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07/05/2014

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James raises an interesting issue: what is the relationship between "prsentism" in the philosophy of time and the CA. But I don't think he has the correct answer to this question.

If one adopts presentism, one still can describe and refer to the past; it is just that one doesn't think that previous times or entities at those times are ontologically on a par with the present (and entities that exist now). So, as a presentist, I can still think about and refer to Aristotle. A presentist can certainly say that Aristotle was an important philosopher. And that JFK was assassinated in Dallas in November, 1963. (We won't go into whether there was a lone assassin; that's too controversial even for us at this blog!) So the same problems about the fixity of the past will emerge for a presentist, although they are not based in ontology, as it were. As a presentist and a multiple-pasts compatibilist, I would still have to say that agents sometimes are free so to act that the past would have been different from what it actually was. And that's the basic problem with the view.

Kristin:

These are excellent questions and I don't have answers to many, maybe any, of them.

The setting here is the same as the setting for the van Inwagen consequence argument. Thus, the argument concludes to "incompatibilism" in the same sense that van Inwagen's argument does. I agree that a fair amount of cleanup work is needed to give it the catchy conclusion of the title. (The original title was much less catchy--it talked of a proof of Beta-2--but the editors asked me for something catchier. I may have gone overboard!)

I think we do not, as far as I know, at present have a clear picture of how to formulate the incompatibilist thesis, but the conclusion of the van Inwagen argument clearly shows something very much like incompatibilism.

Here's why I think we don't know how to formulate the incompatibilist thesis.

Imagine a world which starts at time t0 and has deterministic laws. Suppose that the world contains agents that can freely agent-cause, via simultaneous causation, some effect at t0, but that lose all such abilities after t0. Many card-carrying libertarians will (a) admit (or at least not deny) the possibility of such a world and (b) insist that there is freedom in such a world. So, deterministic laws are compatible with free will. (This isn't an original thought experiment.)

One could take this as an argument for compatibilism, but it makes compatibilism too cheap and easy.

Or for a more extreme case, suppose a timeless God creates a deterministic universe, choosing from among many options. The incompatibilist should not have to deny this possibility. Many incompatibilists believe in an omnipotent timeless God, and presumably such a God could create such a universe. Yet if God does that, then we have deterministic laws and a free person. Again, this is way too quick as an argument that theism (or at least theism with a timeless God) requires compatibilism.

Likewise, an incompatibilist shouldn't deny the possibility of agents with miraculous powers that can violate deterministic laws.

So, we better not define incompatibilism in the way that it is usually defined, namely that it's impossible for there to be both deterministic laws and a free choice.

I don't really know how to define incompatibilism. My best rough-and-ready story is: There cannot be ordinary free agents in a causally deterministic world.

Ordinary agents (by stipulation) come into existence after the beginning of the universe. They can't work miracles. They are incapable of backwards causation.

I also don't know how to define causal determinism. The SEP article on causal determinism is unhelpful: apart from a bit at the beginning that dismisses account of causal determinism in terms of causation, it doesn't talk about causation but about laws. If I knew how to define deterministic causation, I'd have a story, but I don't know to do define it.

To get the desired conclusion, the quantification over agents in the argument needs to be restricted to the ordinary agents, and "pre-human past" must be taken to mean "pre-ordinary-agent past".

There will be some further mopping up.

Joe:

I think all choices are free (even non-derivatively so), and since I clearly make a lot of choices, I conclude that freedom is very common. Of course, it'll take a lot to defend that all choices are free and I'm not going to do that here. (Quick sketch: Obviously not every transition from an undecided to a decided state is a choice. Only those transitions that happen in the right way are choices, and I think the "in the right way" condition will be such as to imply freedom as well.)

"I think a big difference between compatibilist and incompatibilist ways of looking at this. For compatibilists, such [torn] decisions seem less free than paradigmatic (rational) free decisions whereas for libertarians, they seem more free."

Let me try out a pet argument. :-)

Consider a sequence of decision situations s1,s2,...,sN for some large N. In each one, you're deciding whether to save my life. The only difference between the situations is that the cost increases slightly as one goes through the list. In s1, it costs you a penny. In sN, to save my life you have to submit to having yourself and every friend of yours (other than me, if I am a friend of yours) be tortured to death. I hope that in s1 you'd choose to save and you wouldn't be torn about it. I also hope that in sN you'd choose not to save and you wouldn't be torn about it. I'll assume my hopes are correct.

