studied by philosophers, would escape any such argument. He is the paradigmatic causa sui, after all. In fact, Strawson's argument looks a bit like a proof for the existence of God, except dealing with moral responsibility rather than causation.)

Robert: Thanks. Again, I agree that saying all arguments for free will skepticism presuppose incompatibilism is an over statement; nor is it needed for the argument I'll start giving tomorrow morning for the conclusion that there are no cogent arguments for free will skepticism.

First, I'm not sure how the point about a possible "infinite regress" could be understood given a model of indeterminism. Would the causal chain stop every once in awhile? I suppose I might be mixing up the thesis of universal causation with the thesis of determinism. But the point is that one cannot presume that, given only the supposition of indeterminism, an infinite regress of causes and effects. It strikes me that this is only plausible given determinism. So I still can't help but think that the structure of the argument is to show that given determinism ultimate responsibility (or sourcehood) is impossible.

Second, it is all beside the point for my main argument, the one I'm explicitly giving on Friday, and which I'll start to give in more detail tomorrow.

Widerker has shown that it is plausible to interpret Strawson's argument as depending on a Beta-like (or really B-like) transfer principle (2002). Even if you don't like this interpretation, there are undeniable similarities between Strawson's argument and the ancient trilemma -- an argument for epistemological skepticism that dates back to at least Sextus Empiricus. I'll have more to say about the relevance of this tomorrow and Thursday but if you look at the argument in my previous post it should be clear enough where I'm headed.

And as I said, I don't really think that Strawson is presupposing incompatibilism. I'm thankful to Flickers commentators for helping me get clear on this. It is more that if you accept his argument for free will skepticism, then you SHOULD accept a similar argument for incompatibilism. Thus, his argument for free will skepticism is parasitic on an argument for incompatibilism. If the latter fails, so does the former.

CJ: There is a lot to respond to here! Some of it I'm going to talk about in the coming days. I think my support of the first premise is going to be different than you imagine it to be. Clearly mere structural similarities can't be all that there is. After all, all arguments are structurally similar in that they have this form: p, therefore q. So much for mere structural similarity!

Here is where it is relevant. There are a lot of different arguments for epistemological skepticism. But it seems that we don't accept any of them. Oh, we might pretend to be epistemological skeptics while discoursing with our more philosophical friends but, as Hume noted, when the conversation breaks, we leave through the door and not the window. We don't really take arguments for epistemological skepticism seriously. Certainly that is true of most contemporary philosophers and all free will skeptics.

Yet it seems to me that arguments for free will skepticism are nothing more than dressed up versions of arguments for epistemological skepticism. Some are similar to the argument for (epistemological) skepticism, which assumes a modal transfer principle; some are similar to the ancient trilemma; some exploit the apparent fact of ineliminable luck; some appeal to metaphilosophical considerations. In each, case there are epistemological parallels.

As you will note this is no proof of premise (1) of my main argument. Luckily I still have time left in the week toward that end! But I can flip the issue around to you and ask, What makes you so sure that the arguments for epistemological skepticism are flawed and the arguments for free will skepticism obvious? After all, there are some interesting parallels between them. Why do you take them to yield such different results?

We can return to these issues tomorrow and in the coming days. Thanks again!

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