Free Will PositionsThe State of the Free Will Debates
Background Materials for Discussions at MIT
April 4, 2018
Free WillOlivier Wright - Thoughts on Free Will ……………………………2
William James - Two-Stage Model (Darwin) …………………….8
Karl Popper - Two-Stage Model (Darwin) ………………………..9
Kane on Popper ……………………………………………………..9
Daniel Dennett's Two-Stage Model (Valerian) ………………….10
Kane on Dennett …………………………………………………...11
Robert Kane's Two-Stage Model ("Practical Reason") ………...11
Dennett on Kane …………………………………………………...13
Alfred Mele's Two-Stage Model (Modest Libertarianism) …..….18
Bob Doyle's Two-Stage Model (Cogito) …..……………………...20
Moral ResponsibilityBob Doyle on the Separation of Free Will from Moral Responsibility ……………………………………….....21
Dennett on Moral Competence ……………………………………22
Kane on Ultimate Responsibility …………………………………..23
Galen Strawson on the Impossibility of Moral Responsibility …..24 Glossary of Terms …………………………………..…………………….....28
The Standard Argument Against Free Will states:Olivier Wright - Thoughts on Free Will
If our actions are determined, we are not free.
If they are random, we cannot be responsible for them.
(Chapter excerpt from "Psi - The Book") My interest in free will was originally driven by my questioning of my own life: how free have I been to become who I am? It was later reinforced by a fear that anybody reading the news might legitimately worry about: is science really telling us that we don't have free will? Going into this project, I had some understanding of the matter - more than the regular Joe - enough at least to navigate it safely and know how to explore it further. But as I got into it, I discovered I had only started grappling with the outer weeds of the forest. And the process of making this project forced me to make some adjustments in my understanding which I will present here, because my own "un-weeding" of the question may be helpful to those who want to know more too. To begin with, it took me a long time to come to really appreciate that the question "do we have free will or are we entirely determined?" is a misguided question, because it is implicitly opposing determinism and free will, which at first glance feels kind of natural, but depending on how you define free will, might not be at all justified. And it is essential to get this: most philosophers arguing about free will are often talking about different kinds of freedom. And while the distinction is often summarily presented at the beginning of classes or lectures, it often doesn't really register that we are talking about two different things, because we continue to use the expression "free will" indiscriminately. So the first step in approaching this discussion is to clearly understand that there are two very different ways of defining free will. One way is to say that free will means being morally competent, and moral competence relies on two things: (1) being able to reason correctly, to make rational decisions and to act freely (in the sense of not being constrained by outside forces or internal incapacities) to pursue our desires and ambitions (whatever they may be and however they may have been formed, excluding the involvement of external authors), and (2) the presence of a society with other people who hold each other responsible. If either one of these two conditions isn't met (a child, for instance, or a person alone with no one else around), then this kind of free will just isn't there or worth talking about. With this kind of free will, we are essentially saying: a person is free because he is morally responsible; he is morally responsible because he is morally competent; and he is morally competent because he is able to decide and act in accordance with his will in such a way that he himself and other people will hold him responsible. Now if we define free will in this way, then determinism is not an issue, because determinism says nothing of our ability to be morally competent. In fact, living in a determined world (i.e. one where causal laws allow us to act in a controlled way and predict the actions of other objects and persons) enhances our ability to be morally competent. So, in short, this kind of freedom is compatible with determinism; this is why it is called Compatibilism. The other way is to say that free will means some form of true authorship over our wills themselves. In simple terms, it can be defined in a negative sense, in contrast to determinism: you're free so long as you are not fully determined to be the way you are. So it's not enough that we be free to act in accordance with our will, we must have been responsible for forming the will from which we act. This is sometimes called "ultimate responsibility," in the sense that you were not just responsible for causing your act, but also for causing the will that motivated your act. So, in contrast to compatibilism, here you are responsible if and only if you are free, and being free requires that you were not fully determined to will what you will, which means in turn that at some point in your past, there must have been decisions which were both (1) undetermined and (b) caused by you in such a way that they weren't entirely random either. Answering these two conditions is where the meat of the work rests for those who hold this view of freedom, which, seeing as it is not compatible with determinism, is called Incompatibilism, or, more commonly, Libertarianism. So you see, if you view freedom in the compatibilist sense, then determinism doesn't really matter; it's only if you think that freedom should be understood in a libertarian sense that the determinism question comes up. And this is important because the original question "Are we free or are we determined?" tells us something about our intuitions on free will: namely that most people - me included - have a natural bias towards libertarian free will. We really do believe that we are in charge, that if we were to go back in time, we could have made a different choice - and that we really could have, not just in a "no one is forcing me to do this" way, but in a "I dictate the course of the atoms around me with my decision" way. Because of this natural inclination, I think the indiscriminate use of the expression "free will" leads to a quite a bit of confusion, because when a scientist or a philosopher says "we do" or "we don't" have free will, it isn't obvious to the untrained listener which kind of free will is being talked about. Usually, when we hear people say "free will is impossible," they are referring to the libertarian kind of free will, and it makes absolute sense to say that if determinism is true, then it's going to be hard to have it; conversely when we hear philosophers being disgruntled at such claims that free will is impossible, arguing in return that free will is possible, they are usually not talking about libertarian free will anymore - they are talking about the compatibilist kind of free will, which, again, most would say is possible in a determined world.In fact, it's enlightening to detect potential points of agreement among philosophers who, on the spectrum of the debate, are polar opposites. Let's take the example of Dan Dennett and Robert Kane, who most clearly personify the compatibilist/libertarian divide. If you ask Kane and Dennet the following question: is free will possible? They will both say yes.- Kane will say: "yes, free will is possible because of and thanks to quantum randomness, which I think really exists and affects us." He's referring to free will in the Libertarian sense.- Dennett will say: "yes, free will is possible whether or not determinism is true, which I think it is." He's referring to free will in the compatibilist sense.They agree that we have free will, but they disagree both on what free will is and on the causal nature of the universe. But the fact they seem irreconcilable rests in large part because they are arguing mostly for their own version of free will while dismissing the other - Dennett says that Libertarian free will is not worth wanting, while Kane says that the Compatiblist free will is not what we want. But if we were to neatly compartmentalize the conversation, they would both probably agree on most things. If you ask Dennett and Kane whether or not free will in a libertarian sense is possible in a determined world, they will surely agree: no, it is not, but this is of little interest to Dennett. Conversely, if you ask them both whether free will in a compatibilist sense is possible in a determined world, they will both agree: yes, it is, but this is of little interest to Kane.And this is where a lot of people, myself included, get confused - because usually if you get interested in this subject, it's because you've read somewhere that science is proving that we don't have free will (and they mean it in the libertarian sense). So you get hooked, you read a few things then hear a philosopher who says "No not at all, don't listen to the naysayers, free will is possible" and then gives you the compatibilist argument, and then for a moment you get it, but then you don't, because something's off. And this is why: the compatibilists are essentially shifting the conversation, they are doing some form of conceptual slight of hand. When Object A (libertarian free will) seems to vanish into thin air, they make it appear again, saying "surprise, it hadn't actually disappeared," but it is in fact Object B (compatibilist free will). And I don't mean this in a bad way, either. Compatibilist free will is its own thing, just as important a subject as libertarian free will, and compatibilists are understandably baffled by people's eagerness to discuss libertarian free will. But they feel this way because they themselves, personally, have lost interest in it, and are quite happy having their compatibilist kind of free will. But in doing so they alienate many listeners because they don't address the issue those people are concerned with when they first dive into this subject. The big question, then, is: which definition of free will should we favor? And there are basically two ways of looking at it: - We have a question of scientific fact: how does the Universe work? Is it fully determined or is there some randomness?- And we have a question of philosophical preference: what does free will mean? How should we define it and what are its requirements?And so there are two ways to approach this problem:- Approach 1: you start by answering the first question of fact, and then you adjust your preferences in answering the second question.- Approach 2: you start by answering the second, that is by setting your philosophical preference, and then probe the answer to the first one in the hope it can make it possible. My initial impression was that generally, compatibilists and libertarians each had a preferred approach in this respect: - I felt that compatibilists were the ones following approach 1, that they first looked at how the world works and then constructed a view of freedom that can operate within the bounds of that answer - thus compatibilism.