So, as one goes through the situations, the degree of tornness starts at around zero, increases to a maximum, and then decreases again. Let's suppose that the maximum comes around where you'd be asked to sacrifice your own life, and that if you're asked to sacrifice a kidney for me (I assume you have two), you'd do it without being very torn, since you are a very virtuous person, but if it were a matter of your life, you'd be torn though you'd still do it.

Clearly if you sacrificed a kidney for me, you'd be very praiseworthy. I'd owe you an incredible degree of gratitude. But if you sacrificed your life, I'd clearly owe you way more. But you have maximal tornness at that level, and hence it's an action for which you have barely any responsibility if tornness is contrary to responsibility.

It seems clear that as you go through the cases in my sequence, the degree of responsibility does not decrease as you approach the maximum sacrifice you'd make.

One answer is that as one goes through the sequence, the degree of responsibility decreases but the degree of sacrifice increases. The degree of praiseworthiness is something like a product of the degree of responsibility and the degree of sacrifice. Maybe, although the degree of responsibility for sacrificing your life is close to nil, the degree of sacrifice is so very large that the product is still very large.

I think that answer won't work. For suppose that, instead, you are somewhat less holy, and while you'd sacrifice a kidney without being much torn, you'd be maximally torn if it were a matter of sacrificing a lung, though you'd still do it. Now the increase of sacrifice, while major, is not more than an order of magnitude. But the degree of tornness can be many orders of magnitude greater.

Alexander,

You raise some great and difficult questions.

Perhaps it is helpful to be very explicit about what the *items* are with respect to which there is alleged incompatibility. So, for instance, incompatibilism about causal determinism and human freedom to do otherwise helps to address the problem about the relevance or God's free choices. It also is helpful in that it distinguishes (at least conceptually) between freedom to do otherwise and acting freely.

About the general issue of the difficulty in defining determinism: you are right. The Earman book brings out some of the difficulties, and Patrick Suppes argues that it is hard to distinguish deterministic from indeterministic theories in certain contexts. I've dealt with this set of problems in roughly the following way. I don't think we need a full and adequate account of causal determinism to proceed. Rather, we say: whatever that account is, it will have these implications: blah, blah, blah. And then we can figure out whether the implications fit with free will (of various agents and sorts), and so forth.

Thanks for your fascinating work on these issues--and I look forward to much more!

John,

What we "affect" in my sense is narrower, richer, and more choice-oriented than what we counterfactually imply. My choice now to do A rather than B counterfactually implies various facts about the microphysics of the ancient universe. (At least, assuming NL, necessity of the laws. That just follows from the bidirectionality of the deterministic laws, plus the assumption that lawlike connection suffices for counterfactual implication.) But I have no idea what those ancient microstates are, and they are no part of my intention. I couldn't care less how they play(ed) out.

But even though I don't *affect* the ancient microstates in this rich sense, that doesn't make them fixed. They would be fixed in the relevant sense for the CA only if my act doesn't counterfactually imply them; but it does.

Paul:

It seems to me that this line of thought is undercut by Elga's counterexamples (and mine, too, I suspect) to Lewis's counterfactual arrow of time.

Hi Alexander (if I may)

Joe and I have been having an email exchange about your very interesting piece (congratulations on revving up this very interesting thread of discussion). I have a question to ask, and although talk with Joe prompted it, any lapse or misunderstanding revealed by my question only devolves to me.

In PvI's famous Mysterian paper he introduces a revision to Beta by spelling out a logical relationship of "exact access" to a logical space. Re-reading it I was struck with PvI's usual careful exposition. He does not seem to define exact access as a modal notion--he appears to wish his exposition to have a more generalized logical character. However, your N and M are specifically modal in character. So here's my question: would it be fair to say that your N and M are attempts to modalize characterizations of "can" (N) and "power" (M) in terms of exact access? Whether I'm right or wrong on that, I think you can improve my understanding by clearing me up on that. Thanks in advance.

John,

I agree with you that an agent which exists in the present moment is sometimes capable of acting in a manner that is considered free (using Mele’s ambitious sense of free will), and by doing so, said agent affects the sequence that he leaves behind (i.e., the past). I think that’s fundamentally different however, than saying an agent has the ability to affect what he has already done (i.e., to change the past, or change the sequence that he’s already left behind). Is that reasonable?

