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06/07/2014

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Hi Kristen,

I agree with you. The problem is self-creation, not determinism. That's Galen Strawson's view (when he's wearing his impossibilist hat). It's my view. It's Neil Levy's view. I'm guessing it's Thomas's view, too. Any card carrying skeptic who disagrees with that seems confused to me.

One wrinkle here is that Pereboom believes free will (e.g., agent-causal libertarianism) is conceptually possible and coherent. I've always thought this was strange and wrong (or so it seems to me). Self-creation is impossible because of the laws of logic. A cannot create A' if A doesn't exist yet - that follows from logic, not physics. Maybe if we could persuade Pereboom of this, he would agree with you more clearly? Or maybe I'm wrong? I hate disagreeing with Pereboom.


Hi Kristin,

I am just catching up on your posts and *really* like how you are thinking about these issues. I am 100% in agreement with you that, given that there is an intuition that the “zygotized” agent is not free, we next need to “diagnose” the intuition.

You pose a puzzle: On what basis could we diagnose the intuition in the Zygote Argument as being incompatibilist versus incompossibilist in origin? Suppose we use some argument X to say one or the other. Then why rely on the Zygote Argument at all to establish incompatibilism versus incompossibilism? Why not just look at X directly?

But there is another way to diagnose intuitions that you may not have considered (or at least I don’t see this option overtly discussed in your post), and that does not involve appealing to some additional free standing argument: The Method of Minimal Pairs. On this approach, we construct two versions of the Zygote Argument that are matched in all respects but for some factor F of interest. We are assuming (I think correctly) that intuition says that the zygotized agent is unfree. Suppose in the case modified only with respect to feature F, intuition says the agent *is* free. Then we can conclude that F is the critical feature that underlies our intuition that the zygotized agent is not free.

My own view is that the critical feature F that explains intuitions in the Zygote Case is indeterminism of the mundane event causal variety (so I am an incompatibilist by your definition). Interestingly, it can be injected historically prior to the formation of Ernie’s self (i.e., during the ontogeny of his character), as well as in more standard Valerian/Kaneian (and most recently Franklinian) locations. To really influence intuition, it should preferably be injected in all these places.

There is more that could be said about *why* event causal stochasticity has this salubrious effect on freedom. My short (and partial) answer is that freedom requires our having a self that lies at the “causal root” of our agency. Being a causal root does not require something so megamaniacal (to use John’s apt term) as having to be one’s own self-creator. It only requires that one’s self strongly “screens off” the past in explaining why we do what we do, and event causal stochasticity in the formation of the self is sufficient for this. Gunnar has written some things roughly along these lines, and I think he is right.

Kristin, even if you don’t agree with my diagnosis that the critical feature in Zygote Cases is absence of event causal stochasticity, I wonder what you think of the method of minimal pairs as a way to pursue the (much needed) project of diagnosing intuitions.

Thanks, Kip, for the friendly reply.

I, too, have trouble with hard incompatibilism, taken as the view that free-will is incompatible (in my sense) with both deterministic and indeterministic laws. However, I'm worried that I'm missing something.

You see, I find the _Mind_ Argument very compelling. I am inclined to say that *even if someone could be a causa sui*, indeterministic causation would threaten that being's freedom. So, I consider myself an incompatibilist about free will and (at least certain sorts of) indeterministic laws. I wish there were a cute name for this view--is there? I'll just call myself a "secondary" incompatibilist. I would continue to be a secondary incompatibilist even if I were to accept that the Basic Argument is sound. (Of course, all this makes sense only if you permit me some counterfactual reasoning and some impossible worlds semantics.)

This makes me wonder if an incompatibilist, too, has some way of arguing that deterministic laws undermine free will even if free will is impossible. Am I just blind to it because I have never had the intuition that deterministic laws pose a threat to free will?

As for Pereboom: When I first went down this road, I thought he that couldn't drop the causal determination from his proposed explanation, given the causal history principle he was using it to defend. By definition, it's true that he can't drop it and continue to qualify as a hard incompatibilist.

But, given that he defends secondary incompatibilism elsewhere in his book, it seems he only needs incompossibilism (for beings like us) to close his case for the view that we can't possibly be free--that we're 'living without free will". It seems that he might say that all the determination talk was just to keep the conversation focused on determinsitic worlds without identifying the determination itself as a threat--which was harder to do, prior to 'incompossibilism' talk. Going that route, his challenge would be to avoid full-blown skepticism by showing that there is some less-than-ultimate-but-more-than-we-can-have sourcehood that can be had by agent-causes. I'm gonna say it: I just don't think he has done that yet.

But sure seems to me that every case made for hard incompatibilism also supports (equally or better) source impossibilism. If compossibilsits could solve the sourcehood problem, I think their "determinism" problem would disappear.

Hi Chandra, and thanks for the interesting suggestion.

