Moral Responsibility: Beyond Free Will and Determinism: 27 (Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy)

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  1. 1. Major Historical Contributions
  2. Moral responsibility: beyond free will and determinism — Macquarie University
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But abilities themselves seem to come in different varieties Lewis ; Horgan ; van Inwagen , ch. A satisfactory account of the freedom to do otherwise owes us both an account of the kind of ability in terms of which the freedom to do otherwise is analyzed, and an argument for why this kind of ability as opposed to some other species is the one constitutive of the freedom to do otherwise. As we will see, philosophers sometimes leave this second debt unpaid. As we saw above, classical compatibilists Hobbes [], []; Locke []; Hume [], []; Edwards []; Moore ; Schlick ; Ayer sought to analyze the freedom to do otherwise in terms of a simple conditional analysis of ability:.

Part of the attraction of this analysis is that it obviously reconciles the freedom to do otherwise with determinism. There are two problems with the Simple Conditional Analysis. The first is that it is, at best, an analysis of free action, not free will cf. Reid []; Chisholm ; , ch.

It only tells us when an agent has the ability to do otherwise, not when an agent has the ability to choose to do otherwise. One might be tempted to think that there is an easy fix along the following lines:. The problem is that we often fail to choose to do things we want to choose, even when it appears that we had the ability to choose otherwise one might think the same problem attends the original analysis. Suppose that, in deciding how to spend my evening, I have a desire to choose to read and a desire to choose to watch a movie.

Suppose that I choose to read. By all appearances, I had the ability to choose to watch a movie. I do desire to choose to watch a movie and yet I do not choose to watch a movie. It is unclear how to remedy this problem. Hobbes [], []; Edwards []. The problem is that this assumes, implausibly, that we always choose what we most strongly desire for criticisms of this view see Reid []; Campbell ; Wallace ; Holton But each of these proposals is also problematic.

Even if there are fixes to these problems, there is a yet deeper problem with these analyses. There are some agents who clearly lack the freedom to do otherwise and yet satisfy the conditional at the heart of these analyses. That is, although these agents lack the freedom to do otherwise, it is, for example, true of them that if they chose otherwise, they would do otherwise. Picking up on an argument developed by Keith Lehrer ; cf. Campbell ; Broad ; Chisholm , consider an agoraphobic, Luke, who, when faced with the prospect of entering an open space, is subject not merely to an irresistible desire to refrain from intentionally going outside, but an irresistible desire to refrain from even choosing to go outside.

It may well nevertheless be true that if Luke chose to go outside, then he would have gone outside. After all, any possible world in which he chooses to go outside will be a world in which he no longer suffers to the same degree from his agoraphobia, and thus we have no reason to doubt that in those worlds he would go outside as a result of his choosing to go outside.

While simple conditional analyses admirably make clear the species of ability to which they appeal, they fail to show that this species of ability is constitutive of the freedom to do otherwise. Agents need a stronger ability to do otherwise than characterized by such simple conditionals. Some argue that the fundamental source of the above problems is the conditional nature of these analyses Campbell ; Austin ; Chisholm ; Lehrer ; van Inwagen , ch.

He lacks the ability to do otherwise than refrain from choosing to go outside, according to this analysis, because there is no possible world in which he suffers from his agoraphobia and yet chooses to go outside. If the Categorical Analysis is correct, then free will is incompatible with determinism. According to the thesis of determinism, all deterministic possible worlds with the same pasts and laws of nature have the same futures Lewis ; van Inwagen , 3. Therefore, John lacked the ability, and thus freedom, to raise his hand.

This argument, carefully articulated in the late s and early s by Carl Ginet , and Peter van Inwagen , and refined in important ways by John Martin Fischer , has come to be known as the Consequence Argument. If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born [i.

Therefore, the consequences of these things including our present acts are not up to us. Fischer , ch. Like the Simple Conditional Analysis , a virtue of the Categorical Analysis is that it spells out clearly the kind of ability appealed to in its analysis of the freedom to do otherwise, but like the Simple Conditional Analysis , critics have argued that the sense of ability it captures is not the sense at the heart of free will. The objection here, though, is not that the analysis is too permissive or weak, but rather that it is too restrictive or strong.

While there have been numerous different replies along these lines e. See the entry on arguments for incompatibilism for a more extensive discussion of and bibliography for the Consequence Argument , the most influential of these objections is due to David Lewis Weak Thesis I am able to do something such that, if I did it, a law of nature would be broken. While it is absurd to think that humans are able to do something that is a violation of a law of nature or causes a law of nature to be broken, there is nothing incredible, so Lewis claimed, in thinking that humans are able to do something such that if they did it, a law of nature would be broken.

In essence, Lewis is arguing that incompatibilists like van Inwagen have failed to adequately motivate the restrictiveness of the Categorical Analysis. But there is a different and often overlooked problem for Lewis: the weak ability seems to be too weak. One might think that ii and iii are incompatible with i. Consider again Luke, our agoraphobic. Suppose that his agoraphobia affects him in such a way that he will only intentionally go outside if he chooses to go outside, and yet his agoraphobia makes it impossible for him to make this choice.

Moreover, Luke is not able to choose or cause himself to choose to go outside. Intuitively, this would seem to imply that Luke lacks the freedom to go outside. But this implication does not follow for Lewis. Speak For other important criticisms of Lewis, see Ginet [, ch. Pendergraft Lewis must point out a principled difference between these two cases.


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As should be clear from the above, the Simple Conditional Analysis is of no help. However, some recent work by Michael Smith , Kadri Vihvelin ; , and Michael Fara have attempted to fill this gap. It is important to note that Vihvelin [] has come to reject the view that free will consists exclusively in the kind of ability analyzed below. Vihvelin , Lewis , This analysis appears to afford Vihvelin the basis for a principled difference between agoraphobics and merely determined agents. But appearances can be deceiving. The new dispositionalist claims have received some serious criticism, with the majority of the criticisms maintaining that these analyses are still too permissive Clarke ; Whittle ; Franklin b.

