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Abstract: One of the main libertarian arguments in support of free will is the argument from introspection. This argument places a great deal of faith in our conscious feeling of freedom and our introspective abilities. People often infer their own freedom from their introspective phenomenology of freedom. It is here argued that from the fact that I feel myself free, it does not necessarily follow that I am free. I maintain that it is our mistaken belief in the transparency and infallibility of consciousness that gives the introspective argument whatever power it possesses. Once we see that consciousness is neither transparent nor infallible, the argument from introspection loses all of its force. I argue that since we do not have direct, infallible access to our own minds, to rely on introspection to infer our own freedom would be a mistake.
Abstract: If moral and political philosophy is to be of any use, it had better be concerned with real people. The focus need not be exclusively on people as they are; but it should surely not extend beyond how they would be under laws as they might be. It is one of the strengths of Philip Pettit’s work that it is concerned with real people and the ways that they think: with the commonplace mind. In this paper I examine Pettit’s recent work on free will.2 Much of my concern will be to see how his contentions fit with empirical findings about human psychology. Pettit is a compatibilist about free will: he holds that it is compatible with determinism. But he finds fault with existing compatibilist accounts, and then proposes his own amendment. My aim is to challenge his grounds for finding fault; and then to raise some questions about his own positive account
Abstract: Reeder’s article offers a new and intriguing approach to the study of people’s ordinary understanding of freedom and constraint. On this approach, people use information about freedom and constraint as part of a quasi-scientific effort to make accurate inferences about an agent’s motives. Their beliefs about the agent’s motives then affect a wide variety of further psychological processes, including the process whereby they arrive at moral judgments. In illustrating this new approach, Reeder cites an elegant study he conducted a number of years ago (Reeder & Spores, 1983). All subjects were given a vignette about a man who goes with his date to a pizza parlor and happens to come across a box that has been designated for charitable donations. In one condition, the man’s date then requests that he make a donation; in the other, she requests that he steal the money that is already in the box. In both conditions, the man chooses to comply with this request. The key question is how subjects will use his behavior to make inferences about whether he is a morally good or morally bad person. The results revealed a marked difference between conditions. When the man donated to charity, subjects were generally disinclined to conclude that he must have been a morally good person. It is as though they were thinking: ‘He didn’t just do this out of the goodness of his heart
Abstract: Thomas Hobbes changed the face of moral philosophy in ways that still structure and resonate within the contemporary debate. It was Hobbes’s central aim, particularly as expressed in the Leviathan, to make moral philosophy genuinely ‘scientific’, where this term is understood as science had developed and evolved in the first half of the seventeenth century. Specifically, it was Hobbes’s aim to provide a thoroughly naturalistic description of human beings in terms of the basic categories and laws of matter and motion. By analyzing the individual and society in these terms, Hobbes proposed to identify and describe a set of moral laws that are eternal and immutable, and can be known to all those who are capable of reason and science (L, 15.40). Even more ambitiously, it was Hobbes’s further hope that these ‘theorems of moral doctrine’ would be put into practical use by public authorities with a view to maintaining a peaceful, stable social order (L, 31.41)