I think I may need a slightly more fleshed-out version of your "Method of Minimal Pairs". You say "Suppose in the case modified only with respect to [some candidate] feature F, intuition says the agent *is* free. Then we can conclude that [this candidate] F is the critical feature". Is this method distinct from the one Mele uses in his reply [http://philpapers.org/rec/MELACO] to Pereboom's Four-Case Argument?

If I'm following, you're suggesting that we get rid of *just* the causal determination in Ernie's story and do another intuition check. If our intuition is that free will is restored, then we have reason to think that determination was the problem in the manipulation story. In my post, I admit that if the intuition test gave the result that you expect, it would be progress in favor of incompatibilism. But, since the impossibilist can't be expected to have this intuition, I worry that such intuition tests will lead to a stalemate.

That's what led to my suggestion of the scenario in which--along the lines of your Method, right?--that we try to remedy just the sourcehood problem without changing the laws, and see what happens. For me, at least, it seems that if someone *were* a causa sui, then (even if that's total overkill with respect freedom-relevant sourcehood), that causa sui would be free in her first moment of action and at least a few thereafter. After that, things get complicated. I'd have to know more about the epistemic status of the causa sui, etc., to make a clear judgment. But I digress.

What is more, I think that the impossibilist has a fairly plausible explanation for why manipulation cases run so much better on the assumption of deterministic laws--which I think they do. Their function is rhetorical only. It's the deterministic laws that allow us, in our minds, to trace back to the *source* of our free-will problem. The deterministic laws help us to *see* that all points of our lives are just like that first point--but the laws don't, at a metaphysical level, pose any *additional* threat to free will. So, if determination were crucial for teaching us the lesson of the manipulation case, isn't it a bit shady to (as you suggest) take it out of the case and try again?

In short, I think your Method, if I understand it, can be useful in some contexts, but I worry that it's not going to be enough to clear up the debate between source incompatibilists and source impossibilists. I'd be very pleased, though, if you would persuade me otherwise.

"If source impossibilism is true, then source incompatibilism is false (and vice versa)."

Why is this, exactly? What if someone holds (1) Determinism undermines free will by preventing us from being the right sort of source of our actions (for reason A). (2) Indeterminism undermines free will by preventing us from being the right sort of source of our actions (for reason B). So (3) Free will is impossible because it is impossible for us to be the right sort of source of our actions.

Prima facie this combination of views seems coherent, and it seems to fit the definitions of source incompatibilism and source impossibilism above. What's gone wrong?

Maybe in the background is a principle of explanatory monism, holding that if "A because B" is true, "A because C" can't be true. But that principle seems false in general. E.g. (for a reasonably close analogy) "Joe's attempt to square the circle failed because step 27 didn't go through" and "Joe's attempt to square the circle failed because squaring the circle is impossible."

Hi Kristin: Here’s how I see it. What rules out moral responsibility (in the basic desert sense) generally is that agents don’t actually have responsibility-relevant control. There is more than one way for this control might to be precluded. Determination by factors beyond the agent’s control is one way, indeterminism in event-causal contexts is another. When causal determination rules out moral responsibility, it does so because the action is deterministically produced by factors beyond the agent’s control, and when indeterminism precludes it, it does so because it does not allow for the agent to settle whether the decision will occur. The disappearing agent argument is my favorite way of showing the latter, the manipulation argument the former. One might suspect that the impossibility of self-creation explains the intuitions in the manipulation argument. But for the kinds of reasons Randy invokes, which I mention in the previous thread, I don’t think the basic argument works. So in the deterministic case, I’m left with the intuition that agents are not responsible because they’re causally determined by factors beyond their control. Crucially, in my view it’s the failure of the basic argument that helps confirm this as the best explanation of the intuitions in the manipulation argument. But this does not indicate that the manipulation argument is the façade of another argument (i.e., the façade of an objection to the basic argument).

Consider this case:
--
*Zygote-Revised*
Diana selects a zygote and implants it in Mary with the intention that many years later, Ernie As. There is indeterminism operating between the zygote phase and the development of Ernie’s mature self such that holding fixed Diana’s actions and the laws, many different normatively competent mature selves are possible. Mature Ernie has all the standard compatibilist abilities (reasons-responsiveness, reflective self-criticism, etc.). There is also control-preserving and alternatives-enhancing indeterminism in Ernie’s decision processes of the Valerian/Kaneian varieties (and perhaps other varieties as well). Ernie As in a way that is expressive of his self, but owing to sufficient indeterminism along the way, his Aing is not determined by Diana.
--

Can we not all agree that in Zygote-Revised, there is an intuition that Ernie freely As, or at least that, intuitively, there is a difference in freedom between the original Zygote case and this revised one? I think we should agree on this.