The Categorical Analysis , and thus incompatibilism about free will and determinism, remains an attractive option for many philosophers precisely because it seems that compatibilists have yet to furnish an analysis of the freedom to do otherwise that implies that phobics clearly lack the ability to choose or do otherwise that is relevant to moral responsibility and yet some merely determined agents have this ability.

Some have tried to avoid these lingering problems for compatibilists by arguing that the freedom to do otherwise is not required for free will or moral responsibility. In a ground-breaking piece, Harry Frankfurt presented a series of thought experiments intended to show that it is possible that agents are morally responsible for their actions and yet they lack the ability to do otherwise.

Wolf , 3—4; Fischer , 3; Mele , 17 , then if Frankfurt-style cases show that moral responsibility does not require the ability to do otherwise, then they also show that free will does not require the ability to do otherwise. Let us consider this challenge in more detail. Imagine, if you will, that Black is a quite nifty and even generally nice neurosurgeon.

Jones, meanwhile, knows nothing of this. Fischer , Fischer draws two interrelated conclusions from this case. The first, negative conclusion, is that the ability to do otherwise is not necessary for moral responsibility. Jones is unable to refrain from deciding to vote for Clinton, and yet, so long as Jones decides to vote for Clinton on his own, his decision is free and one for which he is morally responsible.

The second, positive conclusion, is that freedom and responsibility are functions of the actual sequence. What matters is not whether the agent had the ability to do otherwise, but whether he was the source of his actions. The success of Frankfurt-style cases is hotly contested. But if the connection is nondeterministic, then it is possible even in the absence of showing any inclination to decide to vote for Bush, that Jones decides to vote for Bush, and so he retains the ability to do otherwise.

Either way Frankfurt-style cases fail to show that Jones is both morally responsible for his decision and yet is unable to do otherwise. While some have argued that even Frankfurt-style cases that assume determinism are effective see, e. Supposing that Frankfurt-style cases are successful, what exactly do they show?

In our view, they show neither that free will and moral responsibility do not require an ability to do otherwise in any sense nor that compatibilism is true. The Consequence Argument raises a powerful challenge to the cogency of compatibilism. But if Frankfurt-style cases are successful, agents can act freely in the sense relevant to moral responsibility while lacking the ability to do otherwise in the all-in sense.

This allows compatibilists to concede that the all-in ability to do otherwise is incompatible with determinism, and yet insist that it is irrelevant to the question of the compatibility of determinism with moral responsibility and perhaps even free will, depending on how we define this cf. But, of course, showing that an argument for the falsity of compatibilism is irrelevant does not show that compatibilism is true. Thus, if successful, Frankfurt-style cases would be at best the first step in defending compatibilism. The second step must offer an analysis of the kind of sourcehood constitutive of free will that entails that free will is compatible with determinism cf.

Fischer At best, Frankfurt-style cases show that the ability to do otherwise in the all-in sense —in the sense defined by the Categorical Analysis —is not necessary for free will or moral responsibility cf. Franklin To appreciate this, let us assume that in the above Frankfurt-style case Jones lacks the ability to do otherwise in the all-in sense: there is no possible world in which we hold fixed the past and laws and yet Jones does otherwise, since all such worlds include Black and his preparations for preventing Jones from doing otherwise should Jones show any inclination. Even if this is all true, it should take only a little reflection to recognize that in this case Jones is able to do otherwise in certain weaker senses we might attach to that phrase, and compatibilists in fact still think that the ability to do otherwise in some such senses is necessary for free will and moral responsibility.

Consequently, even though Frankfurt-style cases have, as a matter of fact, moved many compatibilists away from emphasizing ability to do otherwise to emphasizing sourcehood, we suggest that this move is best seen as a weakening of the ability-to-do-otherwise condition on moral responsibility. A potentially important exception to this claim is Sartorio [], who appealing to some controversial ideas in the metaphysics of causation appears to argue that no sense of the ability to do otherwise is necessary for control in the sense at stake for moral responsibility, but instead what matters is whether the agent is the cause of the action.

In this section, we will assume that Frankfurt-style cases are successful in order to consider two prominent compatibilist attempts to construct analyses of the sourcehood condition though see the entry on compatibilism for a more systematic survey of compatibilist theories of free will. The first, and perhaps most popular, compatibilist model is a reasons-responsiveness model.

While compatibilists develop this kind of account in different ways, the most detailed proposal is due to John Martin Fischer , , , ; Fischer and Ravizza For similar compatibilist treatments of reasons-responsiveness, see Wolf , Wallace , Haji , Nelkin , McKenna , Vargas , Sartorio One mechanism they often discuss is practical deliberation. For example, in the case of Jones discussed above, his decision to vote for Clinton on his own was brought about by the process of practical deliberation.

What must be true of this process, this mechanism, for it to be moderately reasons-responsive? Fischer and Ravizza maintain that moderate reasons-responsiveness consists in two conditions: reasons-receptivity and reasons-reactivity. The second condition is more important for us in the present context. Fischer and Ravizza argue that the kind of reasons-reactivity at stake is weak reasons-reactivity, where this merely requires that there is some possible world in which the laws of nature remain the same, the same mechanism operates, there is a sufficient reason to do otherwise, and the mechanism brings about this the alternative action in response to this sufficient reason 73— Fischer and Ravizza offer a novel and powerful theory of freedom and responsibility, one that has shifted the focus of recent debate to questions of sourcehood.

Moreover, one might argue that this theory is a clear improvement over classical compatibilism with respect to handling cases of phobia. By focusing on mechanisms, Fischer and Ravizza can argue that our agoraphobic Luke is not morally responsible for deciding to refrain from going outside because the mechanism that issues in this action—namely his agoraphobia—is not moderately reasons-responsive. There is no world with the same laws of nature as our own, this mechanism operates, and yet it reacts to a sufficient reason to go outside.