- In contrast, I initially suspected that the libertarians were prone to approach 2, that they started with their intuitive preference about what freedom should be, and then needed to look at science in the hope of finding some explanation to make it possible - thus their sometimes "hopeful" stance on the random interpretations of quantum mechanics and brain processes.But as I looked closer, I felt that both camps might sometimes be approaching the question the other way:- Compatibilists sometimes seem so attached to the compatibilist view of freedom that they refuse to really engage with the research in quantum physics, simply dismissing the influence it might have on our brains and arguing that it is irrelevant to the compatibilist kind of free will (which, in a sense, it is). But in doing so they are resisting new scientific evidence that might shift the answer to the first question, in order to not distract from a definition of freedom that functions well. - Meanwhile, libertarians sometimes appeared to be the most in tune with modern science, starting with an assessment of how the world works -including indeterminisic interpretations of quantum mechanics - and then constructing a view of free will accordingly. And so, on the libertarian side of things, I genuinely think that Doyle follows approach 1, that he is first and foremost a quantum physicist, convinced of indeterminism, before being a libertarian philosopher of free will. Whereas Kane, I feel, follows approach 2: he is first and foremost a philosopher who wants Libertarian free will to be possible and therefore must become scientifically knowledgeable enough to defend the indeterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics in support of his philosophical preference. While on the compatibilist side of things, I think that Gazzaniga is first and foremost a neurobiologist who, based on his own findings on the brain, has drawn conclusions about free will that happen to fit quite neatly in the compatibilist category. In contrast, Dennett seems to be first and foremost a philosopher who argued very successfully for a free will that is compatible with determinism at a time when science was claiming all over the place that free will (in a libertarian sense) is impossible, and is therefore uninterested in discussing the desirability or possibility of libertarian free will. The bottom line here, that really muddies the waters, is this: we really don't have a definitive answer to the first question. How does the world actually work? Is there some randomness? Does it affect the brain? We don't know for sure, so the matter of fact is still open. Some think it's not open enough to leave room for any argument in favor of libertarianism, others do - and that is yet another level of possible debate. But still, most philosophers don't depart from what science is saying - at most they exploit some "open questions" in support of their view, but they hardly ever push the boundaries of what is scientifically possible beyond - otherwise they'd lose all credibility. So, despite everything we know and understand about the physical world, there's still a lot we don't, particularly on the causal order of the quantum world, and we know even less about the brain. So there's still a reasonable "fog of uncertainty" there where libertarianism can live. The reason why most philosophers are compatibilists, though, is because compatibilism is the "safe bet": whether the universe is deterministic or not, we can have it. The libertarian kind is the one that is a bit tricky, because it cannot exist if everything is actually genuinely deterministic. How you feel about this issue really depends on what you consider to be important for freedom, what do you think is worth wanting. If free will in the compatibilist sense is good enough, then you have nothing to worry about, because even if quantum randomness did have an effect in our brain, it wouldn't fundamentally change anything - it would essentially take the place of Dennett's "pseudo random generation" and be a "better" source of randomness - and in response to claims that this would make our actions random, we can just appeal to the libertarian arguments of "adequate determinism" and absorption of quantum randomness to restore reliability and coherence to our actions. In short, transitioning from compatibilism to libertarianism is fairly easy - it's the other way around that's painful. Indeed, if free will in the libertarian sense is what matters to you, then you have to "take your chances" with science:- Condition 1: You must endorse the view that quantum physics is indeed showing that there is randomness in the universe, and thereby rebut all those who claim that the apparent randomness is not actually what it seems.- Condition 2: You must endorse the view that this randomness does affect our large-scale brain processes in a non-negligible way and therefore rebut those who say that this quantum randomness, while possibly being true, just has no effect on our mind. If either of these steps fail, then you cannot have the libertarian kind of free will. And even if these steps are satisfied, there are further complications: how does a random event make us any more responsible for our actions? why doesn't that make us random? isn't an undetermined decision irrational? and so on. So beyond the tricky question of whether it is possible lies the question of whether it is at all useful. While grappling with these issues, I always felt a little frustrated by the "free will debate", because it opposed two camps I kind of agree with: on the one hand, I felt that the libertarians did really capture the kind of freedom we intuitively feel and that actually matters to us in a deep way, and that determinism was thus legitimately a big concern; however, libertarianism requires fulfilling a bunch of conditions that are scientifically challenging, and also sometimes is a Trojan Horse for mystic, religious or otherwise new-age conceptions of human agency. This is why, on the other hand, the pragmatism of compatibilists appealed to me: I shared their suspicion that many libertarians seemed to hold out for some metaphysical view of free will and agreed that compatibilist freedom was not only what really should matter to us in a more practical sense, but that it's possible; however, compatibilism always left me wanting more, as though just stopping there was sidestepping the issue that the libertarians were addressing. And this bothered me too. So the debate didn't sit well with me: either you're a libertarian, either you're a compatibilist. One or the other. As I worked on Psi, I slowly came to think that doesn't have to be the case, for one simple reason - that some philosophers may disagree with, but which works for me and may work for you - and that reason is this: compatibilists and libertarians are arguing about different things, two different definitions of freedom, and that means they don't have to be mutually exclusive. They can co-exist. They operate in a different space, or rather, at a different "time" or "level" in human behavior, and so you can have one and the other. In other words, compatibilism and incompatibilism are not… well, incompatible. The way I see it now is that they are in a continuum, like in a "two-stage model of free wills", if you will:- In the first stage, we can grant the possibility of libertarian free will, which itself can be best construed as a two-stage model: o First: if (a) quantum physics is actually random and (b) such micro-indeterminacies are amplified in the brain (through chaos, for instance) to have a non-negligible effect on cognitive processes (both things which I don't think we can for sure say aren't true), then the randomness part is established.o Second: the functioning and scale of the brain mean that the end result of such micro random neuronal activity would not be macro random actions. The size of the brain allows for such micro indeterminacies to be "averaged over" in such a way that our behavior is "adequately determined," even though at the source of things there is some real randomness. Moreover, libertarians grant that many of our actions may be fully determined anyway, when we would have no reasons for such actions to be undetermined. - Then in the second stage, once we have established that a libertarian will could be possible at a "base-level" and it wouldn't really undermine our control over our actions, then we can focus on a compatibilist kind of free will, which is then totally possible and useful too for discussing moral responsibility. And the potential presence of amplified quantum events in the brain takes nothing away from it. So my two stage model basically would be:- First stage: libertarian free will- Second stage: compatibilist free willI know, this sounds like some neat, simplistic view of a centuries-long debate which has probably been held by every 1st year philosophy student. But I haven't heard it before and it seems like a fairly workable model to me. The only knock-down argument would be: if complete determinism were shown to be true, then libertarianism would be impossible. But then, whatever - we'd still have compatibilism, which after all is still pretty good and would perhaps accelerate an already needed reevaluation of our intuitions about moral desert. But then even if everything was determined, libertarian free will wouldn't be doomed the trash bin of ideas, for two reasons. The first is that our intuitions about libertarian free will are still pretty deeply ingrained in our genetic hardware - and it's one that is almost impossible to shake off, even willingly. So I think whatever we learn about the causal laws of the Universe, we'll still live in some "simulation" of libertarian free will. But the second reason is that there's even a way to get a "sort-of libertarian free will" even in a determined world: we just basically substitute the "real randomness" of quantum physics by the unpredictability of our behavior, given how chaotic our brains and social interactions are. In theory, sure, an all knowing machine could predict what you're going to do - so the future is not really undetermined - but this machine just doesn't exist. And so we would operate in a way that is for all intents and purposes "free-in-a-libertarian-sense" because our brains and our social interactions are so complex that they are just as unpredictable as quantum events. This model, combining libertarianism and compatibilism as part of a continuum, or as working at two different layers in human behavior, is the one I tried to present in Act 3 of the film. My first edit was originally a more traditional presentation of the free will debate, where I basically started by saying "look, we're pretty determined, but it doesn't matter because we have compatibilist free will" and then went on with "but wait, is that enough? What about libertarian free will?" But then I started seeing both in the way presented above, and re-edited Act 3 to present libertarianism and compatibilism on a continuum, rather than as two different views that would have more or less merit. Obviously, I don't know if that will come across to the audience, which is why I wrote this entire chapter to explain. Thanks for indulging me.