What has changed between Original and Revised? It is doubtful that we somehow see Ernie in the Revised case as a magical casua sui. The only feature that seems to have changed in the Revised case is *determination by the remote past and laws*, so this is plausibly the feature that explains intuitions in the Original one. This doesn’t mean that the event causal libertarian wins the overall game, b/c many other arguments (Basic Argument, disappearing agent argument) need to be considered. But by testing intuitions in closely matched cases, the narrow conclusion--that intuitions in the Original Zygote Case are driven by determination by the remote past and laws—gains support.

Hi Dave (if I may),

Thanks for raising this point. Yes, I agree: if we use “source impossibilism” as I defined it in the post, then source incompatibilists can be source impossibilists. I was playing fast and loose, and relying on context. Allow me to be more precise.

Here are two free-will views:
1. Incompatibilism:
Necessarily, if the laws of nature in a universe are deterministic and, in accordance with these laws, it is causally determined that someone S performs an action A, then S does not freely perform A (at least in part) because S is causally determined to A.

2. Source (“Hard Luck”) Impossibilism:
Necessarily, if someone S performs an action A, then S does not freely perform A just because S lacks “ultimate control” over the source of that action—which is to say that there is no point in time t such that S self-created ex nihilo at t, and this suffices to make any action performed by S the product of freedom-undermining constitutive luck.

As I see things, (2) is the conclusion of the Basic Argument. Since we’re just considering the logical consistency of views here, let us set aside the question of whether (2) accurately expresses the conclusion of the Basic Argument for later.

Assuming standard possible worlds semantics for modal claims, that ‘because’ is factive, and some intuitive logical rules for ‘because’ [e.g. http://philpapers.org/rec/FINTPL-2; http://philpapers.org/rec/SCHALF-2], the views (1) and (2) seem to be contraries. In order for (1) to be true, there must be at least one possible world at which deterministic laws are (at least partly) what *makes* someone unfree, but (2) says that there this is no such world.

Things get tricky, of course, if we adopt impossible worlds semantics for modal claims. In that case, the incompatibilist might opt for a different characterization of their view that deterministic laws preclude free will. Something like:

3. Counterpossible Incompatibilism:
Necessarily, if the laws of nature in a universe are deterministic and, in accordance with these laws, it is causally determined that someone S performs an action A, then S does not freely perform A (at least in part) because S is causally determined to A—so long as (perhaps counterpossibly) nothing else preemptively undermines S’s free will.

(3) is consistent with (2): (3) would be true if there’s at least one *impossible* world at which deterministic laws actually get a chance to do their dirty work on someone S, and (2) doesn’t tell us that there is no such impossible world. Of course, if both (2) and (3) were true, it would not be *possible* for us normal humans to be unfree owing to deterministic laws, but the incompatibilists would still be right about the “threat” posed by deterministic laws.

My question in the post is, assuming incompossibilism is true, could a manipulation argument settle who holds incompossibilism for the right reasons? I worry that the answer is “no”.

Thanks, Derk, for this nice summary of your views.

I fully agree with your last point. Drawing upon an objection to the Basic Argument in one’s best-explanation argument would not reduce the manipulation argument to a façade for another argument. The façade problem only arises if one invokes an independent, positive defense of incompatibilism along the way—e.g., the Consequence Argument (assuming, for now that this argument would, if sound, show that incompatibilism is true—which, of course, I’d deny).

I, too, find the disappearing agent argument convincing. So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that you're right: (1) secondary incompatibilism (free will is incompatible with indeterminism) is true,
(2) incossibilism* is true: no normal human-like being (i.e., someone who is subject to the laws of nature, not a god-like agent cause, etc.) living in a deterministic universe has free will, and
(3) incompossibilism* is true because no normal human-like being can be the freedom-relevant sources of our actions, at least when the laws of nature are deterministic.

Now, how much farther can manipulation arguments take us? Say a manipulation case is given to us and we mull it over for a bit.

You say: “Gee, seems like the menacing feature in this case is that the victim’s actions were causally determined by factors beyond his control.”

To which I respond: “Right, it seems that way, but the determination itself doesn’t do anything. In the manipulation case, the determination is just a rhetorical tool to help you to see that it’s the fact that the victim wasn’t, in effect, a causa sui that prevents him from acting freely—just as the Basic Argument tells us, which I believe is sound despite your proposed objection.”

Wouldn’t it be right to say the manipulation argument isn’t going to settle which of is right? Yes, we could pause to resolve our differences over the soundness of the Basic Argument, and then come back and use the result in our dispute over what best explains the manipulation victim’s lack of freedom and responsibility. But if I’m right, and the Basic Argument is sound, then that would be a meaningless exercise—there’d be nothing more to learn
*from the manipulation argument* by doing this.

In sum, I don’t want to deny that *given your background views* that your proposed best-explanation seems to be the best (assuming we’re talking about Mele’s zygote story or your Case 3, understood as being metaphysically equivalent to the zygote story). I do want to say that the manipulation argument itself won’t help me to see that your background views are true and, so, can’t settle the dispute between us. Manipulation arguments may be useful in getting people to switch over to incompossibilism*, but they don't do much for us once we are there.