No matter what reasons there are for Luke to go outside, when acting on this mechanism, he will always refrain from going outside cf. As we have just seen, Fischer and Ravizza place clear modal requirements on mechanisms that issue in actions with respect to which agents are free and morally responsible. Indeed, this should be clear from the very idea of reasons-responsiveness. Whether one is responsive depends not merely on how one does respond, but also on how one would respond. Thus, any account that makes reasons-responsiveness an essential condition of free will is an account that makes the ability to do otherwise, in some sense, necessary for free will Fischer [forthcoming] concedes this point, though, as noted above, the reader should consider Sartorio [] as a potential counterexample to this claim.

The second main compatibilist model of sourcehood is an identification model. Accounts of sourcehood of this kind lay stress on self-determination or autonomy: to be the source of her action the agent must self-determine her action. Like the contemporary discussion of the ability to do otherwise, the contemporary discussion of the power of self-determination begins with the failure of classical compatibilism to produce an acceptable definition. While Hobbes seems willing to accept this implication [], 78 , most contemporary compatibilists concede that this result is unacceptable.

The idea is that while agents are not or at least may not be identical to any motivations or bundle of motivations , they are identified with a subset of their motivations, rendering these motivations internal to the agent in such a way that any actions brought about by these motivations are self -determined. The identification relation is not an identity relation, but something weaker cf.

Bratman , 39n What the precise nature of the identification relation is and to which attitudes an agent stands in this relation is hotly disputed. Lippert-Rasmussen helpfully divides identification accounts into two main types. The second are authenticity accounts, according to which agents are identified with attitudes that reveal who they truly are But see Shoemaker for an ecumenical account of identification that blends these two accounts. Proposed attitudes to which agents are said to stand in the identification relation include higher-order desires Frankfurt , cares or loves Frankfurt , ; Shoemaker ; Jaworska ; Sripada , self-governing policies Bratman , the desire to make sense of oneself Velleman , , and perceptions or judgments of the good or best Watson ; Stump ; Ekstrom ; Mitchell-Yellin According to classical compatibilists, the only kind of constraint is external e.

Identification theorists have the resources to concede that some constraints are internal. For example, they can argue that our agoraphobic Luke is not free in refraining from going outside even though this decision was caused by his strongest desires because he is not identified with his strongest desires. It is important to note that while we have distinguished reasons-responsive accounts from identification accounts, there is nothing preventing one from combing both elements in a complete analysis of free will.

Even if these reasons-responsive and identification compatibilist accounts of sourcehood might successfully side-step the Consequence Argument, they must come to grips with a second incompatibilist argument: the Manipulation Argument.

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Suppose Diana succeeds in her plan and Ernie murders Jones as a result of her manipulation. Many judge that Ernie is not morally responsible for murdering Jones even though he satisfies both the reasons-responsive and identification criteria. There are two possible lines of reply open to compatibilists. On the soft-line reply, compatibilists attempt to show that there is a relevant difference between manipulated agents such as Ernie and agents who satisfy their account McKenna , The problem with this reply is that we can easily imagine Diana creating Ernie so that his murdering Jones is a result not only of a moderately reasons-responsive mechanism, but also a mechanism for which he has taken responsibility.

On the hard-line reply, compatibilists concede that, despite initial appearances, the manipulated agent is free and morally responsible and attempt to ameliorate the seeming counterintuitiveness of this concession McKenna , — Some take the lesson of the Manipulation Argument to be that no compatibilist account of sourcehood or self-determination is satisfactory. Libertarians, while united in endorsing this negative condition on sourcehood, are deeply divided concerning which further positive conditions may be required. It is important to note that while libertarians are united in insisting that compatibilist accounts of sourcehood are insufficient, they are not committed to thinking that the conditions of freedom spelled out in terms either of reasons-responsiveness or of identification are not necessary.

Moreover, while this section focuses on libertarian accounts of sourcehood, we remind readers that most if not all libertarians think that the freedom to do otherwise is also necessary for free will and moral responsibility. There are three main libertarian options for understanding sourcehood or self-determination: non-causal libertarianism Ginet , ; McCann ; Lowe ; Goetz ; Pink , event-causal libertarianism Wiggins ; Kane , , , ; Mele , chs.

Non-causal libertarians contend that exercises of the power of self-determination need not or perhaps even cannot be caused or causally structured. According to this view, we control our volition or choice simply in virtue of its being ours—its occurring in us. We do not exert a special kind of causality in bringing it about; instead, it is an intrinsically active event, intrinsically something we do. While there may be causal influences upon our choice, there need not be, and any such causal influence is wholly irrelevant to understanding why it occurs.

Reasons provide an autonomous, non-causal form of explanation. Provided our choice is not wholly determined by prior factors, it is free and under our control simply in virtue of being ours. Non-causal views have failed to garner wide support among libertarians since, for many, self- determination seems to be an essentially causal notion cf. Most libertarians endorse an event-causal or agent-causal account of sourcehood.

Imagine a would-be accomplice of an assassin believes that his dropping his cigarette is the signal for the assassin to shoot his intended victim and he desires to drop his cigarette and yet this belief and desire so unnerve him that he accidentally drops his cigarette. While the event of dropping the cigarette is caused by a relevant desire and belief it does not seem to be self-determined and perhaps is not even an action [cf. Davidson ]. To fully spell out this account, event-causal libertarians must specify which mental states and events are apt cf. Brand —which mental states and events are the springs of self-determined actions—and what nondeviance consists in cf.

Bishop We note that this has proven very difficult, enough so that some take the problem to spell doom for event-causal theories of action.

1. Major Historical Contributions

Such philosophers [e. See Stout for a brisk survey of discussions of this topic. While historically many have thought that nondeterministic causation is impossible Hobbes [], []; Hume [], [] , with the advent of quantum physics and, from a very different direction, an influential essay by G. Anscombe , it is now widely assumed that nondeterministic or probabilistic causation is possible. There are two importantly different ways to understand nondeterministic causation: as the causation of probability or as the probability of causation cf.

