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Abstract: After centuries of reflection, the issue of human freedom remains vital largely because of its connection to moral responsibility. When I ask—What is human freedom?—I mean to be asking what kind of freedom is required for moral responsibility? Questions about moral responsibility are intimately connected to questions about social policy and justice; so, the issue of moral responsibility—of desert, of whether or not anyone is ever really praiseworthy or blameworthy—has practical as well as theoretical significance
Abstract: The belief that only free will supports assignments of moral responsibility -- deserved praise and blame, punishment and reward, and the expression of reactive attitudes and moral censure -- has fueled most of the historical concern over the existence of free will. Free will's connection to moral responsibility also drives contemporary thinkers as diverse in their substantive positions as Peter Strawson, Thomas Nagel, Peter van Inwagen, Galen Strawson, and Robert Kane. A simple, but powerful, reason for thinking that philosophers are correct in making moral responsibility the prize of the free will problem is this: If we disassociate free will from deserved praise, blame, punishment and reward, reactive attitudes and moral censure, then why care about free will? If free will is not pinned down as that degree of freedom in our choices that we need for moral responsibility, it is difficult to see why anyone would or should care about free will. In this article I argue that some of the most prominent recent writing on free will becomes sidetracked from this key issue. For this reason, a good deal of the literature is so much spilled ink as philosophers misdirect their energies. In section 1 I elaborate just what I believe the key issue in the free will problem is. In section 2 I illustrate what an answer to the key issue requires. In section 3 I suggest motivations for misdirection. In sections 4, 5, and 6 I provide detailed examples of misdirection from compatibilists and libertarians. In sections 7 and 8 I describe some non-misdirected answers to the key question.
Abstract: Epistemic freedom is the freedom to affirm anyone of several incompatible propositions without risk of being wrong. We sometimes have this freedom, strange as it seems, and our having it sheds some light on the topic of free will and determinism. This paper sketches a potential explanation for our feeling of freedom. The freedom that I postulate is not causal but epistemic (in a sense that I shall define), and the result is that it is quite compatible with determinism. I therefore claim that insofar as we feel metaphysically free-free in a sense that would be incompatible with determinism-we are mistaking the epistemic freedom that we have for a kind of freedom that we may lack. This claim will lead me, at the end of the paper, to a projectivist account of moral responsibility. Ascriptions of moral responsibility, I shall suggest, should be treated in the same way as ascriptions of color or other secondary qualities.
Abstract: Philosophers working in the nascent field of ‘experimental philosophy’ have begun using methods borrowed from psychology to collect data about folk intuitions concerning debates ranging from action theory to ethics to epistemology. In this paper we present the results of our attempts to apply this approach to the free will debate, in which philosophers on opposing sides claim that their view best accounts for and accords with folk intuitions. After discussing the motivation for such research, we describe our methodology of surveying people’s prephilosophical judgments about the freedom and responsibility of agents in deterministic scenarios. In two studies, we found that a majority of participants judged that such agents act of their own free will and are morally responsible for their actions. We then discuss the philosophical implications of our results as well as various difficulties inherent in such research
Abstract: But other threats to autonomy are less often discussed, threats that are not metaphysical or political but psychological. These are threats based on putative facts about human psychology that suggest we do not govern our behavior according to principles we have consciously chosen. For instance, if our behavior were governed primarily by unconscious Freudian desires rather than by our reflectively considered desires, we would be much less autonomous than we presume. Or if our behaviors were the result of a history of Skinnerian reinforcement rather than conscious consideration, our actions would be shaped by our environment more than by our principles. Since the influence of Freud and Skinner has waned, we might feel we have escaped such threats to our autonomy from psychology. But, as I will explain below, more recent and viable theories and evidence from social psychology pose significant threats to autonomous agency.