William James' Two-Stage Model (1884, based on Darwinian Evolution)
From "The Dilemma of Determinism," The Will to Believe (New York, Dover, 1956), p. 149. Old-fashioned determinism was what we may call hard determinism. It did not shrink from such words as fatality, bondage of the will, necessitation, and the like. Nowadays, we have a soft determinism which abhors harsh words, and, repudiating fatality, necessity, and even predetermination, says that its real name is freedom; for freedom is only necessity understood, and bondage to the highest is identical with true freedom. "What is meant by saying that my choice of which way to walk home after the lecture is ambiguous and matter of chance?...It means that both Divinity Avenue and Oxford Street are called but only one, and that one either one, shall be chosen." (p. 153.) "The stronghold of the determinist argument is the antipathy to the idea of chance. As soon as we begin to talk indeterminism to our friends, we find a number of them shaking their heads. This notion of alternative possibility, they say, this admission that any one of several things may come to pass is, after all, only a roundabout name for chance; (p. 153.) "Indeterminism… admits that possibilities may be in excess of actualities, and that things not yet revealed to our knowledge may really in themselves be ambiguous. Of two alternative futures which we conceive, both may now be really possible; and the one becomes impossible only at the very moment when the other excludes it by becoming real itself. Indeterminism thus denies the world to be one unbending unit of fact. It says there is a certain ultimate pluralism in it; and, so saying, it corroborates our ordinary unsophisticated view of things. To that view, actualities seem to float in a wider sea of possibilities from out of which they are chosen; and, somewhere, indeterminism says, such possibilities exist, and form a part of truth. "A remarkable parallel, which I think has never been noticed, obtains between the facts of social evolution on the one hand, and of zoölogical evolution as expounded by Mr. Darwin on the other." - Great Men, Great Thoughts, and the Environment", Atlantic Monthly 46 (October 1880): 441-459.p. 441) p. 153. "If we look at an animal or a human being, distinguished from the rest of his kind by the possession of some extraordinary peculiarity, good or bad, we shall be able to discriminate between the causes which originally produced the peculiarity in him and the causes that maintained it after it is produced; and we shall see, if the peculiarity be one that he was born with, that these two sets of causes belong to two such irrelevant cycles. It was the triumphant originality of Darwin to see this, and to act accordingly. Separating the causes of production under the title of 'tendencies to spontaneous variation,' and relegating them to physiological cycles which he forthwith agreed to ignore altogether, he confined his attention to the causes of preservation, and under the names of natural selection and sexual selection." "…mental progress must result from a series of adaptive changes, in the sense already defined of that word...It might, accordingly, seem as if there were no room for any agency other than this; as if the distinction we have found so useful between "spontaneous variation," as the producer of changed forms, and the environment, as their preserver and destroyer…" (p. 445)
Karl Popper's Two-Stage Model (1977, also based on Darwinian Evolution)
From "Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind," talk delivered at Darwin College, Cambridge, November 8, 1977 The selection of a kind of behavior out of a randomly offered repertoire may be an act of choice, even an act of free will. I am an indeterminist; and in discussing indeterminism I have often regretfully pointed out that quantum indeterminacy does not seem to help us;1 for the amplification of something like, say, radioactive disintegration processes would not lead to human action or even animal action, but only to random movements. I have changed my mind on this issue.2 A choice process may be a selection process, and the selection may be from some repertoire of random events, without being random in its turn. This seems to me to offer a promising solution to one of our most vexing problems, and one by downward causation. 1. Cf. my Objective Knowledge, chapter 6, pp. 226-29.2. See p. 540 of J. C. Eccles and K. R. Popper, The Self and Its Brain (Berlin, Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer-Verlag, 1977).
Robert Kane on Popper (1985) Natural evolution, conceived along Darwinian lines, is a trial and error process in which the results of chance mutation in the genetic makeup of individuals of a species are tested and selected through interaction with the natural environment. In practical deliberation…, the role of chance corresponds to the role of mutations in natural evolution, while the role of reason corresponds to that of the selecting environment. Chance occurrences may influence the stream of consciousness of the reflecting agent suggesting new possible options, consequences, etc., and these are then selected or rejected by the agent, first, by way of thought experimentation (i.e. deliberation), and ultimately by living in accordance with their implications as value experiments.. In this way, practical human freedom may be conceived as an extension of evolutionary processes allowing analogues of genetic mutations to occur in the mind and then to be subject to selection in the mental life of rational agents. This evolutionary theme has been emphasized by number of thinkers recently, and I believe it is one of the important pieces of the puzzle of libertarian freedom, at least of libertarian practical freedom…Free Will and Values, p.102-103
Daniel Dennett's Two-Stage Model
From "On Giving Libertarians What They Say They Want," Brainstorms, 1978 "The model of decision making I am proposing, has the following feature: when we are faced with an important decision, a consideration-generator whose output is to some degree undetermined produces a series of considerations, some of which may of course be immediately rejected as irrelevant by the agent (consciously or unconsciously). Those considerations that are selected by the agent as having a more than negligible bearing on the decision then figure in a reasoning process, and if the agent is in the main reasonable, those considerations ultimately serve as predictors and explicators of the agent's final decision. What can be said in favor of such a model…?" 1. "First...The intelligent selection, rejection, and weighing of the considerations that do occur to the subject is a matter of intelligence making the difference."2. "Second, I think it installs indeterminism in the right place for the libertarian, if there is a right place at all."3. "Third...from the point of view of biological engineering, it is just more efficient and in the end more rational that decision making should occur in this way."4. "A fourth observation in favor of the model is that it permits moral education to make a difference, without making all of the difference."5. "Fifth - and I think this is perhaps the most important thing to be said in favor of this model - it provides some account of our important intuition that we are the authors of our moral decisions."6. "Finally, the model I propose points to the multiplicity of decisions that encircle our moral decisions and suggests that in many cases our ultimate decision as to which way to act is less important phenomenologically as a contributor to our sense of free will than the prior decisions affecting our deliberation process itself: the decision, for instance, not to consider any further, to terminate deliberation; or the decision to ignore certain lines of inquiry."These prior and subsidiary decisions contribute, I think, to our sense of ourselves as responsible free agents, roughly in the following way: I am faced with an important decision to make, and after a certain amount of deliberation, I say to myself: "That's enough. I've considered this matter enough and now I'm going to act," in the full knowledge that I could have considered further, in the full knowledge that the eventualities may prove that I decided in error, but with the acceptance of responsibility in any case.Further notes in "From Bacteria to Bach and Back", p.43, 2017 In Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995), I argued that natural selection is an algorithmic process, a collection of sorting algorithms that are themselves composed of generate-and-test algorithms that exploit randomness (pseudo-randomness, chaos) in the generation phase, and some sort of mindless quality-control testing phase, with the winners advancing in the tournament by having more offspring.