Given that event-causal libertarians maintain that self-determined actions, and thus free actions, must be caused, they are committed to the probability of causation model of nondeterministic causation cf. Franklin , 25— We note that Balaguer [] is skeptical of the above distinction, and it is thus unclear whether he should best be classified as a non-causal or event-causal libertarian though see Balaguer [] for evidence that it is best to treat him as a non-causalist.

Agent-casual libertarians contend that the event-causal picture fails to capture self-determination, for it fails to accord the agent with a power to settle what she does. Pereboom offers a forceful statement of this worry:. On an event-causal libertarian picture, the relevant causal conditions antecedent to the decision, i. In fact, because no occurrence of antecedent events settles whether the decision will occur, and only antecedent events are causally relevant, nothing settles whether the decision will occur.

Pereboom , 32; cf. But what more must be added? Agent-causal libertarians maintain that self-determination requires that the agent herself play a causal role over and above the causal role played by her reasons. But all agent-causal libertarians insist that exercises of the power of self-determination do not reduce to nondeterministic causation by apt mental states: agent-causation does not reduce to event-causation.

Agent-causal libertarianism seems to capture an aspect of self-determination that neither the above compatibilists accounts nor event-causal libertarian accounts capture. Some compatibilists even accept this and try to incorporate agent-causation into a compatibilist understanding of free will. See Markosian , ; Nelkin These accounts reduce the causal role of the self to states and events to which the agent is not identical even if he is identified with them.

But how can self -determination of my actions wholly reduce to determination of my actions by things other than the self? Despite its powerful intuitive pull for some, many have argued that agent-causal libertarianism is obscure or even incoherent. With respect to the first worry, it is widely assumed that the only or at least best way to understand reasons-explanation and motivational influence is within a causal account of reasons, where reasons cause our actions Davidson ; Mele For further discussion see the entry on incompatibilist nondeterministic theories of free will.

Finally, we note that some recent philosophers have questioned the presumed difference between event- and agent-causation by arguing that all causation is object or substance causation. Most philosophers theorizing about free will take themselves to be attempting to analyze a near-universal power of mature human beings. Israel highlights a number of such skeptics in the early modern period. In this section, we summarize the main lines of argument both for and against the reality of human freedom of will. There are both a priori and empirical arguments against free will See the entry on skepticism about moral responsibility.

Several of these start with an argument that free will is incompatible with causal determinism, which we will not rehearse here. Instead, we focus on arguments that human beings lack free will, against the background assumption that freedom and causal determinism are incompatible. The most radical a priori argument is that free will is not merely contingently absent but is impossible. In recent decades, this argument is most associated with Galen Strawson , ch. And so on, ad infinitum.

Moral responsibility: beyond free will and determinism — Macquarie University

Free choice requires an impossible infinite regress of choices to be the way one is in making choices. Mele , ff. Freedom is principally a feature of our actions, and only derivatively of our characters from which such actions spring. The task of the theorist is to show how one is in rational, reflective control of the choices one makes, consistent with there being no freedom-negating conditions. Clarke , —76 argues that an effective reply may be made by indeterminists, and, in particular, by nondeterministic agent-causal theorists. For discussion of the ways that nature, nurture, and contingent circumstances shape our behavior and raise deep issues concerning the extent of our freedom and responsibility, see Levy and Russell , chs.

A second family of arguments against free will contend that, in one way or another, nondeterministic theories of freedom entail either that agents lack control over their choices or that the choices cannot be adequately explained. For statements of such arguments, see van Inwagen , ch.

We note that some philosophers advance such arguments not as parts of a general case against free will, but merely as showing the inadequacy of specific accounts of free will [see, e. Such terms have been imported from other contexts and have come to function as quasi-technical, unanalyzed concepts in these debates, and it is perhaps more helpful to avoid such proxies and to conduct the debates directly in terms of the metaphysical notion of control and epistemic notion of explanation.

Where the arguments question whether an undetermined agent can exercise appropriate control over the choice he makes, proponents of nondeterministic theories often reply that control is not exercised prior to, but at the time of the choice—in the very act of bringing it about see, e. We now consider empirical arguments against human freedom. Some of these stem from the physical sciences while making assumptions concerning the way physical phenomena fix psychological phenomena and others from neuroscience and psychology.

It used to be common for philosophers to argue that there is empirical reason to believe that the world in general is causally determined, and since human beings are parts of the world, they are too. While quantum mechanics has proven spectacularly successful as a framework for making precise and accurate predictions of certain observable phenomena, its implications for the causal structure of reality is still not well understood, and there are competing indeterministic and deterministic interpretations.

See the entry on quantum mechanics for detailed discussion. But this idea, once common, is now being challenged empirically, even at the level of basic biology. Furthermore, the social, biological, and medical sciences, too, are rife with merely statistical generalizations. Plainly, the jury is out on all these inter-theoretic questions. But that is just a way to say that current science does not decisively support the idea that everything we do is pre-determined by the past, and ultimately by the distant past, wholly out of our control.

For discussion, see Balaguer , Koch , Roskies , Ellis Now some of the a priori no-free-will arguments above center on nondeterministic theories according to which there are objective antecedent probabilities associated with each possible choice outcome. Why objective probabilities of this kind might present special problems beyond those posed by the absence of determinism has been insufficiently explored to date.

But one philosopher who argues that there is reason to hold that our actions, if undetermined, are governed by objective probabilities and that this fact calls into question whether we act freely is Derk Pereboom , ch. Pereboom notes that our best physical theories indicate that statistical laws govern isolated, small-scale physical events, and he infers from the thesis that human beings are wholly physically composed that such statistical laws will also govern all the physical components of human actions.

Finally, Pereboom maintains that agent-causal libertarianism offers the correct analysis of free will. The proposal that agent-caused free choices do not diverge from what the statistical laws predict for the physical components of our actions would run so sharply counter to what we would expect as to make it incredible. Others see support for free will skepticism from specific findings and theories in the human sciences. They point to evidence that we can be unconsciously influenced in the choices we make by a range of factors, including ones that are not motivationally relevant; that we can come to believe that we chose to initiate a behavior that in fact was artificially induced; that people subject to certain neurological disorders will sometimes engage in purposive behavior while sincerely believing that they are not directing them.