So when a presentist refers to Aristotle today, I believe he’s referring to a historical record or a memory that currently exists in the present moment – he isn’t accessing/affecting/changing the past.

In summary, I’m still thinking that it’s fair to say that the past doesn’t exist as an entity, and therefore it cannot be changed – it’s effectively fixed.

Alexander,

You're talking about Gretta's cooked egg, right? I don't see at all how to connect that scenario to my position. Unlike Lewis, I have no truck with small miracles; I grant NL (at least arguendo, but maybe for real) and target NP. I'm not concerned to deny past-reaching counterfactuals. I positively affirm some of them! Lewis wants to deny them because they're counterintuitive, but given that intuitive physics is wrong - especially about time - I don't see this as a big cost. Stealing a page from Ismael, I propose to explain (away) our sense that the past is "fixed" against counterfactuals, as an overgeneralization from our macroscopic experience.

Hi Joe,

I do not know why you say: I'm sure you're more interested in what John has to say!” I completely disagree with your remark. Your comments were simply more complex than John’s. As a result, it was easier for me to respond to those by John first. I am currently in the Netherlands in a responsible advisory capacity (which together with my own research, and my academic duties to my university in Israel) does not leave me much time for the blog. If you read my elaboration on Alexander’s result, you must have noticed that it required much work.

I. Now to your comment: You mention Ginet 1990, as someone who does not employ a Transfer Principle. But a quick look at what Ginet’s is saying there suggests that he is employing a Transfer Principle. (Not a Transfer of Unavoidability Principle, but a Transfer of Avoidability Principle.) He says:

“Given any truth entirely about the past, bt, if I now have it open to me to make true
a certain proposition about the future, at, then I now have it open to me to make true the conjunction of bt and at. If I have it open to me now to make the world contain a certain event after now, then I have it open to me now to make the world contain everything that
has happened before now plus that event after now.1O We might call this the principle that freedom is freedom to add to the given past or the principle of the fixity of the given past. We can express it in abbreviated notation as follows:

For all S, t, bt, and at: if Ost(at), then Ost(bt & at)

Here the variable 'at' ranges over propositions as to what happens at or after time t and bt ranges over true propositions as to what happens before t.”


Ginet bases this principle on Nelson Pike’s analysis of the notion of an agent’s having it within his power in terms of possible worlds ("Divine Foreknowledge, Human Freedom, and Possible Worlds," Philosophical Review 86 (1977): 209-16, at pp. 213-216). Pike’s analysis leads to a principle which is not a transfer principle, but is merely an explication of the notion (meaning) of an agent’s having it within his power:
It is within someone’s power at time t to do A at time t’ only if there is a possible world with the same past relative to t, and the same natural laws as in the actual world, in which S does A at t’ (t’>t).
John’s 1994 principle is equivalent to Pike’s.( I am ignoring van Inwagen’s second Consequence Argument. )

II. So much for your last comment. Let me now say something about your comment of July 7.

First, I am glad to learn that you realize that there can be a sense of free will (freedom to act otherwise) that plays an important role in life independently of the question of whether it is the sense that is relevant to moral responsibility.

That said, let me say something about your idea of viewing reasons-responsiveness as a necessary condition for acting freely. If you mean to say that this can be one specific sense of acting freely – “a kind of free will worth having” in your lingo, then I have no problem with it. However, this is not the sense free will associated with one’s being free to act otherwise, as for it reasons-responsiveness is not a necessary condition. Sometimes, agents choose to act irrationally, e.g. by continuing to consume food that is unhealthy for them, or by underestimating certain bodily symptoms of theirs which suggest that they may be suffering from an illness, etc.

I disagree with your response to Thomas. You say:

Thomas laments (to paraphrase): "What good is it that I do otherwise in worlds with a different past/set of laws? I want to be able to do otherwise in this world, given this past/set of laws." The compatibilist lament is analogous: "What good is it that some other event occurs in a different possible world? I want some assurance that the event that occurs in the actual world was of my doing. But if it turns out that I could have just as easily done one thing as another in the exact same situation (past + laws), given the exact same set of reasons, why on earth would I think that the actual world event was of my own doing as opposed to something that just happened?"
I fail to see what, according to your compatibilist, is the problem. Suppose that, after careful deliberation, I decide to spend the months of May + June of next year, at Rutgers rather than at Cornell, and suppose my decision is not causally determined. Why on earth would I think that, just because I could have decided otherwise, the decision I made was not my own doing? After all, it did not occur to me out of the blue. Moreover, when I made the decision, I did not just find myself with it, in a way that I sometimes find myself with a thought that crosses my mind.
Or suppose that I have equally good reasons for doing A as I have for doing B, and I do A. True, I do not have a contrastive explanation for what I did. But why think, as you seem to assume, that in acting as I did, I was not responsive to reasons, and acted irrationally?