Hi Chandra: that’s an interesting twist on the story.

A few thoughts:

1. I don’t have the intuitive reaction to your case that you’re expecting. Partly this is because the case is underdescribed (which is totally understandable in this context), so I have no clear intuition either way. However, given that I consider indetermination in the course of one's reasoning to be freedom-undermining, "assuring" me that it shows up (a lot) early in Ernie*s life doesn't make me any more inclined to think that mature Ernie* sometimes acts freely. I wonder: on what grounds do you claim that I *should* think Ernie in your case—call him Ernie*—is free and responsible?

2. My prima facie intuition is that there might be a freedom- or responsibility-relevant difference between Mele’s Ernie and your Ernie*. But might we plausibly account for that by arguing that you have, in effect, taken the “agent-manipulator” out of your story. Prima facie intuitions about cases with and without agents as manipulators tend to differ (at least in strength) even when there is apparently no freedom-relevant difference between the stories.

Specifically, it is often argued that there is no freedom-relevant difference between a person who is *intentionally* created by Diana and a person who is originally created by a random process—e.g., by a zygote-making machine. If the indetermination stops infecting Ernie*s development before he matures, then it seems to me that mature Ernie* is the result of indeterministic processes over which he had no control--just as if mature Ernie* had been produced by the random zygote-making machine, only Ernie*'s creation took a lot longer.

3. You make a nice point elsewhere that the debate between compatibilists and incompatiibilists when it comes to manipulation arguments is largely “about what features of the manipulation case drive our intuitive responses” (2011: 25; http://philpapers.org/rec/SRIWMA). What is interesting, I think, is that incompatibilists might be right about the empirical claim that the deterministic laws in manipulation stories *drive* the *rational intuition* that Ernie is not free or responsible *and yet* deterministic laws do not play a metaphysical role in undermining Ernie’s freedom or responsibility. The "drive" is just a *rhetorical* drive. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about this. Perhaps a clever empirical study might help here?

(And Dave: Looking back at my reply to you, I wish I had expressed myself in a more concessive tone. Please add a *facepalm* and a "my bad" to the beginning of my reply.)

Hi Kristin -- thanks for this! Very interesting! Regarding:

"the views (1) and (2) seem to be contraries. In order for (1) to be true, there must be at least one possible world at which deterministic laws are (at least partly) what *makes* someone unfree, but (2) says that there this is no such world."

I don't quite see this. What if someone holds, in the spirit of the suggestion in my earlier comment [which seems to have disappeared from the discussion above]: (4) if determinism is true, no-one has ultimate control of their actions because determinism is true (5) if indeterminism is true, no-one has ultimate control of their actions because indeterminism is true, (6) whether or not determinism is true, no-one has free will because no-one has ultimate control of their actions, and (7) if determinism is true, no-one has free will because determinism is true (this follows from (4), (6), and a transitivity principle for "because").

Again, this view seems coherent and it seems to satisfy your more precise definitions of incompatibilism and source impossibilism. You seem to hold in the passage quoted above that your definition of source impossibilism rules out worlds where something like (7) is true. But that follows only if you assume something like the dubious principle of explanatory monism that I mentioned above.

Perhaps you'll say that (4) is implausible. I'm not sure about that, but even if so this doesn't look like the sort of logical incompatibility you're appealing to here. That said, I'm sure one could formulate some putative condition C for absence of free will such that it's implausible that C could obtain in virtue of determinism being true. Then one could define C-impossibilism (free will is impossible because it's impossible for C to obtain), and it will then be implausible that C-impossibilism and incompatibilism are both true. But again this won't be a logical incompatibility. And in any case C-impossibilism (like your "source impossibilism") above now looks like just one variety of source impossibilism, so you wouldn't get the result that the more general versions of source impossibilism are incompatible with incompatibilism.

Derk doesn't think the Basic Argument works? Why/how? Because agent causal libertarianism is coherent?

It just seems obvious to me that, whether determinism is true or not, we lack free will (if we do lack it) because we do not self-create in the right way - and specifically, we do not have control over the initial conditions that lead us to make certain choices (rather than others) later in our lives. We don't choose to be gay or straight, we don't choose to like bananas more than self-amputation, we don't choose to like ice cream more than ant bites. All of this is chosen for us, and we play out our lives according to that initial endowment of preferences.

@Kristen, you write “I don’t have the intuitive reaction to your case that you’re expecting.”

I make a distinction between intuition and reflective all things considered judgments. I know some people in the field question this distinction, but it is one supported in actual philosophical methodology as well as reams of cognitive science. Intuitions are spontaneous quasi-perceptual intellectual seemings. It is widely thought that they can diverge from one’s explicit theory—indeed they can be quite recalcitrant in the face of opposed explicit theory. The possibility of this divergence is part of what allows intuitions to play an evidential role in philosophical theory construction. I suspect that you are reporting your all things considered judgment about Zygote-Revised based on your theoretical commitments.