Finally, a great deal of attention has been given to the work of neuroscientist Benjamin Libet If one is a compatibilist, then a case for the reality of free will requires evidence for our being effective agents who for the most part are aware of what we do and why we are doing it.

If one is an incompatibilist, then the case requires in addition evidence for causal indeterminism, occurring in the right locations in the process leading from deliberation to action. Instead, incompatibilists usually give one of the following two bases for rational belief in freedom both of which can be given by compatibilists, too. First, philosophers have long claimed that we have introspective evidence of freedom in our experience of action, or perhaps of consciously attended or deliberated action.

Augustine and Scotus, discussed earlier, are two examples among many. In recent years, philosophers have been more carefully scrutinizing the experience of agency and a debate has emerged concerning its contents, and in particular whether it supports an indeterministic theory of human free action. For discussion, see Deery et al. Second, philosophers e.

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Most philosophers hold that some beliefs have that status, on pain of our having no justified beliefs whatever. It is controversial, however, just which beliefs do because it is controversial which criteria a belief must satisfy to qualify for that privileged status. Our belief in free will seems to meet these criteria, but whether they are sufficient will be debated. Other philosophers defend a variation on this stance, maintaining instead that belief in the reality of moral responsibility is epistemically basic, and that since moral responsibility entails free will, or so it is claimed, we may infer the reality of free will see, e.

A large portion of Western philosophical work on free will has been written within an overarching theological framework, according to which God is the ultimate source, sustainer, and end of all else. Some of these thinkers draw the conclusion that God must be a sufficient, wholly determining cause for everything that happens; all of them suppose that every creaturely act necessarily depends on the explanatorily prior, cooperative activity of God. It is also commonly presumed by philosophical theists that human beings are free and responsible on pain of attributing evil in the world to God alone, and so impugning His perfect goodness.

Hence, those who believe that God is omni-determining typically are compatibilists with respect to freedom and in this case theological determinism. Edwards [] is a good example. These positions turn on subtle distinctions, which have recently been explored by Freddoso , Kvanvig and McCann , Grant , and Judisch A standard argument for the incompatibility of free will and causal determinism has a close theological analogue. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are.

Since God cannot get things wrong, his believing that something will be so entails that it will be so. An excellent discussion of these arguments in tandem and attempts to point to relevant disanalogies between causal determinism and infallible foreknowledge may be found in the introduction to Fischer See also the entry on foreknowledge and free will. Another issue concerns how knowledge of God, the ultimate Good, would impact human freedom. Many philosophical theologians, especially the medieval Aristotelians, were drawn to the idea that human beings cannot but will that which they take to be an unqualified good.

As noted above, Duns Scotus is an exception to this consensus, as were Ockham and Suarez subsequently, but their dissent is limited. Following Pascal, Murray , argues that a good God would choose to make His existence and character less than certain for human beings, for the sake of preserving their freedom. He will do so, the argument goes, at least for a period of time in which human beings participate in their own character formation. See also the other essays in Howard-Snyder and Moser If it is true that God withholds our ability to be certain of his existence for the sake of our freedom, then it is natural to conclude that humans will lack freedom in heaven.

And it is anyways common to traditional Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologies to maintain that humans cannot sin in heaven. Even so, traditional Christian theology at least maintains that human persons in heaven are free. What sort of freedom is in view here, and how does it relate to mundane freedom? Two good recent discussions of these questions are Pawl and Timpe and Tamburro Finally, there is the question of the freedom of God himself. Perfect goodness is an essential, not acquired, attribute of God. God cannot lie or be in any way immoral in His dealings with His creatures appearances notwithstanding.

Did we not contemplate immediately above that human freedom would be curtailed by our having an unmistakable awareness of what is in fact the Good? And yet is it not passing strange to suppose that God should be less than perfectly free? One suggested solution to this puzzle takes as its point of departure the distinction noted in section 2. For human beings or any created persons who owe their existence to factors outside themselves, the only way their acts of will could find their ultimate origin in themselves is for such acts not to be determined by their character and circumstances.

For if all my willings were wholly determined, then if we were to trace my causal history back far enough, we would ultimately arrive at external factors that gave rise to me, with my particular genetic dispositions. My motives at the time would not be the ultimate source of my willings, only the most proximate ones. As is generally the case, things are different on this point in the case of God.

As Anselm observed, even if God's character absolutely precludes His performing certain actions in certain contexts, this will not imply that some external factor is in any way a partial origin of His willings and refrainings from willing. Indeed, this would not be so even if he were determined by character to will everything which He wills. Well, then, might God have willed otherwise in any respect?

The majority view in the history of philosophical theology is that He indeed could have. He might have chosen not to create anything at all. And given that He did create, He might have created any number of alternatives to what we observe. But there have been noteworthy thinkers who argued the contrary position, along with others who clearly felt the pull of the contrary position even while resisting it.

The most famous such thinker is Leibniz [] , who argued that God, being both perfectly good and perfectly powerful, cannot fail to will the best possible world. Leibniz insisted that this is consistent with saying that God is able to will otherwise, although his defense of this last claim is notoriously difficult to make out satisfactorily. One way this could be is if there is no well-ordering of worlds: some pairs of worlds are sufficiently different in kind that they are incommensurate with each other neither is better than the other, nor are they equal and no world is better than either of them.

Another way this could be is if there is no upper limit on goodness of worlds: for every possible world God might have created, there are others infinitely many, in fact which are better. If such is the case, one might argue, it is reasonable for God to arbitrarily choose which world to create from among those worlds exceeding some threshold value of overall goodness. However, William Rowe has countered that the thesis that there is no upper limit on goodness of worlds has a very different consequence: it shows that there could not be a morally perfect Creator! It seems we can now imagine a morally better Creator: one having the same options who chooses to create a better world.