David,

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

I. I did not intend to be secretly promoting John's view. Like you, I believe that all versions of the consequence argument require a transfer principle of some kind. I was trying to see if you could elaborate on this claim, help me to better understand it. If fact, I've debated with John about this for some while and we've gotten to a kind of dialectical stalemate. I was hoping you could help move the debate forward and it appears that you have.

Specifically, I was wondering (and I’m sorry for not explicitly saying this previously) whether you thought that Fischer's extension principle depended upon a transfer principle like Beta or a closed-under-entailment principle like Beta-2. Given what you’ve said, I was thinking of things too narrowly. The principle in Ginet's argument (which is like Fischer's principle) requires a transfer of ability principle. So I'm grateful for that result!

II. I don't endorse the radical version of the Mind argument: that free will requires determinism. Thus, I believe that there are indeterministic stories that you could tell where the agent acts freely. The compatibilist can accept this. My worry is that indeterminism leaves open the potential for indeterministic stories that don’t make sense. In the end, any libertarian story is going to have restrictions that are lacking in a similar compatibilist account. At the very least, there is more possibility for trouble.

Let me add that, on my view, reasons-responsiveness requires the ability to do otherwise. As Descartes noted, we can always do something otherwise if only to prove that we have free will. This says a lot about free will, showing how flimsy our reasons for action may be. On my view, it helps ground both the ability to do otherwise and reasons-responsiveness as necessary conditions for free will.

Joe and David,

Perhaps you will be consoled to know that I am equally interested in what each of you write! And I don't expect any agreement, either explicit or secret! My hopes are not that high; in contrast, I aspire to lay out my views as clearly as possible, with the hope that some will find them at least of interest (if not entirely compelling). One should probably think of oneself as addressing idealized agnostics, rather than those with antecedent commitments.

Allow me to write that I do not see anything in Carl Ginet's presentation that suggests that we *need* a transfer principle of ability (or certainly inability) to develop the CA. It is one thing to point out that a given development of the CA employs a transfer principle. (Of course, I was discussing transfer of powerlessness principles, such as Beta, *not* transfer of ability principles!) It is quite another to argue that one *needs* such a transfer principle--that the argument *requires* it. Mark Ravizza and I contend in "Free Will and the Modal Principle" that the CA does not *require* any transfer of powerlessness principle. Nothing I have seen thus far impugns this result. Certainly, nothing in Nelson Pike's work suggests that one needs a Beta-like principle to generate the CA or (what he addressed more directly) the argument for theological incompatibilism.

You might also have a look at J. Howard Sobel's *A Puzzle for the Will*. In this book Sobel gives more "formal" developments of the CA arguments I have sketched (following, of course, Ginet and van Inwagen) in a less formal way. Sobel claims that these more formal developments constitute valid arguments. As far as I can tell, some of Sobel's arguments do not employ Beta or any transfer of powerlessness principle.

So I am completely unmoved. It is tricky, and obviously some really smart people disagree with me here (folks like you and also PvI and Fritz Warfield), but I would point out that simply pointing to the fact that certain approaches to presenting a version of the CA use a transfer of power principle goes absolutely NO distance toward showing that we *need* such a principle to give a valid version of the CA, and further, that we need a transfer of POWERLESSNESS principle. Ravizza and I seek to make this argument in somwehat more detail (although, no doubt, less detail than would be desirable) in "Free Will and the Modal Principle."

Joe and David,

I'm looking at what David wrote about Ginet, and I'm yet again bumfuzzled. First, there is nothing about Ginet's principle "needing a transfer principle". To motivate a principle or present it via a certain route does not in any way imply that it *needs* that route! Further, the principle Ginet is here using doesn't seem to be any kind of transfer principle. It is certainly not a Beta-like transfer or powerlessness principle.
Joe writes that Ginet's principle is "similar" to such principles, but I don't see it.