Consider this case:
--
*Zygote Version 3*
Diana hoped that one day Ernie would A but she did not do anything to try to get him to A. Starting out as an ordinary zygote, Ernie matured into a healthy, unimpaired adult. He is normatively competent, reasons-responsive, etc… and he As in a way that is self-expressive.
--
I am hoping you will agree that in Version 3, *intuitively* Ernie As freely. This seems obvious because there is no manipulation at all, and nothing about the case suggests an impediment to freedom. You might respond that even in this scenario, Ernie is not free because freedom requires being an ultimate source and nothing can be such a thing. But that isn’t reporting your intuitions—that is stating your explicit theoretical commitments.

You might then say, Why should anyone care about intuitions? But that is another debate. I am operating with the standard assumption that intuitions provide (defeasible) evidence for a philosophical theory (for the record, I think intuitions are well equipped to play this justifacatory role, but won’t try to defend this here). I am taking for granted that intuitions matter and trying to probe further what drives intuitions about zygotized agents. I wonder if you’d be willing to comment about what you see as the distinction between, and respective roles of, intuition versus reflective judgment in the Zygote debate.

Kristin: I agree that if the basic argument were sound, it might well trump any explanatory considerations that arise from a manipulation argument. But if the basic argument isn’t sound, then a manipulation argument can do explanatory, diagnostic work -- maybe not some austere formulation of a manipulation argument all by itself, but rather conceived as an argument to the best explanation. If we conceive of the manipulation argument as an argument to the best explanation, we shouldn't expect that the sort of formulation of the zygote version you present (for example) will reveal everything that's relevant to the best explanation. In particular, we shouldn't expect that formulation to show that the basic argument is unsound. Best explanation arguments need to rule out the relevant competing explanations, and this task may be wide-ranging.

Kip: Here’s the kind of consideration that Randy Clarke raises in his 2005 response to the basic argument, which convinces me. Suppose the agent-causal libertarian conception of agency is coherent, and we’re created as agent-causal libertarian beings, preprogrammed with a set of strong self-interested motivations and set of roughly equally strong altruistic motivations, and no other kinds of motivations (e.g., motivations to do evil for evil’s sake). Basic argument-style reasoning might well show that we’re not responsible for the fact that our actions are all either self-interested or altruistic. But I can’t see that it shows that when it’s up to someone to make either a self-interested choice or an altruistic choice, and she makes the altruistic one, she’s can’t be morally responsible for making the altruistic one rather than the self-interested one.

Randy’s response is in “On an Argument for the Impossibility of Moral Responsibility,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29 (2005), 13-24.

Derk -

Thanks! I remember that paper.

"Suppose the agent-causal libertarian conception of agency is coherent" - I have to get off board right there. It's not coherent. Galen addresses this in his original article on the Basic Argument:

"But the old objection to libertarianism recurs. How can this inde- terminism help with moral responsibility? Granted that the truth of determinism rules out true moral responsibility, how can the falsity of determinism help? How can the occurrence of partly random or inde- terministic events contribute in any way to one's being truly morally responsible either for one's actions or for one's character? If my efforts of will shape my character in an admirable way, and in so doing are partly indeterministic in nature, while also being shaped (as Kane grants) by my already existing character, why am I not merely lucky?

The general objection applies equally whether determinism is true or false, and can be restated as follows. We are born with a great many genetically determined predispositions for which we are not responsible. We are subject to many early influences for which we are not responsible. These decisively shape our characters, our motives, the general bent and strength of our capacity to make efforts of will. We may later engage in conscious and intentional shaping procedures - call them S-procedures - designed to affect and change our characters, motivational structure, and wills. Suppose we do. The question is then why we engage in the particular S-procedures that we do engage in, and why we engage in them in the particular way that we do. The general answer is that we engage in the particular S-procedures that we do engage in, given the circumstances in which we find ourselves, because of certain features of the way we already are. (Indeterministic factors may also play a part in what happens, but these will not help to make us responsible for what we do.) And these features of the way we already are - call them character features, or C-features - are either wholly the products of genetic or environmental influences, deterministic or random, for which we are not responsible, or are at least partly the result of earlier S-procedures, which are in turn either wholly the product of C-features for which we are not responsible, or are at least partly the product of still earlier S-procedures, which are turn either the products of C-features for which we are not responsible, or the product of such C-features together with still earlier S-rocedures - and so on. In the end, we reach the first S-procedure, and this will have been engaged in, and engaged in the particular way in which it was engaged in, as a result of genetic or environmental factors, deterministic or random, for which we were not responsible."

In other words, libertarianism is parasitic on compatibilism. That is true for both agent-causal and event-causal libertarianism, although the exact definitions of (and differences between) those two were never 100% clear to me. Agent-causal libertarianism appeals more to mysterious and spooky kinds of metaphysics, but ultimately tries to achieve the same thing as event-causal libertarianism - tries to show how compatibilist-type powers can survive certain kinds of indeterminism.