For critical replies to Rowe, see Almeida , ch. The reason is that there is no plausible account of how an absolutely perfect God might have a resistible motivation—one consideration among other, competing considerations—for creating something rather than nothing. It obviously cannot have to do with any sort of utility, for example. Perfect goodness will naturally communicate itself outwardly; God who is perfect goodness will naturally create, generating a dependent reality that imperfectly reflects that goodness.

Wainwright discusses a somewhat similar line of thought in the Puritan thinker Jonathan Edwards. Alexander Pruss , however, raises substantial grounds for doubt concerning this line of thought. Major Historical Contributions 1. The Nature of Free Will 2. Sourcehood Accounts 2. Do We Have Free Will? Reid explains: I consider the determination of the will as an effect.

While it is intelligible to ask whether a man willed to do what he did, it is incoherent to ask whether a man willed to will what he did: For to ask whether a man is at liberty to will either motion or rest, speaking or silence, which he pleases, is to ask whether a man can will what he wills , or be pleased with what he is pleased with? Sourcehood Accounts Some have tried to avoid these lingering problems for compatibilists by arguing that the freedom to do otherwise is not required for free will or moral responsibility.

Here is a representative Frankfurt-style case: Imagine, if you will, that Black is a quite nifty and even generally nice neurosurgeon. Pereboom offers a forceful statement of this worry: On an event-causal libertarian picture, the relevant causal conditions antecedent to the decision, i. Theological Wrinkles A large portion of Western philosophical work on free will has been written within an overarching theological framework, according to which God is the ultimate source, sustainer, and end of all else.

Bibliography Adams, Robert, Al-Ghazali, Michael E. Almeida, Michael, Anscombe, G. Aquinas, Thomas, Regan, ed. Aristotle, Terence Irwin, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing. Augustine, Thomas Williams, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing. Austin, J. Urmson and G. Warnock, Oxford: Clarendon Press, — Ayer, A. Balaguer, Mark, Bishop, John, Bobzien, Suzanne, Bramhall, John, [] Brand, Myles, Bratman, Michael, Broad, C.

Campbell, C. Capes, Justin A. Caruso, Gregg, Chakrabarti, Arindam, Chisholm, Roderick, Coffman, E. Cohen, Yishai, Davidson, Donald, Ted Honderich,. New York: Routledge and Kagan Press. This goes beyond the scope of this article. One way to see this plausibility is to think of the special case in which doing B is a necessary means to doing A, and in that sense doing A entails doing B. If the only way to do something you ought to do requires doing B, then very plausibly, you thereby ought to do B.

But inheritance leads to unacceptable results. Note that mailing the letter entails either mailing it or burning it, just because A entails A or B , for any B. While 2 is acceptable, 3 is not. It ascribes an obligation to you, mailing the letter or burning it, that you can satisfy by burning the letter. But burning the letter is not a way to do anything you ought to do. The basic idea is that 3 is weaker than something else we are in a position to say, namely 2. Saying something weaker, like 3 , suggests that we are not in a position to say something stronger, like 2.

But in this case, we are in a position to say 2 —in fact, we derived 3 from 2. There have been various challenges to this line of reply; see in particular Cariani The contrastivist offers a different solution. To see why, remember that the alternatives in a set of alternatives must be mutually exclusive. Thus, 2 and 3 cannot be relativized to the same set of alternatives. Since the contrastivist about obligation holds that obligation claims are sensitive to the resolution of the set of alternatives to which they are relativized, she can hold that the shift in resolution generates a shift in the truth of the obligation claim.

The first thing to see is that we simply cannot infer 3 from 2 : to do so would be to equivocate, since the set of alternatives has shifted. The second thing to notice is that, not only can we not infer 3 from 2 , we can also say that 3 is actually false. This is the basic outline for one kind of contrastivist solution to puzzles of deontic logic. Cariani offers an interestingly different kind of contrastivist solution. Responsibility skeptics argue that since we can always trace the causal history of an act back to causes outside the agent, no one is ever responsible. Their opponents give various responses to this argument, including that freedom and responsibility do not require a lack of causation from outside the agent.

The first application of contrastivism is to what agents are free from. Such an act would be free rather than the result of a shove or addiction, but not free rather than caused via a long chain by the initial conditions of the universe. Adopting this contrastive conception of freedom helps clarify the dispute between responsibility skeptics and their opponents: the debate is over which kind of constraint is the relevant one for attributing responsibility. Sinnott-Armstrong himself once again denies that there is any one relevant kind of constraint, and so does not take sides in the dispute between responsibility skeptics and their opponents.

This contrastive picture also explains conflicting intuitions about whether a given act is free. Ordinarily, perhaps, we have in mind constraints like chains or addictions. Most acts in question in debates about freedom and responsibility are free, rather than being constrained by these kinds of things. But what the responsibility skeptic does, is to draw our attention to another kind of constraint—that of causes outside the agent. Actions are very plausibly not free, rather than being caused at all. If the contrastivist about freedom is right that freedom is a contrastive concept, and that both of these kinds of freedom—freedom from constraints and freedom from preceding causes—are legitimate, then this explains why we may be puzzled by questions about whether a given action is free.

The second application of contrastivism is to what agents are free to do. Suppose Al drinks some whisky at 8pm on Tuesday. We may ask whether this act was free. It seems to depend on the contrasts. Depending on how we specify the details of the case, all of the following may be true:. To say whether an action was free, we have to specify what the contrast is—relative to some contrasts, it may be free while relative to others it may not be. The important question then becomes which contrasts are relevant for which purposes.

In particular, we can ask which contrasts are relevant for blaming and holding responsible. So contrastivism has helped us isolate the important questions in the debate about moral responsibility. A related position is contrastivism about legal responsibility. Schaffer applies his contrastive account of causation described in the section Philosophy of Science to the notion of legal causation.

If we accept that there is a close connection between the claim that someone caused, in the legally relevant sense, some outcome and the claim that she is legally responsible for that outcome, this contrastive account of causation in the law leads naturally to a contrastive theory of legal responsibility.

