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06/02/2014

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Dr. Mickelson-

Thanks for clarifying the distinction between incompatibilism and incompossibilism. I've noticed that this confusion crops up in conversation/debate fairly often, particularly when I'm reading a paper and the author just sort of drops the term without much exposition. So I run the risk of equivocating myself sometimes when I wonder, "Is X saying that they're (FW and D) incompatible? Or is that (IF determinism were true) then they would be?"

And please do correct me if I'm wrong here, but, since the incompatibilist position requires the truth of the incompossibilist position (though not vice-versa), then it looks like it turns further on whether one wants to make a conceptual or empirical argument (it seems like it has to matter what empirical process someone thinks can occupy this threatening of a position).

So, if you're right that people equivocate on the content of the term, then it's a disingenuous move to treat that sort of ambiguity like it's the end of the matter. The issue turns (more specifically) on what kind of free will we're talking about, how much we need for a given standard of responsibility, what sorts of physical laws we have in mind, the criteria for determinism, etc. Since that stuff contains the "meat" of the real debate, then without the distinction the move takes the role of a de facto burden-shifting that trades on a mutually unrecognized ambiguity (your thoughts?). So I think the distinction makes really clear where the rabbit holes start (in this particular debate) and helps put interlocutors on a better playing field.

My question, then: Does the equivocation between incompossibilism and incompatibilism result in an inability to get down to the empirical questions?

Again, I hope I've gotten the gist of this.

Thanks for your post, and I look forward to your time here.

-Michael

Thanks, Michael.

I like your comment about how the distinction helps us to get clearer on where the rabbit holes lie. I'm not sure, though, what you mean when you talk getting down to "empirical questions". Could you expand on that?

I'm going to provide a reply to your post along with another on a different thread, under "The Dull Edge of Manipulation Arguments." Someone else has made some similar remarks, so I'll offer a few comments and you can jump back in over there--okay?

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