So what is the significance of Pruss's result? I am extremely skeptical of "proofs" in this domain. No doubt careful study of it--even in its "simplified" form presented by David--will prove illuminating. But often I find that if one looks carefully, one will see that the interpretation of the relevant operators is crucial; given one interpretation, certain elements of the argument (such as perhaps Beta or Beta-like modal transfer principles) become more compelling, but this opens up ways of denying other elements (such as the fixity of the natural laws or past). Overall, I'm extremely skeptical that we'll have a knockdown argument for incompatibilism.

That's not to say that we can make progress in better understanding the CA.

To clarify my previous comment. David did not write that Ginet writes (or even suggests) that a Beta-like principle is required for the CA. It was Joe who apparently learned that lesson from David's comment.

My recurrent bouts of bumfuzzlement are no doubt a temporary insanity caused by the clear air of Portland, Oregon.

But I don't really see why what Ginet says even suggests a transfer principle, even a transfer of ability principle. He basically says this. If I can now make it the case that I raise my coffee cup, I can thereby make it the case that: Germany won the 2014 World Cup and I raise my coffee up now. How exactly does that point bear on transfer principles? Maybe it does, but the point doesn't seem to require anything fancy.

John and Joe:

One reason I asked my question above is that van Inwagen's proposed "exact access" revision of Beta in FWRAM purportedly sidesteps complaints about conjunctive agglomeration that infected the original Beta. I'm interested to see what Alexander might say about that.

John writes,

"given one interpretation, certain elements of the argument (such as perhaps Beta or Beta-like modal transfer principles) become more compelling, but this opens up ways of denying other elements (such as the fixity of the natural laws or past)." Speaking of which, I found Jenann Ismael's papers (e.g. http://www.jenanni.com/papers/Causation,%20Free%20Will,%20and%20Naturalism.pdf ; http://www.jenanni.com/papers/Decision%20and%20the%20Open%20Future.pdf ) to contain much of the same wonderful stuff (and more) as the presentation, without the annoying video jitter that one might get with typical internet connections.

Thanks, Paul.
It would be nice if there were a transcript of this presentation, or a written version that is accessible. I'd love to read it; perhaps I should get in touch with Jenann.

Thanks for the reply, Alexander (if I may).

That’s funny about your original title. I sympathize. Let's set aside everything that has to do with (re)defining the term 'incompatibiism'.

I requested that you state the conclusion of your version of CA without using terms like 'incompatibilism' or sentences in a particular logical system.
You replied: “the argument concludes to "incompatibilism" in the same sense that van Inwagen's argument does”.

Right, I took that much from the paper. But I wanted to ask for clarification precisely because people disagree about what this sense of incompatibilism is. (Even PvI isn't clear on this.) So, I'm not sure how to take your reply. Maybe the question was too open-ended.

How about this...

Do you think that the conclusion of your CA may be true even if

(1) necessarily, the truth/falsity of determinism (as PvI defines it) is irrelevant to the truth/falsity of the thesis that someone like us (law-abiding, with a remote past, etc.) has free will?

(2) necessarily, there exists no person P who lacks free will (even in part) *because* P is subject to deterministic causal/physical/natural laws?

Hi Joe,

Thanks for your response. Our exchange seems to involve a misunderstanding. By a ''Transfer Principle", I understand a principle that *purports* to tell one how to move validly from a certain
unavoidability (power possibility or avoidability) claim (+ certain other assumptions) to a different such claim. So for example, I take the following to be Transfer Principles:
Np, N(if* p then* q), Ergo Nq. 'if*.... then*....' stands for the material conditional.
Np, p entails q, Ergo, Nq.
Np, Nq, Ergo, N(p&q).
P*(p), Ergo P*(Pv q) 'P*(p)' stands for 'p& Someone has or had it within his power to make it the case that p.

Carl Ginet's Principle says:

Given any truth entirely about the past, Bt, if I now have it open to me to make true
a certain proposition about the future, At, then I now have it open to me to make true the conjunction of Bt and At. Or formally:

G: For all S, t, Bt, and At: if Ost(At), then Ost(Bt & At).

Hence, I also view Ginet's principle as a Transfer Principle, since it tells us that from one power possibility statement we can infer another one. (That I view G as a Transfer Principle does not mean that I am not considering it as quite intuitive.)