The last application of contrastivism to ethics is contrastivism about normative reasons. A normative reason for an action is a consideration that counts in favor of performing that action. For example, the fact that you promised to return the book is a reason to return it, and the fact that you are causing me pain is a reason to get off of my foot. Many philosophers think reasons are central to ethics, and to normativity more generally. If that is correct, then contrastivism about normative reasons will likely have widespread implications throughout ethics.

As with most other implementations of contrastivism, contrastivism about reasons can be motivated by linguistic considerations:. Both of these contrastive claims are true. This is to ask whether this fact is a non-contrastive reason. This question is hard to answer. What this seems to show is that whether this fact is a reason or not depends on the alternatives—that it is a contrastive reason. There are various ways for the non-contrastivist to respond to this argument.

In particular, she may try to provide non-contrastive analyses of these contrastive claims. For example, we may appeal to the fact that reasons have strengths or weights, and hold that some consideration is a reason to do A rather than B when it is a stronger non-contrastive reason to do A than it is to do B. In this way, we can explain the truth of claims like 4 and 5 without adopting a contrastive view of reasons. There are various problems with this kind of strategy.

This strategy for dealing with contrastive reason claims faces a similar problem. Besides linguistic arguments, the second major kind of argument for contrastivism in some domain is theoretical. Rather, they aim to show that given some theoretical role or property of the target the concept would be best explained by a contrastive view of the concept. A theoretical argument for contrastivism about reasons is that it best makes sense of the connection between reasons and the promotion of various objectives, like desires or values.

A schematic statement of this very common idea is the following:. Again, an objective is some valuable thing to be promoted. Different theories will say different things: desire-based theories think reasons are tied to the promotion of the objects of desires, value-based theories think reasons are tied to the promotion of values like justice or goodness, and so on.

No matter which of these theories we accept, we have to say what it takes for some action to promote an objective. Snedegar b argues that the best way to do this is to adopt a contrastive picture. Relative to some contrasts an action may promote an objective, while relative to another, it may not. Suppose the relevant objective is contributing to the relief of hunger in the third world. But it is promoted by donating to an unreliable charity rather than spending the money on an expensive dinner for myself.

Hence, this objective gives me a reason to donate to the unreliable charity rather than spend the money on an expensive dinner, but does not give me a reason to donate to the unreliable charity rather than donate to the reliable charity. Non-contrastive views of promotion will deliver the verdict that this objective gives me no reason whatsoever to donate to the unreliable charity. So it is hard for them to explain the fact that it gives me a reason to donate to the unreliable charity rather than spending the money on an expensive dinner. We have seen both linguistic and theoretical motivations for contrastivism about reasons.

As we saw at the beginning of this section, reasons are often taken to be central to ethics and normativity more generally. So contrastivism about reasons is likely to have many upshots throughout ethics and normative philosophy. One nice thing about this is that it gives us a huge swathe of philosophy against which to test contrastivism about reasons: contrastivism may lead to exciting insights in normative philosophy, or it may lead to unacceptable results. Either way, this seems to be a fruitful area for research.

To close, consider some general challenges facing contrastivism of any variety.

The specific form of these challenges, and the plausible responses, will likely vary from domain to domain. When it is necessary to apply the challenge to a concrete contrastivist theory, one from ethics will be chosen. As much as possible, however, the article remains at a general level, because it is instructive to think about the general shape of the challenges, as they face the contrastivist qua contrastivist. The first few challenges are interrelated, and have to do with setting the relevant contrast class.

First, contrastivists face the challenge of saying what set of alternatives a given claim should be relativized to. But for ascriptions that are not explicitly contrastive, the contrastivist has to provide some way of settling what the relevant set of alternatives is, or else admit that these unrelativized claims are not truth-evaluable, or at least that we should suspend judgment about their truth. To be satisfactory, this should be done in a relatively principled way. Otherwise, the contrastivist may face charges of fixing the contrasts in an ad hoc way to get the results she wants.

We have already seen one popular way to answer this challenge. This is to appeal to a question under discussion in the context. Linguists and philosophers of language have given arguments independent of contrastivism for the inclusion of such a device in our theory of communication.

For example, it is useful in interpreting intonational stress see Rooth, and in explaining several kinds of pragmatic phenomena see Roberts, The contrastivist can exploit this: the question under discussion fixes the set of alternatives relative to which the ascription is interpreted. But there are other options. As we have already seen, one prominent contrastivist, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, argues for a very different solution to the problem of determining the contrast class.

Sinnott-Armstrong , argues that no way of determining relevance is correct, and that we should instead be relevance skeptics. We should simply suspend judgment about the content and truth of non-relativized claims employing a contrastive concept. One way to gain traction here, though this goes beyond the scope of this article, is to seek independent evidence for the existence of a relevant question under discussion in explanations of natural language phenomena. Linguists have developed powerful explanatory theories of various natural language phenomena using questions under discussion.

So even if specific proposals about how to determine the relevant contrast class, or question under discussion, face challenges, we at least have some reason to be optimistic that there is such a relevant contrast class or question. A second and related challenge is that contrastivism delivers apparently objectionable results, as long as the relevant contrast class is set up in the right way. This problem is perhaps sharpest for the contrastivist about obligation. You may be obligated to do all kinds of terrible or crazy things, because the contrast class is crazy.

So you are obligated to burn down her house while she is at work rather than burn it down with her inside. This is even more objectionable when we remember that these need not be the only options open to you—it may be perfectly possible for you to take her a plate of freshly baked cookies, or to simply stay at home and watch television, instead. Still, the contrastivist will say that you are obligated to burn down her house while she is at work, as long as the relevant alternative is burning it down with her inside. The contrastivist about obligation is committed to this result, when paired with any plausible theory about what an agent is obligated to do out of a given contrast class.

But it is not clear how serious this problem actually is. In any ordinary context—for example, a context in which you could take her a plate of freshly baked cookies, instead—these will not be the only relevant alternatives. In fact, they are unlikely to be relevant alternatives at all, at least before they are mentioned. In these ordinary contexts, the contrastivist about obligation will not be committed to the truth of the objectionable non-contrastive claim.