Robert Kane on Dennett "Deliberation always works by trial and error, or more precisely, by the method of trial and of error elimination, by tentatively proposing various possibilities and eliminating those that do not seem adequate. Similar conclusions are arrived at by some students of the fields of cybernetics and artificial intelligence, who note the importance of computer processes for generating random numbers to initiate trial and error probes in creative problem solving. This theme has been pursued by a number of thinkers, most recently by Daniel Dennett in his important work Brainstorms (1978). Dennett quotes approvingly the poet Paul Valery's claim that the essence of invention is the intelligent selection from among chance generated candidates and he goes on to suggest a model of decision making based on this idea... Dennett argues that such a model can help to make sense of the libertarian view. I agree-but with the proviso that such a model is only directly relevant to contexts of practical decision making. Moral and prudential choice, as I have emphasized, must be treated differently. Dennett does not suggest, nor could it be justifiably suggested, that such a model would account for moral decision-making without major revisions or additions. But he is nevertheless on to something important, a significant piece in the overall puzzle of a libertarian freedom.Free Will and Values, pp.103-104 ,p.19
Robert Kane's Two-Stage Model of "Practical Reason" (1985-2005)
From Free Will and Values,, pp.102, 1985 Practical deliberation and creative problem solving have much in common since both are trial and error processes involve thought experimentation about possible options and their consequences. The similarities suggest that, if chance occurrences play a role in practical reasoning at all, the role is likely to be like the role of inspiration to the creative thinker. Chance occurrences would influence the stream of consciousness of the reflecting agent, suggesting new possible options, new consequences of the options, new ways of viewing consequences of the options, etc. Inspiration in creative problem solving is not totally within the control of the reflecting agent. Yet its results are significant only to the prepared mind… chance occurrences are given meaning only within a wider context of reasoning and reasons; and the agent can be responsible for chance outcomes if he or she interprets them and accepts them as guides to further deliberation or to experiments in living. One can assume that some of these chance selected considerations well up from the unconscious mind. Freud and other theorists of the unconscious are often thought to be allies of determinists and compatibilists, not of libertarians, But, in reality, theories of the unconscious are two-edged swords in debates about free will. The unconscious may be the source of compelling desires and fears, but it may also be the source of novel insights resulting from chance associations of images and motives. It is odd that in theories of artistic creation the unconscious is often given the role of multiplying and expanding the inventive capacities of the agent, while in theories of freedom of choice the unconscious is usually viewed as limiting our options, determining them to one. More from : A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, pp.64-65, 2005 The final libertarian theory I want to consider in this chapter takes a very different approach to explaining libertarian free choices. This view rejects both simple indeterminism and agent-causation. Instead it focuses on the process of deliberation. When we deliberate, for example, about where to vacation or which law firm to join, many different thoughts, images, feelings, memories, imagined scenarios, and other considerations pass through our minds. Deliberation can be quite a complex process. When Mike thinks about Hawaii, he pictures himself surfing, walking on sunny beaches, eating in his favorite Hawaiian restaurants; and these various thoughts incline him to choose Hawaii. But he also thinks about skiing, sitting by a fireplace after a long day on the slopes, and visiting with friends he knows in Colorado; and he leans toward Colorado. Back and forth he goes, until after a period of time considerations on one side outweigh the others and he finally chooses one option. (Unless, of course he is one of those indecisive types who finds it hard to make up his mind.) In the course of such deliberations-which may sometimes take hours or days and may be interrupted by daily activities-new thoughts, memories or images can often come to mind that influence our deliberations. Mike may suddenly remember a lively nightclub he visited in Honolulu when he was last there-great music, great girls-and the idea of going back to this place gives him an added reason to favor Hawaii, a reason that hadn't previously entered his deliberation. Other images that flit through his mind may turn him against Hawaii. Imagining himself out on the beach all day, suddenly he remembers his doctor's warning about not getting too much sun if he wants to avoid skin cancer. Now one could imagine that some of these various thoughts, memories, and imagined scenarios that come to mind during our deliberations are undetermined and arise by chance and that some of these "chance selected considerations" might make a difference in how we decide. If this were to happen in Mike's case, the course of his deliberation, hence his choice, would be undetermined and unpredictable. A Laplacian demon could not know in advance which way Mike would go, even if the demon knew all the facts about the universe prior to Mike's deliberation, for these facts would not determine the outcome. Yet Mike would still have control over his choice in a certain sense. He could not control all the thoughts and imagined scenarios that come to mind by chance. But he would be in control of how he reacted to those thoughts and imaginings once they did occur. And his choice of Hawaii in the end would be perfectly rational, not arbitrary, if the weight of all the considerations that did come to mind (some of them by chance) weighed in favor of Hawaii. In this way, choices could thus be controlled and rational even though indeterminism was involved in the deliberations leading up to them. A view of this kind is called causal indeterminism or event-causal libertarianism, for it allows that our thoughts, images, memories, beliefs, desires, and other reasons may be causes of our choices or actions without necessarily determining choices and actions; and yet this view does not postulate any extra kind of agent-causation either. Two philosophers who have suggested causal indeterminist views of this kind (without endorsing them), Daniel Dennett and Alfred Mele, argue that a view of this kind would give libertarians at least some of the important things they demand about free will. Such a view, for example, provides for an "open future," such as we think we have when we exercise free will. We would not have to think that our choices and the future direction of our lives had somehow been decided long before we were born. Nor would it be possible for behavioral engineers to completely control our behavior as in Walden Two or for Laplacian demons to know what we were going to do, if chance considerations might enter our deliberations. Yet, as Dennett and Mele also admit, a causal indeterminist view of this deliberative kind does not give us everything libertarians have wanted from free will. For Mike does not have complete control over what chance images and other thoughts enter his mind or influence his deliberation. They simply come as they please. Mike does have some control after the chance considerations have occurred. But then there is no more chance involved. What happens from then on, how he reacts, is determined by desires and beliefs he already has. So it appears that he does not have control in the libertarian sense of what happens after the chance considerations occur as well. Libertarians require more than this for full responsibility and free will. What they would need for free will is for the agent to be able to control which of the chance events occur rather than merely reacting to them in a determined way once they have occurred. Yet, as Mele points out, while this causal indeterminist view does not give us all the control and responsibility that libertarians have wanted, it does give us many of the things they crave about free will (an open future, a break in the causal order, etc.). And it is clearly a possible view. Perhaps it could be further developed to give us more; or perhaps this is as much as libertarians can hope for.