Now, on my view, John's 1994 principle IS NOT a Transfer Principle. It says (I believe):

F: An agent can do X only if his doing X can be an extension of the actual past, holding the laws fixed,

which I take to be equivalent to what I take to be Pike's principle:

PK: It is within someone’s power at time t to do A at time t’ only if there is a possible world with the same past relative to t, and the same natural laws as in the actual world, in which S does A at t’ (t’>t). (Pike does not state his principle in terms of PK, but PK captures what he says rather well.)

In my earlier response to you, I said that do not view Pike's principle as a Transfer Principle, but rather as a *conceptual constraint* on the notion of something being within an agent's power. In general, I take conceptual constraints on a certain notion to be more fundamental than certain inference principles involving that notion. Also, since Pike's principle seems to me to beyond reproach, I take John's 1994 argument for the incompatibility of determinism and freedom to do otherwise, to be just as convincing as Alexander two arguments based respectively on Beta-2 and Gamma-2. The advantage of arguments based on Transfer Principles lies, in my view, in the fact that, in case a certain compatibilist might not be willing to accept PK, he would have to deal with arguments such as Alexander's in which the Transfer Principles employed admit of a formal proof of validity, which implies that he would have to reject the fixity of the remote past or of the laws of nature, or to find a way to qualify these principles in some way - an endeavor which is not a simple one.

(My response to your comment takes into account John Fischer's two comments on Ginet's principle.)

Alexander,

Let me consider the examples you provide above a bit more. Nonetheless, I overstated my point, and thanks for helping me to see that. I don’t want to suggest that indeterministic contrastive explanations cannot be given. Further, it seems to me that some deterministic contrastive explanations have problems, as well. I still believe there is an important difference but I haven’t been able to formulate it yet.

I have a question about your “Incompatibilism proved” paper, specifically about the interpretation of the N-operator. Similar comments should apply to your interpretation of the M-operator. In van Inwagen 1983, the N-operator is the no-choice operator but you flesh "no choice" out in more detail. You write: "It is natural to read the claim that there was, is and will be no choice about r as saying that there is nothing that anyone can (ever) do that would falsify r" (Pruss 2013, 433; cf. Widerker's elaboration, 1; Humer 2000, 538).

Then you provide the following formal interpretation:

Nr iff r & ~∃x∃α [Can(x, α) & (Does(x, α) □→ ~r)] (433; Widerker, 1)

Widerker reads this as: r & "There is nothing that anyone can do, such that had she/he done it, it would falsify" r (Widerker, 1).

As I read the formal definition of "Nr" it says: There is no action that one is able to do such that were she/he to do it, r would be false. “For all r, Nr” does not strike me as a particularly worrisome claim. For one thing, Nr is restricted to true propositions. Suppose there is some future proposition X that is true. That is all you know about X: it is true. Still, knowing just that much what could you do to falsify it? Given that X is true, my inclination is to say that there is no action that I am able to do such that were I to do it, this future (true) proposition would be false. It seems reasonable to say that I can’t change the true to the false.

What is the real problem for free will, given your argument? Is it determinism? Or is it the fact that determinism entails some broader thesis, like bivalence or (better) Ned Markosian’s tensed view of semantics ?

Alexander: Just to clarify, question 1 in my last comment is trying to get at the same question that Joe brings up (in a better way) at the end of his post, so no need to reply separately to mine. Thanks.

Hi John,

I. I hope that what I wrote to Joe made my position clearer. Let me stress again that I do NOT view Pike's principle as a Transfer Principle, but rather as a *conceptual constraint* on the notion of something being within an agent's power. In general, I take a conceptual constraint on a certain notion to be more fundamental than a certain transfer principle involving that notion.

Hence, for me, Pike’s principle and Ginet’s principle are not on a par.


II. You say:

“…. I do not see anything in Carl Ginet's presentation that suggests that we *need* a transfer principle of ability (or certainly inability) to develop the CA.”

I never said that we *need* such a principle for stating a CA, or that a CA requires such a principle. In fact, assuming that by CA you mean an argument for the incompatibility of determinism and freedom to do otherwise, I completely agree that it does not. For example, your 1995 argument does not employ such a principle, but only what I referred to as a conceptual constraint on the notion of something being within an agent’s power.

That said, it’s obvious that, in addition to assuming the necessity of the remote past and the necessity of the laws of nature, any successful CA will also have to employ *some* further assumption, such as PK, or some suitable Transfer of Ability Principle like Ginet’s, or a Transfer of Inability (Power Necessity) principle like Beta-2 or Gamma-2.