The details of this solution will depend on what our theory tells us about fixing the relevant set of alternatives, but it should be clear that the contrastivist has options here. A closely related problem is raised against contrastive theories of moral reasons by Andrew Jordan. Jordan argues that some actions should be, and are, performed in a whole-hearted way—that is, without considering alternatives at all. The virtuous person will simply see that taking her sick pet to the vet is the thing to do and will not consider alternatives, or take into account reasons for alternatives, for example, the potentially high cost.

So the reasons favoring the whole-hearted action do not seem to be relativized to any contrast class at all. This problem only arises if the contrastivist about reasons holds that the contrast class is fixed by the options the subject is considering.

Philosophy: Determinism and Free Will

But as we have seen, there are many more options for the contrastivist. It is not clear, for example, how this problem could arise on a speaker contextualist theory. So this is not a problem for the contrastivist as such. Though these last two challenges are not serious problems for contrastivism as such, they are useful in thinking about the first challenge—that of saying what fixes the contrast class for a given claim.

As long as the speaker intends a crazy contrast class, the objectionable ascriptions may come out true. This kind of contrastivist would then need to try to explain why this result is not actually objectionable. Another problem in this vein is harder to articulate in a sharp way.

It stems from the idea that there must be an answer to whether the concept really applies, over and above whether it applies relative to any particular set of alternatives. What I want to know is, ought I take the bus? Read straightforwardly, this objection is just a rejection of the central thesis of contrastivism. Read in that way, there is not much the contrastivist can say. There is another, more contrastivist-friendly way to construe this idea.

The contrastivist can accommodate this idea by identifying special contrast classes, and claiming that they are relevant in the cases the objector has in mind. These are not mutually exclusive options, of course—for example, all four could be construed as exhaustive sets of alternatives. The contrastivist can hold that some reasons or obligations, for example, moral reasons or obligations, are always relativized to one of these special kinds of contrast class, while other reasons and obligations are not. This is all perfectly consistent with contrastivism, and lets us capture something very close to the idea that there is something we really ought to do or really have reason to do.

A very different kind of challenge involves cross-context inferences. The central feature of contrastivism, that lets it solve puzzles facing non-contrastive theories, is that a concept may apply relative to one set of alternatives without applying relative to others. For example, just because we know that you ought to A rather than B , that does not tell us anything about whether you ought to A rather than C. This central feature leads to a very important challenge: sometimes, knowing that a concept applies relative to some alternatives should tell us whether it applies relative to certain other alternatives.

The advantages of contrastivism come from letting the application of a concept vary with the alternatives. What this problem shows is that we have to constrain this variation in certain ways. The strategy adopted by contrastivists who have addressed this problem is to appeal to some non-contrastive foundation on which the application of the concept depends. Contrastivism has been applied across much of philosophy, and it is no wonder why. It promises to resolve the closure paradox in epistemology, provide the best theory of explanation, perhaps the central concept in philosophy and science, and finally give a true theory of causation.

And that is before we even broach the field of ethics. There, contrastivism promises to resolve—or at least shed serious light on—the paradoxes of deontic logic, the problem of determinism, and provide an account of reasons for action. There is much more work to be done in making good on these promises. But at the very least, this appears to be a very fruitful research program—especially in ethics, where less work has been done.

Justin Snedegar Email: js st-andrews. Ethics and Contrastivism A contrastive theory of some concept holds that the concept in question only applies or fails to apply relative to a set of alternatives. Contrastivism in General In this section we will briefly introduce the broad range of topics that have received a contrastive treatment in areas outside of ethics, and see what kinds of arguments contrastivists about some concept deploy.

Contrastivism in Different Domains i. Epistemology One of the most well known applications of contrastivism relates to knowledge.

Gifting Information

Philosophy of Science Contrastive theses have also been offered in the philosophy of science. Contrastivism and Questions Contrastivists often claim that their theories are ones according to which the target concept is question-relative : relative to one question, the concept holds, while relative to another, it does not. Non-Exhaustivity and Resolution-Sensitivity Thinking of a contrastive theory of some concept in terms of question-relativity helps bring out two important features of contrastivism.

Contrastivism in Ethics While applications of contrastivism within epistemology and the philosophy of science are more well known, contrastivism has also been applied to a wide range of topics in ethics and normative philosophy more generally. Contrastivism about Obligation The oldest application of contrastive ideas in ethics is contrastivism about obligation. Contrastivism about Normative Reasons The last application of contrastivism to ethics is contrastivism about normative reasons. As with most other implementations of contrastivism, contrastivism about reasons can be motivated by linguistic considerations: The fact that my guest is vegetarian is a reason to make vegetable lasagna rather than roast duck.

The fact that my guest is vegetarian is not a reason to make vegetable lasagna rather than mushroom risotto. A schematic statement of this very common idea is the following: Promotion: Consideration R is a reason to perform act A if R explains why A-ing would promote objective O. General Challenges To close, consider some general challenges facing contrastivism of any variety. Setting the Contrast Class The first few challenges are interrelated, and have to do with setting the relevant contrast class. Cross-Context Inferences A very different kind of challenge involves cross-context inferences.

Conclusion Contrastivism has been applied across much of philosophy, and it is no wonder why. References and Further Reading Baumann, P. Blaauw, M. Contrastivism in Philosophy. A collection of papers demonstrating the breadth of the contrastivist program in philosophy, including several in ethics.

Cariani, F. Chandler, J. Uses contrastive confirmation to solve an important problem in confirmation theory. Craig, W. Oxford University Press. Argues that the central function of the concept of knowledge is to identify good sources of information, and develops a theory of knowledge based on this conception. Dretske, F. Early version of the relevant alternatives theory of knowledge, direct predecessor of contrastivism. Driver, J. Routledge, Sketches a contrastive account of luck, and applies it to the problem of moral luck.

Finlay, S. Fitelson, B. Discussion of contrastive theories of confirmation. The Scientific Image. Influential development of a contrastive theory of explanation. Grice, H. Harvard University Press,