Abstract: An empirical study of people's intuitions about freedom of the will. We show that people tend to have compatiblist intuitions when they think about the problem in a more concrete, emotional way but that they tend to have incompatiblist intuitions when they think about the problem in a more abstract, cognitive way
Abstract: phenomena that are hallmarks of what it is to be human free will whether or not the universe is deterministic, many [1,2,4,26]. There is now a widespread and industrious people think that freedom can yet be salvaged if the scientiﬁc community, whose aim is to understand the universe is indeterministic, for they favor a Libertarian mechanisms underlying these phenomena [7,9,10, account which posits an agent as an uncaused cause 27–32]. The underlying worry is that those things that [17,18]. In that case, trouble arises if the universe is once seemed to be forever beyond the reach of science deterministic. might soon succumb to it: neuroscience will lead us to see the ‘universe within’ as just part and parcel of the
Abstract: Here I motivate and defend a new counterexample to logical (or non-causal) versions of the direct argument for responsibility-determinism incompatibilism. Such versions purport to establish incompatibilism via an inference principle to the effect that non-responsibility transfers along relations of logical consequence, including those that hold between earlier and later states of a deterministic world. Unlike previous counterexamples, this case doesn't depend on preemptive overdetermination; nor can it be blocked with a simple modification of the inference principle. In defending this counterexample, I show that van Inwagen's technical notion of being partly responsible for a state of affairs, which figures in his statement of the principle, is problematic.
Abstract: Peter van Inwagen has developed two highly influential strategies for establishing incompatibilism about causal determinism and moral responsibility. These have come to be known as ‘the Direct Argument’ and ‘the Indirect Argument,’ respectively. In recent years, the two arguments have attracted closely related criticisms. In each case, it is claimed, the argument does not provide a fully general defense of the incompatibilist’s conclusion. While the critics are right to notice these arguments’ limitations, they have not made it clear what the problem with the arguments is supposed to be. I suggest three possibilities, arguing that none proves to be well founded. I conclude that the scope of these arguments is fully adequate for their defenders’ purposes.
Abstract: Adina Roskies has argued that worries that recent developments in the neurosciences challenge our ideas of free will and responsibility are misguided. Her argument focuses on the idea that we are able to act differently than we do. However, according to a dominant view in contemporary philosophy, the ability to do otherwise is irrelevant to our judgments of responsibility and free will. It rather is our ability to act for reasons that is crucial. We argue that this view is most significantly challenged by the recent discoveries. Those discoveries show that it is not as obvious and uncontroversial that we act for reasons as it seems. Hence, we have to rethink our concept of reasons-responsiveness
Abstract: First, unlike a good many philosophical puzzles that absorb the efforts of professional philosophers, the web of problems surrounding free will does not take philosophical training to appreciate. It is a ubiquitously accessible problem discussed at length by novelists, poets, musicians, scientists, religious believers, atheists, and more than a few undergraduates in late- night discussions. At least in the Western philosophical tradition it is also a very old problem: versions of it can be found at least as far back as the Stoics and the Epicureans, and arguably in Aristotle. Taken as a whole, these considerations suggest that at least a significant source of puzzles about free will can be found in aspects of our thinking that are available to us at easily accessible levels of reflection. Second, over the past 30 years or so, the philosophical arsenal of incompatibilists
Abstract: Revisionism in the theory of moral responsibility is the idea that some aspect of responsibility practices, attitudes, or concept is in need of revision. While the increased frequency of revisionist language in the literature on free will and moral responsibility is striking, what discussion there has been of revisionism about responsibility and free will tends to be critical. In this paper, I argue that at least one species of revisionism, moderate revisionism, is considerably more sophisticated and defensible than critics have realized. I go on to argue for the advantages of moderate revisionist theories over standard compatibilist and incompatibilist theories
Abstract: My strategy is to examine a recent trend in philosophical discussions of responsibility, a trend that tries, but I think ultimately fails, to give an acceptable analysis of the conditions of responsibility. It fails due to what at first appear to be deep and irresolvable metaphysical problems. It is here that I suggest that the condition of sanity comes to the rescue. What at first appears to be an impossible requirement for responsibility---the requirement that the responsible agent have created her- or himself---turns out to be the vastly more mundane and non controversial requirement that the responsible agent must, in a fairly standard sense, be sane.