III. You say: “Of course, I was discussing transfer of powerlessness principles, such as Beta, *not* transfer of ability principles!”

Your remark *might* suggest that you think that transfer of powerlessness principles are superior to transfer of ability principles. But why? First, Ginet’s principle is of the latter sort.
Second, in my own work, I found it convenient to employ a transfer of ability principle such as the following
If p entails q, and P*(not-q), then P*(not-p),
which is equivalent to the transfer of powerlessness principle
If Np and p entails q, then Nq,
that Alexander has shown to be valid.

In general, any transfer of powerlessness principle can be turned into a transfer of ability principle by employing the logical rule of contraposition.

III. One final reaction to a question of yours regarding Ginet’s principle. You say:

“But I don't really see why what Ginet says even suggests a transfer principle, even a transfer of ability principle. He basically says this. If I can now make it the case that I raise my coffee cup, I can thereby make it the case that: Germany won the 2014 World Cup and I raise my coffee up now. How exactly does that point bear on transfer principles?”

The reason Ginet's principle is a transfer principle is this: It tells us if an agent has it within his power that a certain fact obtains (= I raise my coffee cup in the next moment), then, under certain conditions, that agent has it within his power that another fact obtains (= Germany won the 1974 World Cup and I raise my coffee cup in the next moment.) That is, it tells us that one ability fact (+ certain assumptions) entails another one. One could easily state Ginet’s principle also as a rule of inference telling us how to infer a certain ability statement from another one.

David,

Thanks for the (as always) thoughtful and helpful clarifications. You (and Joe) have helped me to think about these issues further and more carefully. Much appreciated.

My bottom line, which I still don't see any reason to reject: one can formulate a version of the CA that does not explicitly or implicitly employ a Beta-like principle, i.e., a principle of transfer of powerlessness. I think we are in agreement about this (correct me if I'm wrong).

David,

You write:

That said, it’s obvious that, in addition to assuming the necessity of the remote past and the necessity of the laws of nature, any successful CA will also have to employ *some* further assumption, such as PK, or some suitable Transfer of Ability Principle like Ginet’s, or a Transfer of Inability (Power Necessity) principle like Beta-2 or Gamma-2.

Just so I understand, what is "PK"? Also, what do you think of the "Conditional Version" of the CA, which I present in various venues and discuss and defend in the paper with Mark Ravizza, "Free Will and the Modal Principle". I think it is valid and I don't see that it depends on any of the ingredients you mention, but, in particular, it does not depend on any Beta-like or "transfer or inability" priniciple. Or does it?

Thanks.

Joe:

"Given that X is true, my inclination is to say that there is no action that I am able to do such that were I to do it, this future (true) proposition would be false."

This is certainly true if the parentheses around "true" are dropped. There is nothing I can do to make it be the case that a true proposition is false.

But if the parenthetical phrase is not taken to be a part of the consequent, but is simply an editorial comment, then your claim sure seems false. For instance, let p be the true proposition that I will submit my response. There is something I can do such that were I to do it, then p would be false. What is it? Well, it's turning off my computer, refraining from responding, that sort of thing. I can do all these things. And were I to do them, p would be false.

I am confused. Surely there are plenty of counterfactuals whose consequent is in fact false and whose antecedent is within our power.

"What is the real problem for free will, given your argument? Is it determinism? Or is it the fact that determinism entails some broader thesis, like bivalence or (better) Ned Markosian’s tensed view of semantics ?"

The argument doesn't say what the real problem for free will is, it only says that free will is incompatible with determinism (subject to the provisos in my lengthy earlier comment). This does not imply any *explanatory* connection between determinism and lack of free will. The argument could be getting at a symptom rather than the real problem, much as the incompatibility with Goedel's incompleteness theorem is only a symptom rather than the real problem with positivism.

I have no difficulties with bivalence. In regard to time, I am an eternalist B-theorist. I am inclined to think time is rather like space ontologically (though there are very important non-ontological differences: see here), and I wouldn't be surprised if neither time nor space ended up being a part of our fundamental physics and metaphysics.

I think the real problem for free will is having all of the ultimate origins of our actions be outside of us. Causal determinism ensures this lack of ultimate origination (at least in beings that aren't as old as the world). But the argument is silent on these questions.

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