The agent-causal libertarian might think that her species of libertarianism can achieve something more than that, that it can coherently achieve something like the self-creation that Galen refers to, but this is simply a confused mistake, because that kind of self-creation is logically impossible. X cannot create X, because X does not exist before X is created, and X cannot do anything before X exists. When stated like that, it sounds obvious, but a lot of cognitive biases (like the fundamental attribution error) and cultural programming have people thinking they are more responsible for their actions than they are in fact.

Thanks, Chandra.

I appreciate your worry about my purported “intuitive reaction”. I see no reason to reject the distinction between prima facie intuition and pro tanto judgments. And I, too, practice intuition-guided philosophy and take it for granted intuitions matter. I don’t have a highly developed view of my own on this topic, so I can’t say much. However, I consider Mike Huemer’s reflections at the end of “In Defense of Repugnance” [http://philpapers.org/rec/HUEIDO] to be *extremely* applicable to the manipulation argument debate.

I think, though, that there may have been a misunderstanding about my own positive views: I’m not a free-will skeptic, and I’m inclined to think (er, hope) that there’s something wrong with the Basic Argument—and it’s got nothing to do with agent causes. I'm a compossibilism-leaning agnostic about free will. My attention to the Basic Argument and skepticism is a “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer” sort of thing. I’m really not sure who’s going to win, but right now I’m trying to build up a new case for the conclusion that incompatibilists have already lost.

I’m still puzzled at your expectation that I should share your intuitive reaction to Ernie-2 and Ernie-3. I don’t have a clear intuition to either of these cases. Perhaps you think I should be intuiting that a person is free unless there is *clear reason* to think otherwise—a manipulator, etc.—but I don’t see why. I don’t have a clear intuition about Mele’s “Bernie” case either. Maybe I suffer from what Mele calls "intuition deficit disorder"?

Why, then, have I said that manipulation arguments have troubled me so? Well, it’s not about a direct conflict of intuitions—-that I was inclined to think that Bernie is free and then was taken aback to find that, intuitively, Ernie isn’t. Rather, I had no clear intuition that Bernie is free, but a relatively clear intuition that Ernie is not. So, I felt I was being dragged over to incompossibilism, where I had hoped not to end up.

Given my intuitive reaction to Ernie’s story, I am presently working on this challenge: Figure out which features *exactly* account for my intuitive reaction to Ernie (empirical issue), then figure out which of those (if any) might plausibly make my intuition rational (philosophical issue), and then look at arguments to help guide my final judgment about Ernie—a judgment which may or may not generalize back to Bernie. As best I can tell, there aren't any arguments that give me reason to accept the incompatiblists' story about why my intuition about Ernie is rational--because none of their arguments actually defend incompatibilism.

Hi Kristin,

I'm very impressed with your discussion so far -- it's already given me much to think about regarding my own approach to manipulation arguments. (I apologize in advance for being long-winded.)

I wonder whether we couldn't extend Derk's last comment regarding rejecting the Basic Argument and bring it back to manipulation contexts. I share the thought that, supposing agent-causal libertarianism and a universe that plays along, being preprogrammed with starting inclinations, etc. wouldn't by itself rule out the possibility of responsibility. I wonder whether Derk would agree if we moved to a zygote-style case. I would think it shouldn't matter whether the preprogramming was by nature or via some other agent (again, holding fixed agent-causal libertarianism).

If that's right, then plausibly the 'manipulation', whatever that amounts to in these sorts of cases, isn't really doing any work. For it couldn't be the manipulation which brutely undermines responsibility, it would have to be something else. This is just to suggest that being given a manipulation argument is really no different than being given the Direct Argument, or some other 'sourcehood' based attack on compatibilism/compossibilism.

But appealing to 'sourcehood' isn't immediately helpful, since we might expect to disagree over whether the requisite notion (if one there be) can be compatible or not with determinism. Now, one might think that we needn't decide the matter directly. We can adopt a 'best explanation' strategy and appeal to a wider set of considerations.

But I'm not so optimistic, since, arguably, that's what led us to manipulation arguments in the first place. So it will do no good to go back to them and suggest that the proposed 'best explanation' explains them too. And this is especially important if we aren't agreed on what needs explaining.

@Dave: Okay, good. This is very helpful. You’re right: my characterization of source impossibilism still needs a little more work….

As you suggested, there are a few distinct issues here that we can tease apart:

(i) Does (7) follow from (4), (6), and the transitivity of ‘because’?

I agree that it does. I don’t deny transitivity. I’m not interested in wiggling out of this by appeal to some general explanatory monism, although I do accept some explanatory exclusion principles that may be at work in my thinking here. (I hope to come back to your “Joe” example after I think about it a bit more.) So, something else has to give if I’m going to get the result I want.