Daniel Dennett on Kane
From Freedom Evolves, pp.97+ The traditional problem of free will is introduced by the proposition that if determinism is true, then we don't have free will, this proposition expresses incompatibilism, and it certainly seems plausible at the outset. Many who have thought long and hard about it still think it's true, so before returning to my project, which denies it outright, let's take it for a test drive to see what its appeal is, and what its strengths are, as well as its weaknesses… Libertarianism: We do have free will, so determinism must be false; indeterminism is true. Since, thanks to quantum physicists, the received view among scientists today is that indeterminism is true (at the subatomic level and, by implication, at higher levels under various specifiable conditions), this can look like a happy resolution of the problem, but there is a snag: How can the indeterminism of quantum physics be harnessed to give us a clear, coherent picture of a human agent exercising this wonderful free will? The best attempt so far is by Robert Kane, in his 1996 book, The Significance of Free Will. Only a libertarian account, Kane claims, can provide the feature we-some of us, at least-yearn for, which he calls Ultimate Responsibility… A human mind has to be a place where the buck stops, Kane says, and only libertarianism can provide this kind of free will, the kind that can give us Ultimate Responsibility. A mind is an arena of "willings (choices, decisions, or efforts)" and: If these willings were in turn caused by something else, so that the explanatory chains could be traced back further to heredity or environment, to God, or fate, then the ultimacy would not lie with the agents but with something else. (Kane 1996, p. 4) Libertarians have to find a way of breaking these ominous causal chains in the agent at the time of decision, and as Kane acknowledges, the inventory of libertarian models so far devised is a zoo of hopeless monsters. "Libertarians have invoked transempirical power centers, non- material egos, noumenal selves, non-occurrent causes, and a litany of other special agencies whose operations were not clearly explained" (p. 11). He sets out to correct that deficiency. Before turning to his attempt, however, we should note that some libertarians don't see this as a deficiency. Unrepentant dualists and others actually embrace the idea that it would take a miracle of sorts for there to be free will. They are sure in their bones that free will, real free will, is strictly impossible in a materialist, mechanist, "reductionist" world-and so much the worse for that materialist vision!... Kane grants that "even if we lived in a determined world, we could meaningfully distinguish persons who are free from such things as physical restraint, addiction or neurosis, coercion or political oppression, from persons not free from
Alfred Mele's Two-Stage Modest Libertarianism
From Free Will and Luck, pp.7-14, 2006 Agents' control is the yardstick by which the bearing of luck on their freedom and moral responsibility is measured. When luck (good or bad) is problematic, that is because it seems significantly to impede agents' control over themselves or to highlight important gaps or shortcomings in such control. It may seem that to the extent that it is causally open whether or not, for example, an agent intends in accordance with his considered judgment about what it is best to do, he lacks some control over what he intends, and it may be claimed that a positive deterministic connection between considered best judgment and intention would be more conducive to freedom and moral responsibility. This last claim will be regarded as a nonstarter by anyone who holds that freedom and moral responsibility require agential control and that determinism is incompatible with such control. Sometimes it is claimed that agents do not control anything at all if determinism is true. That claim is false. When I drive my car (in normal conditions), I control the turns it makes, even if our universe happens to be deterministic. I certainly control my car's turns in a way in which my passengers and others do not… According to typical event-causal libertarian views, the proximate causes of free actions indeterministically cause them... In light of the general point about the proximate causation of actions, typical event-causal libertarianism encompasses a commitment to what may be termed agent-internal indeterminism. What I call modest libertarianism embraces that commitment, too, even though it rejects the idea that the proximate causes of free actions indeterministically cause the actions… Indeterministic worlds in which every instance of causation within any agent is deterministic are hostile environments for libertarian freedom. What libertarians want that determinism precludes is not merely that agents have open to them more than one future that is compatible with the combination of the past and the laws of nature, but that, on some occasions, which possible future becomes actual is in some sense and to some degree up to the agents. They want something that seemingly requires that agents themselves be indeterministic in some suitable way--that some relevant things that happen under the skin are indeterministically caused bv other such things. The focus is on psychological events, of course (as opposed, for example, to indeterministically caused muscle spasms), and, more specifically, on psychological events that have a significant bearing on action.Requiring internal indeterminism for free action and moral responsibility is risky. To be sure, quantum mechanics, according to leading interpretations, is indeterministic. But indeterminism at that level does not ensure that any human brains themselves sometimes operate indeterministically, much less that they sometimes operate indeterministically in ways appropriate for free action and moral responsibility. In any case, traditional libertarians need to show that what they want is coherent. That requires showing that what they want does not entail or presuppose a kind of luck that would itself undermine moral responsibility. The typical libertarian wants both indeterminism and significant control at the moment of decision. That is the desire that prompts a serious version of the worry about luck I sketched earlier. I argue that neither agent causationists nor event-causal libertarians have laid the worry to rest. In the absence of a plausible resolution of the worry, it is epistemically open that a modest libertarian proposal of the sort I sketched is the best a libertarian can do…Of course, even if I happen to hit on the best libertarian option, it does not follow that I have hit on the best option for believers in free action and moral responsibility-as long as compatibilism is still in the running. The modest indeterminism at issue allows agents ample control over their deliberation... That a consideration is indeterministically caused to come to mind does not entail that the agent has no control over how he responds to it. Considerations that are indeterministically caused to come to mind (like considerations that are deterministically caused to come to mind) are nothing more than input to deliberation. Their coming to mind has at most an indirect effect on what the agent decides, an effect that is mediated by the agent's assessment of them. They do not settle matters. Moreover, not only do agents have the opportunity to assess these considerations, but they also have the opportunity to search for additional relevant considerationsbefore they decide, thereby lncreasing the probability that other relevant considerations will be indeterministically caused to come to mind. They have, then, at least sometimes, the opportunity to counteract instances of bad luck-for example, an indeterministically caused coming to mind of a misleading consideration or a chance failure to notice a relevant consideration. And given a suitable indeterminism regarding what comes to mind in an assessment process, there are causally open alternative possibilities for the conclusion or outcome of that process. Compatibilists who hold that we act freely even when we are not in control of what happens at certain specific junctures in the process leading to action are in no position to hold that an indeterministic agent's lacking control at the same junctures precludes free action. And, again, real human beings are not in control of the coming to mind of everything that comes to mind during typical processes of deliberation. If this lack of perfect proximal control does not preclude its being the case that free actions sometimes issue from typical deliberation on the assumption that we are deterministic agents, it also does not preclude this on the assumption that we are indeterministic agents. Is a modest indeterminism of the kind I have sketched useful to libertarians? Elsewhere, I have suggested that what at least some libertarians might prize that no compatibilist account of freedom offers them is a species of agency that gives them a kind of independence and an associated kind of explanatory bearing on their conduct that they would lack in any deterministic world. Modest libertarians can also anticipate trouble from traditional libertarians, who want more than the modest indeterminism that I have described can offer… Of course, given that combinng compatibilist control with indeterminism in a certain psychological sphere was my explicit strategy in constructing a modest libertarian position… The typical libertarian wants both indeterminism and significant control at the moment of decision.
