Gregg CarusoGregg Caruso is a philosopher at SUNY Corning. He is a free will skeptic and a "hard-enough" determinist, who thinks human beings are not in control of their actions. He writes:
We all naturally take ourselves to be free agents capable of acting in alternative ways by consciously choosing and deciding to follow different courses of action. Indeed, belief in freedom of the will lies at the core of our self-conception and underlies many of our moral, legal, and theological attitudes. When we think of free will we usually think of a kind of personal power to originate choices and decisions and thus action. We believe we have free will when "(a) it is 'up to us' what we choose from an array of alternative possibilities and (b) the origin or source of our choices and actions is in us and not in anyone or anything else over which we have no control." (Kane 2002a, 5).He says that the threat to free will comes from the theory in classical physics that every event is the result of deterministic physical laws of nature. Of course, indeterministic quantum mechanics has now replaced classical mechanics.
Although there are different ways to state this threat, determinism, as it is commonly understood, is roughly the position that every event or action, including human action, is the inevitable result of preceding events and actions and the laws of nature.1 If determinism is true then every human action is causally necessitated by events and states of affairs that occurred or obtained prior to the agent's existence. But if every action is causally necessitated in this way it would seem no one could have ever acted otherwise... These positions can be defined by how they answer two main questions: whether all events are determined or not — determinism versus indeterminism — and whether freedom can coexist with determinism or not — compatibilism versus incompatibilism. Libertarians, for example, are incompatibilists who defend a form of indeterminist free will. That is, libertarians maintain that free will is at odds with determinism — if determinism is true, free will is impossible — but they also maintain that at least some of our choices and actions are free in the sense that they are not causally determined. Determinists (or hard determinists), on the other hand, are incompatibilists who deny the existence of free will — they maintain that all human behavior, like the behavior of all other things, arises from antecedent conditions given which no other behavior is possible. The third position, that of compatibilism (or soft-determinism), tries to reconcile free will with causal determinism. Compatibilists maintain that the problem of free will and determinism is a pseudo-problem that can be solved (or dissolved) once we acknowledge that moral freedom (the kind of freedom required for responsibility) does not require the denial of determinism.Caruso wrote his Ph.D. thesis under Michael Levin, who is a compatibiist. Caruso's website is GreggCaruso.com. Caruso's latest book is a Just Deserts, a debate with Daniel Dennett. In this new book with Dennett, Caruso says why he is a free will skeptic...
My own reasons for favoring free will skepticism do not depend upon the truth of determinism – I’m officially agnostic about the thesis of universal determinism. Instead, I maintain that the sort of free will required for desert-based moral responsibility is incom- patible with both causal determination by factors beyond the agent’s control and with the kind of indeterminacy in action required by the most plausible versions of libertarianism. That is, I maintain that we lack free will either way. I argue that since the various rival libertarian and compatibilist accounts all fail to preserve the control in action required for desert-based moral responsibility, the skeptical position remains the only reasonable position left standing. Since my view maintains that free will is incompatible with both determinism and indeterminism, I follow Derk Pereboom in labeling it hard incompatibilism so as to distinguish it from traditional hard determinism. Against libertarian accounts of free will, I first distinguish between (a) views that maintain actions are caused solely by way of events, and some type of indeterminacy in the production of actions by appropriate events is held to be a decisive requirement for free will and moral responsibility; and (b) those views that appeal to sui generis kinds of agency or causation, where an agent, understood as a substance and not just a collection of events, has the power to cause various events (i.e. “free actions”) without being causally determined to do so. Against the former view, which is known as event- causal libertarianism, I object that on such an account, agents are left unable to settle whether a decision occurs and hence cannot have the control in action (i.e. the free will) required for moral responsibility (see Pereboom 2014).Caruso particularly objects to the idea of free will because it is used, especially in the courts, to support a "retributive" punishment as opposed to a "consequentialist" form, which uses "punishment" only if it is designed to improve the future behaviors of the agent. To punish someone who is not morally responsible is not right. And consequential punishment is always preferable to retribution, fundamentally "revenge." About his forthcoming book from Cambridge University Press Rejecting Retributivism: Free Will, Punishment, and Criminal Justice, he writes,
I develop six distinction arguments for rejecting retributivism. They are the (1) Skeptical Argument, (2) Epistemic Argument, (3) Misalignment Argument, (4) Poor Epistemic Position Argument (PEPA), (5) Indeterminacy in Judgment Argument, and (6) Limited Effectiveness Argument. The dual aims of the book are to argue against retributivism and to develop and defend a viable non-retributive alternative for addressing criminal behavior that is both ethically defensible and practically workable. In the first half of the book, I develop six distinct arguments for rejecting retributivism, not the least of which is that it’s unclear that agents possess the kind of free will and moral responsibility needed to justify it. I also consider a number of alternatives to retributivism, including consequentialist deterrence theories, educational theories, and communicative theories, and argue that they each have ethical problems of their own. In the second half of the book, I then develop and defend my novel non-retributive approach, which I call the public health-quarantine model. The model draws on the public health framework and prioritizes prevention and social justice. I argue that it not only offers a stark contrast to retributivism, it also provides a more humane, holistic, and effective approach to dealing with criminal behavior, one that is superior to both retributivism and other leading non-retributive alternatives.Normal | Teacher | Scholar