(ii) Is (4) plausibly true?

Your expectation was right: I deny that (4) is true. You’re also right, of course, that even if (4) is false, that doesn’t change the logical relationships between (4), (6), and (7). So, even if I were to convince you that (4) is false, that wouldn’t address the problem that source incompatibilism and source impossibilism are not, as currently described, contraries.

That said, the plausibility of (4) is not entirely irrelevant. I won’t try to convince you here that (4) is false—although I think it is, and (5) too. But say I *did* convince you. What good would that do me? Well, that depends on:

(iii) What constraints are there, if any, when it comes to proposing defining tenets of basic free-will views?

Say that (4) and (5) are false and I even provide an argument which demonstrates beyond all doubt that (4) and (5) are false. Assuming that the laws of nature simply can’t *do anything* to prevent someone from being a causa sui, why can’t we just put a clause into the definition of source impossibilism which captures that--and, thereby, gives formal statements of source impossibilism and incompatibilism according to which they are contrary views? After all, doing this is just a way to get the logical map to match up to the divides in the metaphysical territory, right? How could that be bad? You see what I mean?(I was trying to get this result on the cheap with my “just because” clause, but clearly that’s not gonna fly.)

It’s funny—I now see that I was thinking about these same issues in relation to a critique of Vihvlein’s proposed definition of ‘incompatibilism’ (according to which incompatibilists must endorse possibilism). There, I decided that it was a mistake to build into the definition of ‘incompatibilism’ the metaphysical views that one would have to defend in order to defend incompatibilism. Hmmm…. something I’ll have to think more about. Thanks!

A general comment for everyone: can't manipulation/zygote arguments simply work like a clarifying lens, which clarifies that we're not self-created in the right way?

Take, for instance, Chandra's question about non-intervening Diana. In that case, Diana does nothing, but Ernie still As. Does this undermine the Zygote Argument? Well, I would say: if Diana doesn't intervene, then the situation no longer functions as a clarifying lens. Against the backdrop of mere determinism, it remains unclear how much Ernie creates himself and/or how much of his life story was fixed well before his birth.

Of course, it doesn't require much sophistication to realize that Ernie is equally fated whether Diana intervenes or not. But this bring us back to intuitions: Diana's intervention smacks us in the face with Ernie's lack of self-creation. The fact that Diana acts so earlier, and yet exerts such a powerful influence on Ernie's later life, is conspicuous, and *highlights* (as a clarifying lens) the fact that Ernie is not self-created in the right way. He's also not self-created when Diana fails to intervene, but this fact is less obvious.

Since Dave has gotten me thinking about technical details, I thought I might press everyone on a little something that has been bothering me.

The term ‘determinism’ is often used in a way that I find somewhat problematic—and this purportedly problematic use has shown up in the course of this thread.

‘Determinism’, we all know, names the *thesis* that that a complete description of the state of the world at any time t and a complete statement of the laws of nature together entail every truth about the world at every time later than t. Glossing over the details, determinism is the thesis that the laws of nature are deterministic.

Now consider this schema, which I’m told is rather widely accepted and seems right to me:
TRUTH: That p is true because p (but not vice versa).

and this instance of TRUTH:
DET: Determinism is true because the natural laws are deterministic (but not vice versa).

DET says that it is *the laws being of a deterministic sort* that makes true the claim *that the laws are deterministic*, and not the other way around. That seems right.

Since the clauses “the laws are deterministic” and “determinism is true” are not interchangeable salvae veritae, the following claims may have different truth-values:
(1) No one has free will because the laws of nature are deterministic.
(2) No one has free will because determinism is true.

Taken literally, (2) expresses the view that something with the ontological status of a (true) proposition—namely, the thesis of determinism itself—could prevent someone from having free will. Someone who thinks that laws have the ontological status of a proposition (e.g. van Inwagen 1983), might accept that, but I find it highly implausible. By contrast, (1) seems like it has at least some chance of being true.

For these reasons, I bristle when confronted with statements which are a mix of first- and second-order claims, e.g. “Determinism precludes free will.”

Thoughts?

@Derk:

Yes, that seems right. If the Basic Argument is unsound, then there is some hope that a manipulation argument might be of some use: by helping us to better explore the full range of our intuitions on free and responsible agency, by leading us to new insights about the nature of sourcehood and threats to it, etc.

However, a looming problem that I’ve been meaning to bring up is highlighted in your closing comment “Best explanation arguments need to rule out the relevant competing explanations, and this task may be wide-ranging”. I have started to think that the debate over the “best-explanation” of Ernie’s lack of freedom will have to be so wide-ranging that it just *is* the free will debate.