Bob Doyle's Two-Stage Model of Free Will The two-stage model distinguishes a "free stage," in which alternative possibilities for thoughts and actions are generated, some involving quantum indeterminism, so as to break the causal chain of strict determinism. Causal determinism is assumed to go back to the Big Bang (e.g., Galen Strawson, Max Tegmark, Michael Gazzaniga) according to classical physics. It is assumed by many belief systems that involve an omniscient, omnipotent being. New possibilities are ontologically random events. They add new information to the universe. In a deterministic universe, information is conserved, like matter and energy. There is nothing new under the sun. There is only one possible future. Our universe increases information constantly. New ideas may occur in the course of deliberation, but they are more likely to have originated earlier in one's life, when new experiences are being recorded in the mind. Experiences may be recorded with random errors or played back with random noise that generates new possibilities. These then get added to the behavioral repertoire of an agent. Not only humans, but many lower-level organisms are free from determinism. A random new idea may also be the work of others, simply learned by the agent. And it may be traced back to quantum events in one's genetic inheritance, for example the normal chance variations leading to new species in biological evolution, as in William James' "mental evolution" modelled on the work of Charles Darwin. Any such events break the causal chain. As Robert Kane, Alfred Mele, and others point out, the agent cannot control the creation of these random events, so some luck is always involved. But the agent can usually control which of them are considered as alternative possibilities, to be evaluated for consistency with the agent's reasons, motives, feelings, etc., in short, made consistent with the agent's character. In the second "will stage," one of these possibilities is chosen by an adequately determined decision process normally free of randomness. The agent is in no way "pre-determined" from all time to make a specific choice. The random origin of the new idea in no way makes the resulting action random, as first clearly stated by Karl Popper. Moreover, as Daniel Dennett and Kane have pointed out, the agent might deliberately make an undetermined choice, absent overwhelming reasons to do one thing or another, or simply because pressed for time. Acting on a new possibility and experiencing its consequences, good or bad, adds to the agent's character, as Aristotle first described and as psychologists see in behavioral conditioning. From the standpoint of information philosophy, the essential attribute of freedom and creativity is whether a thought or action existed before the thinker and in some way is causally determinative of the present action. If so, it is not newly free. Otherwise, as Albert Einstein, who in 1916 discovered quantum chance, said, it is a "free creation of the human mind." For an online copy of this document, go toInformationphilosopher.com/MIT.pdf For more information, please see these web pages:informationphilosopher.com/freedom/two-stage_models.htmlinformationphilosopher.com/books/scandalOr contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Free Will and Moral ResponsibilityBob Doyle on the Separation of Free Will from Moral Responsibility We must separate the concept "free" from the concept of "will" in order to better understand "free will," as John Locke recommended we do to avoid verbal confusion. He said, "I think the question is not proper, whether the will be free, but whether a man be free." (Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, Chapter XXI, Of Power, s.21)We must also clarify the relationship between free will and moral responsibility. Semicompatibilist philosophers deflect direct discussion of free will and study it only as the "control condition for moral responsibility." We must go even further and separate "moral responsibility" from the question of punishment. The Separation of "Free" from "Will" "Free Will" - in scare quotes - refers to the common but mistaken notion that the adjective "free" modifies the concept "will." In particular, it indicates that the element of chance, one of the two requirements for free will is present in the determination of the will itself.Critics of "libertarian free will" usually adopt this meaning in order to attack the idea of randomness in our decisions, which clearly would not help to make us morally responsible.Some defenders of libertarian free will (Robert Kane and his followers, for example) continue to add indeterminism into the "torn" decision itself, making such free will "unintelligible" by their own account.Despite the claim of some professional philosophers that they are better equipped than scientists to make conceptual distinctions and evaluate the cogency of arguments, they have mistakenly conflated the concepts of "free" and "will." They (con)fuse them with the muddled term "free will," despite clear warnings from John Locke that this would lead to confusion. Locke said very clearly, as had some ancients like Lucretius, it is not the will that is free (in the sense of undetermined), it is the mind.Freedom of human action requires the randomness of absolute chance to break the causal chain of determinism, yet the conscious knowledge that we are adequately determined to be responsible for our choices.Freedom requires some events that are not causally determined by immediately preceding events, events that are unpredictable by any agency, events involving quantum uncertainty. These random events create some of the alternative possibilities for thought and action.Randomness is the "free" in free will.Freedom also requires an adequately determined will that evaluate the possibilities and then chooses or selects from those alternative possibilities. There is effectively nothing uncertain about this choice.Adequate determinism is the "will" in free will. We must separate "free" thoughts from "willed" actions. Our thoughts come to us. Our actions come from us. The Separation of "Free Will" from "Moral Responsibility" From the earliest beginnings, the problem of "free will" has been intimately connected with the question of moral responsibility. Most of the ancient thinkers on the problem were trying to show that we humans have control over our decisions, that our actions "depend on us", and that they are not pre-determined by fate, by arbitrary gods, by logical necessity, or by a natural physical determinism. The question of the existence of "free will" is an empirical and factual question about the nature of the mind. It does not depend in any way on values and the existence of "moral responsibility," which is a social and cultural question for ethics. The Separation of "Moral Responsibility" from "Punishment" Liberal and humanitarian thinkers who see that retributive punishment is sometimes cruel and unproductive should not try to argue that punishment is not "deserved" because free will does not exist. They have excellent reasons for preferring rehabilitation to vengeance without denying free will.Naturalists argue that humans are just a form of animal and that we lack free will because animals do. The idea that there is no free will in animals, that they are completely determined, was the old religious argument that God had given man the gift of free will. Whether man - and some higher animals too - have free will is an empirical scientific question. Whether they have moral responsibility is a social and cultural question. To make free will depend on arguments against vengeance and retributive punishment is to get the cart before the horse. Equating free will with moral responsibility, then to use spurious arguments to deny free will, and thus to deny moral responsibility - in order to oppose punishment - is fine humanism but poor philosophy, and terrible science.We must separate "free will and moral responsibility" from "punishment," retributive or consequentialist.-
Daniel Dennett's Moral Competence
(comments transcribed from interviews conducted for PSI) What do we mean when we say free will? What we should mean, and the one that matters - the concept that matters, what we mean when we say something like free will what we mean is that there are morally competent agents. They are able to choose, guided by their reason and their knowledge, and we hold them responsible. And they hold themselves responsible. Now, if we start with the idea of a morally competent agent, then we can work backwards and say alright, what has to be true about the brain, and the world, in order for there to be a morally competent agent. And what we learn is, that determinism and indeterminism have nothing to do with it. It's simply an orthogonal issue. It does not come up. The age-old, it's thousands of years old, idea that in order for us to have free will, that indeterminism must reign, that we must have the random swerve, it's a tempting seducing idea, and it's simply wrong. It doesn't matter whether the universe is deterministic or indeterministic. Indeterminism current physics says, that at the quantum level at least, the universe is indeterministic. OK. But at the macro level it pretty much isn't. OK. Some people think you have to have, in effect, little Geiger counters in your brain that will amplify quantum indeterminacy, quantum effects, in order to have free will. No, you don't need that. You do need something which looks a bit like it. You need to have a source of disorder, a source of randomness in a watered-down sense. It doesn't have to be quantum randomness. But it has to be like the randomness on your computer. Every computer made has a random-number generator. They are not really random numbers, but they're good enough. You need that to do random sampling. You need that to do Monte Carlo methods. In a thousand ways, programs rely on randomness. Whenever the program has to make a decision and it doesn't have enough information to make the decision, so it doesn't just sit there like Buridan's ass, it flips a die, and goes left or right depending on how it comes up. You need a little dice-flipper in there. You need a little roulette wheel in there to get you to move when you don't have a good reason to move one way or the other. That comes up all the time in programs. That's why all computers have "so-called" random number generators in them. But they're pseudo-random number generators. Now that's good enough for almost everything. The one thing pseudo-random isn't good enough for is cryptography. And that's because if you use a standard pseudo-random number generator, at the heart of your cipher, of your code system, it can be broken. And so, to protect against decryption, you may really want to use quantum randomness. That's the only application I know of which is really secure… As long as you aren't going to play rock, paper, and scissors with God, you don't need real randomness. If you didn't have real randomness, then God, who knows everything, could read your mind. But even God can't know the result of a genuine quantum random effect in advance.… There isn't any immaterial soul in there pushing the buttons, so right, free will doesn't exist in that sense. What about the kinds of free will that are natural, that you can render consistent with a scientific vision? That's where moral competence comes in. Have they got any evidence that human beings in general are not morally competent? Absolutely not. They do have evidence that some people are not morally competent. We knew that all along. Children, imbeciles, people with serious brain damage, people who've been catastrophically misinformed, obsessive people, there's lots of people who, alas, often through no fault of their own, don't have moral competence, and we say they don't have free will.
Robert Kane's "Ultimate Responsibility"
From: Four Views on Free Will, pp.26-31 All free acts do not have to be undetermined on the libertarian view, but only those acts by which we made ourselves into the kinds of persons we are, namely the "will-setting" or "self-forming actions" (SFAs) that are required for ultimate responsibility. Now I believe these undetermined self-forming actions or SFAs occur at those difficult times of life when we are torn between competing visions of what we should do or become. Perhaps we are torn between doing the moral thing or acting from ambition, or between powerful present desires and long-term goals, or we are faced with difficult tasks for which we have aversions. In all such cases, we are faced with competing motivations and have to make an effort to overcome temptation to do something else we also strongly want. There is tension and uncertainty in our minds about what to do at such times, I suggest, that is reflected in appropriate regions of our brains by movement away from thermodynamic equilibrium - in short, a kind of "stirring up of chaos" in the brain that makes it sensitive to micro-indeterminacies at the neuronal level. The uncertainty and inner tension we feel at such soul-searching moments of self-formation is thus reflected in the indeterminacy of our neural processes themselves. What we experience internally as uncertainty about what to do on such occasions would then correspond physically to the opening of a window of opportunity that temporarily screens off complete determination by influences of the past.When we do decide under such conditions of uncertainty, the outcome would not be determined because of the preceding indeterminacy - and yet the outcome can be willed (and hence rational and voluntary) either way owing to the fact that in such self-formation, the agents' prior wills are divided by conflicting motives. Consider a businesswoman who faces such a conflict. She is on her way to an important meeting when she observes an assault taking place in an alley. An inner struggle ensues between her conscience, to stop and call for help, and her career ambitions, which tell her she cannot miss this meeting. She has to make an effort of will to overcome the temptation to go on. If she overcomes this temptation, it will be the result of her effort, but if she fails, it will be because she did not allow her effort to succeed. And this is due to the fact that, while she willed to overcome temptation, she also willed to fail, for quite different and incommensurable reasons. When we, like the woman, decide in such circumstances, and the indeterminate efforts we are making become determinate choices, we make one set of competing reasons or motives prevail over the others then and there by deciding. Now let us add a further piece to the puzzle. Just as indeterminism need not undermine rationality and voluntariness of choices, so indeterminism in and of itself need not undermine control and responsibility. Suppose you are trying to think through a difficult problem, say a mathematical problem, and there is some indeterminacy in your neural processes complicating the task - a kind of chaotic background. It would be like trying to concentrate and solve a problem, say a mathematical problem, with background noise or distraction. Whether you are going to succeed in solving the problem is uncertain and undetermined because of the distracting neural noise. Yet, if you concentrate and solve the problem nonetheless, we have reason to say you did it and are responsible for it, even though it was undetermined whether you would succeed. The indeterministic noise would have been an obstacle that you overcame by your effort… Imagine in cases of conflict characteristic of self-forming actions or SFAs, like the businesswoman's, that the indeterministic noise which is providing an obstacle to her overcoming temptation is not coming from an external source, but has its source in her own will, since she also deeply desires to do the opposite. To understand how this could be, imagine that two crossing recurrent neural networks are involved in the brain, each influencing the other, and representing her conflicting motivations. (Recurrent neural networks are complex networks of interconnected neurons in the brain circulating impulses in feedback loops that are generally involved in higher-level cognitive processing.) The input of one of these neural networks consists in the woman's reasons for acting morally and stopping to help the victim; the input of the other network comprises her ambitious motives for going on to her meeting. The two networks are connected so that the indeterminism that is an obstacle to her making one of the choices is present because of her simultaneous conflicting desire to make the other choice - the indeterminism thus arising from a tension-creating conflict in the will, as we said. This conflict, as noted earlier, would be reflected in appropriate regions of the brain by movement away from thermodynamic equilibrium. The result would be a stirring up of chaos in the neural networks involved. Chaos in physical systems is a phenomenon in which very small changes in initial conditions are magnified so that they lead to large and unpredictable changes in the subsequent behavior of a system. You may have heard the popular illustration of chaos in which the fluttering of a butterfly's wings in South America initiates a chain of events that affects the weather patterns of North America. Such popular examples may be an exaggeration. But chaotic phenomena, in which small changes lead to large effects, are now known to be far more common in nature than previously believed; and they are particularly common in living things. There is growing evidence that chaos plays a role in the information processing of the brain, providing some of the flexibility that the nervous system needs to adapt creatively - rather than in predictable or rigid ways - to an ever-changing environment. Now determinists are quick to point out that chaos, or chaotic behavior, in physical systems, though unpredictable, is usually deterministic and does not itself imply genuine indeterminism in nature. But some scientists have suggested that a combination of chaos and quantum physics might provide the genuine indeterminism one needs. If the processing of the brain does "make chaos in order to make sense of the world" (as one recent research paper puts it), then the resulting chaos might magnify quantum indeterminacies in the firings of individual neurons so that they would have large-scale indeterministic effects on the activity of neural networks in the brain as a whole. If chaotic behavior were thus enhanced in these neural networks by tension-creating conflict in the will, the result would be some significant indeterminism in the cognitive processing of each of the competing neural networks. In such circumstances, when either of the competing networks "wins" (or reaches an activation threshold, which amounts to choice), it would be like your solving the mathematical problem by overcoming the background indeterministic noise created by the presence of the competing network. And just as when you solved the mathematical problem by overcoming the distracting noise, one can say you did it and are responsible for it, so one can also say this, I would argue, in the present case, whichever outcome is chosen. For the neural pathway through which the woman does succeed in reaching a choice threshold will have overcome the obstacle in the form of indeterministic noise generated by the presence of the other competing network. Note that, under such conditions, the choice the woman might make either way will not be "inadvertent," "accidental," "capricious," or "merely random" (as critics of indeterminism say) because the choice will be willed by the woman either way when it is made, and it will be done for reasons either way - reasons that she then and there endorses. For, let us recall that in SFAs, the agent's will is divided and the agent has strong reasons or motives for making either choice. So when she decides, she endorses one set of competing reasons over the other as the one she will act on. But willing what you do in this way, and doing it for reasons that you endorse, are conditions usually required to say something is done "on purpose," rather than accidentally, capriciously, or merely by chance. Moreover, these conditions taken together (that the choices were willed either way, were done for reasons and the agents endorsed them) rule out each of the reasons we have for saying that agents act, but do not have control over their actions. The businesswoman's choice either way, for example, will not have been made accidentally or inadvertently or by mistake, nor need it have been the result of coercion (no one was holding a gun to her head, for example) or the result of control by other agents. Of course, for undetermined SFAs, agents do not control or determine which choice outcome will occur before it occurs. But it does not follow, because one does not control or determine which of a set of outcomes is going to occur before it occurs, that one does not control or determine which of them occurs, when it occurs. When the above conditions for SFAs are satisfied, agents exercise control over their future lives then and there by deciding. As a consequence, they have what I call plural voluntary control over their options in the following sense: Agents have plural voluntary control over a set of options (such as the woman's choosing to help the victim or to go on to her meeting), when they are able to bring about whichever of the options they will, when they will to do so, for the reasons they will to do so, on purpose, rather than accidentally or by mistake, without being coerced or compelled in doing so or willing to do so, or otherwise controlled in doing or willing to do so by any other agents or mechanisms. Each of these conditions can be satisfied for SFAs, like the businesswoman's, as I have described them. The conditions can be summed up by saying that the agents can choose either way at will. In other words, the choices are "will-setting": We set our wills one way or the other in the act of deciding itself, and not before. Note also that this account of self-forming choices or SFAs amounts to a kind of "doubling" of the mathematical problem. It is as if an agent faced with such a self-forming choice is trying or making an effort to solve two cognitive problems at once, or to complete two competing (deliberative) tasks at once - in our example, to make a moral choice and to make a conflicting self-interested choice (corresponding to the two competing neural networks involved). Each task is being thwarted by the indeterminism generated by the presence of the competing network, so it might fail. But if it succeeds, then the agents can be held responsible because, as in the case of solving the mathematical problem, the agents will have succeeded in doing what they were knowingly and willingly trying to do… You may find all this interesting and yet still find it hard to shake the intuition that if choices are undetermined, they must happen merely by chance - and so must be "random," "capricious," "uncontrolled," "irrational," and all the other things usually charged. Such intuitions are deeply ingrained. But if we are going to understand free will, I think we must break old habits of thought supporting such intuitions and learn to think in new ways. The first step is to question the intuitive connection in people's minds between "indeterminism's being involved in something" and "its happening merely as a matter of chance or luck." "Chance" and "luck" are terms of ordinary language that carry the meaning of "its being out of my control." So using them already begs certain questions. Whereas "indeterminism" is a technical term that merely rules out deterministic causation, though not causation altogether. Indeterminism is consistent with nondeterministic or probabilistic causation, where the. outcome is not inevitable. It is therefore a mistake (in fact, one of the most common in debates about free will) to assume that "undetermined" means "uncaused" or "merely a matter of chance."