I think that Matt may have been thinking along the same lines when he says “We can adopt a 'best explanation' strategy and appeal to a wider set of considerations. But I'm not so optimistic, since, arguably, that's what led us to manipulation arguments in the first place.” If I’m understanding him correctly, then we’re on the same page: It was precisely our difficulty in using traditional, non-persuasive arguments to resolve the free-will problem that made us flee to manipulation arguments, and now manipulation arguments are leading us right back to where we came from.

However, I won’t say we’re been led back to square one. Manipulation arguments may have sent me back into the fray, but I think also have a better sense of the enemy now. That’s not much, but it’s better than being sent back entirely empty-handed after all that work.

Hi Matt,

Thanks for the support!

In addition to what I said in my reply to Derk about being roughly on the same page, I'd say that I agree with what you said in your comment(and much of what you say here: http://philpapers.org/s/matt%20king).

It always struck me as odd that people, at least early in the debate, used to talk about how the "manipulation" undermines the victim's free will. Among other things, given the dialectic, it has always seemed pretty clear to me that the ideal manipulation story wouldn't involve and *genuine* manipulation at all, but just the *appearance* of manipulation. For, to the degree that you don't have a case of perfect "mimicking' manipulation, there is room to deny that the no-difference premise is true. (If I recall, you have have argued something similar?)

This brings up another reason that I find it odd to distinguish between manipulation arguments and original-design arguments on the basis of whether and *genuine* manipulation is present in the case. It's basically just saying that the best instances of the general strategy shouldn't be categorized with the failed attempts. That seems odd. That's a bit sketchy, but hopefully you see what I'm trying to say.

There is a potentially serious equivocation going on in this thread regarding the idea of “best explanation of an intuition”. We all agree that, intuitively, Ernie’s A-ing is not free. So far so good. But then there seems to be some disagreement about what happens next.

One approach, the one I favor, seeks to figure out what is the best explanation for the *intuition’s arising in response to the case*. That is, in virtue of what did that intuition arise to this particular case, and not other closely related cases? Intuitions reflect our *tacit* theoretical competence with the relevant concept. We know we have an intuition to a case, but don’t usually know why—we don’t know what tacit principles are implicitly being applied to yield the intuition. We have to do some careful detective work looking at a number of related cases to figure out what are the factors in virtue of which we have the intuitive reactions we do. So we compare Ernie to Bernie, and to my proposed Zygote-2 and Zygote-3, and so on, and in this way dissect what features the intuition is tracking.

The second approach seeks to figure out what is the best explanation for the *intuited proposition*. We intuited [Ernie is unfree], so we ask what is the best explanation for Ernie’s being unfree? Is it that he lacks ultimate sourcehood? Is it that he fails to agent-cause his action? There are a number of arguments and considerations that pertain to each of these further topics, and so we are now off to the races looking for any and all considerations that might potentially be relevant for why Ernie is unfree, including far flung considerations that have little to do with manipulation or zygotization.

The first approach treats “best explanation of an intuition” as a limited, quasi-empirical endeavor. We are doing detective work on our own reactions to figure out the principles and tacit theoretical commitments that govern them. The approach is very similar to Chomskian linguisitics in that systematic study of one’s intuitive reactions are used to uncover the contents of a tacit theoretical competence.

The second approach treats “best explanation of an intuition” as an opportunity to conduct wide ranging substantive philosophical inquiry. We are inquiring whether a certain proposition is true and availing ourselves of any and all the considerations in the entirety of the free will debate.

I favor the first approach and I think this second approach is flawed and fits poorly with how philosophical methodology actually works. I have gone on too long already, so rather than defend the first approach, I just want to note the equivocation that seems to be going on with regard to the two different approaches. I follow the first approach, and I think Al (Mele) does as well. I suspect Derk, Kip, Matt, and Randy (Clarke) follow the second approach. I am not sure about you Kristen, as I see elements of each approach in your comments.

Thanks for a very interesting thread Kristin. I think much of the confusion rests on what we mean by “determinism” and “free will” as they range across potentially wildly different referents in different possible worlds.

Incompossibilism is a modal claim I take it. If so, then if there is one possible world where free will and determinism are incompatible, then any other world where one obtains, the other doesn’t. That means if one term is all-world defined and incompatibilism is true in one world—let’s say determinism in something like PvI terms is all-world defined—then free will as defined in the one centered world is inconsistent with determinism—incompossible—in all worlds where free will is defined as in the centered world. And that would entail that free will is essentially indeterministic as defined in the centered world and thus inconsistent with the truth of determinism across all possible worlds as thus defined. (Note that agent-causal or event-causal forms of indeterminism would be included as cross-world inconsistent with determinism thus defined.) This would get us into further matters of necessity de dicto and de re, but might pry apart incompossibilism as (possibly!) a de dicto claim from claims de re.

So here’s my point. Beliefs like incompossibilism and incompatibilism rely entirely on clear definitions of concepts especially as this relates to particular world-referenced and cross-world references of terms and claims of relationships between those beliefs. Unless the concepts are crystal clear with respect to worlds referenced, the modal relationships are murky.

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