Galen Strawson Argument on Moral Responsibility
From: Philosophical Studies, Vol. 75, No. 1, pp. 5-24, 1994 There is an argument, which I will call the Basic Argument, which appears to prove that we cannot be truly or ultimately morally responsible for our actions. According to the Basic Argument, it makes no difference whether determinism is true or false. We cannot be truly or ultimately morally responsible for our actions in either case. The Basic Argument has various expressions in the literature of free will, and its central idea can be quickly conveyed. (1) Nothing can be causa sui - nothing can be the cause of itself. (2) In order to be truly morally responsible for one's actions one would have to be causa sui, at least in certain crucial mental respects. (3) Therefore nothing can be truly morally responsible. In this paper I want to reconsider the Basic Argument, in the hope that anyone who thinks that we can be truly or ultimately morally responsible for our actions will be prepared to say exactly what is wrong with it. I think that the point that it has to make is obvious, and that it has been underrated in recent discussion of free will - perhaps because it admits of no answer. I suspect that it is obvious in such a way that insisting on it too much is likely to make it seem less obvious than it is, given the innate contrasuggestibility of human beings in general and philosophers in particular. But I am not worried about making it seem less obvious than it is so long as it gets adequate attention. As far as its validity is concerned, it can look after itself. A more cumbersome statement of the Basic Argument goes as follows. (1) Interested in free action, we are particularly interested in actions that are performed for a reason (as opposed to 'reflex' actions or mindlessly habitual actions). (2) When one acts for a reason, what one does is a function of how one is, mentally speaking. (It is also a function of one's height, one's strength, one's place and time, and so on. But the mental factors are crucial when moral responsibility is in question.) (3) So if one is to be truly responsible for how one acts, one must be truly responsible for how one is, mentally speaking-at least in certain respects. (4) But to be truly responsible for how one is, mentally speaking, in certain respects, one must have brought it about that one is the way one is, mentally speaking, in certain respects. And it is not merely that one must have caused oneself to be the way one is, mentally speaking. One must have consciously and explicitly chosen to be the way one is, mentally speaking, in certain respects, and one must have succeeded in bringing it about that one is that way. (5) But one cannot really be said to choose, in a conscious, reasoned, fashion, to be the way one is mentally speaking, in any respect at all, unless one already exists, mentally speaking, already equipped with some principles of choice, 'P1'-preferences, values, pro-attitudes, ideals-in the light of which one chooses how to be. (6) But then to be truly responsible, on account of having chosen to be the way one is, mentally speaking, in certain respects, one must be truly responsible for one's having the principles of choice P1 in the light of which one chose how to be. (7) But for this to be so one must have chosen P1, in a reasoned, conscious, intentional fashion. (8) But for this, i.e. (7), to be so one must already have had some principles of choice P2, in the light of which one chose Pl. (9) And so on. Here we are setting out on a regress that we cannot stop. True self-determination is impossible because it requires the actual completion of an infinite series of choices of principles of choice.' (10) So true moral responsibility is impossible, because it requires true self-determination, as noted in (3).
A Glossary of TermsDeterminism is the position that every event is caused, in a chain of events with just one possible future. Historically, there are many kinds of determinisms or causes for the one possible future. They include Behavioral, Biological, Causal, Fatalism, Historical, Logical, Language, Mechanical, Physical, Psychological, Religious, Spatio-temporal, and Compatibilism. "Hard" determinism and "soft" determinism are terms invented by William James who lamented the fact that some determinists were co-opting the term freedom for themselves. "Hard" determinists deny the existence of free will. James said they have an "antipathy to chance." "Soft" determinists simply claim their position is "free will." Compatibilism is the most common name used today for James's category of "soft" determinism. For compatibilists, free will is compatible with determinism, or would be, if determinism were true, the agnostics on determinism say. This makes compatibilism today much more complicated... We can divide two sub-categories of compatibilism, based on their view of determinism. Today's sophisticated compatibilists want to include both "the conjunction of compatibilism and the thesis that determinism is true" AND "the conjunction of compatibilism and the thesis that determinism is false." They want it both ways (or either way), because most compatibilists today are agnostic on the truth of determinism. (Most are cognizant of the indeterminism of quantum physics.) It is thus difficult today to know what compatibilists are compatible with! We are being sucked deeper and deeper into William James' "quagmire of evasion," and Immanuel Kant's "wretched subterfuge." Semicompatibilism. Agnostic about both indeterminism and determinism, semicompatibilists claim that moral responsibility is compatible with determinism, in either case. Narrow incompatibilism is a similar concept. Hard incompatibilists think both free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with determinism, which is "true." Illusionists are hard incompatibilists, who say free will is an illusion and usually deny moral responsibility. Some say we should preserve moral responsibility in society by maintaining the illusion (i.e., keep the masses uninformed about the "truth" of determinism). Impossibilists are also hard incompatibilists. They say moral responsibility is provably impossible. Since every event is either determined or random, they apply the standard argument to all past events, to deny moral responsibility. Incompatibilism is the idea that free will and determinism are incompatible. Unfortunately, incompatibilists today include both hard determinists and libertarians. This confusing category, created by analytic language philosophers who are normally committed to clear and unambiguous conceptualization, adds difficulties for new students of philosophy. Indeterminism is the position that there are random (chance) events in a world with many possible futures. Libertarians believe that indeterminism makes free will possible. But it is not enough. An "adequately determined (not pre-determined) evaluation of alternative possibilities is also needed. Soft incompatibilists say that free will is incompatible with pre-determinism, and that pre-determinism is not true. It is preferable to the loose usage of the term "incompatibilist" to describe a libertarian, since "incompatibilist" is ambiguous and also used for determinists (hard incompatibilists). Source and Leeway incompatibilists locate indeterminism in the Actual Sequence of events or Alternative Sequences. A random event in the Actual Sequence breaks the causal chain. Alternative Sequences provide alternative possibilities. Standard Argument against Free Will. If our actions are determined, we are not free. If they are random, we are not responsible for them. So indeterminism is not enough. We also need an "adequate determinism" - R. E. Hobart's and Elizabeth Anscombe's "self-determination." Agent-causal indeterminists are libertarians who think that agents originate new causes (the causa sui) for their actions, which they call sui generis. These causes are not considered events, which imply material and location in space-time. So their actions do not depend on any prior causes. Some call this "metaphysical" freedom. And many agent causalists trace this source of freedom to a gift from God, enabling the agent to break the laws of nature with a kind of miraculous power. Non-causal indeterminists simply deny any causes whatsoever for libertarian free will. Event-causal indeterminists generally accept the view that random events (most likely quantum mechanical events) occur in the world. Whether in the physical world, in the biological world (where they are a key driver of genetic mutations), or in the mind, randomness and uncaused events are real. They introduce the possibility of accidents, novelty, and both biological and human creativity. Soft Causality is the idea that most events are adequately determined by normal causes, but that some events are not precisely predictable from prior events, because there are occasional quantum events that start new causal chains with unpredictable futures. These events are said to be causa sui. Self-Determination is the traditional name for decisions that are the result of our choices, determined by our character and values, etc., decisions that are "up to us." R.E. Hobart and Elizabeth Anscombe distinguish between determination and determinism. SFA is the Self-Forming Action of Robert Kane's libertarian free-will model, with indeterminism centered in the choice itself. Two-Stage Models combine a limited Indeterminism and a limited Determinism (Determination). They have been discussed by many thinkers, including William James, Henri Poincaré, Arthur Holly Compton, Karl Popper, Daniel Dennett (Valerian Model), Henry Margenau, Robert Kane (Practical Reason), John Martin Fischer, Alfred Mele (Modest Libertarianism), Stephen Kosslyn, Bob Doyle (Cogito Model), and Martin Heisenberg. Two-stage models include both "adequate determinism" (which includes no pre-determinism from before a decision) and an indeterminism that is limited to generating alternative possibilities for action. It is pre-determinism that is incompatible with free will. Normal | Teacher | Scholar