I’ve recently become puzzled about the best way to formulate the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP). Almost everyone follows Frankfurt (1969) who puts it like this: “a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise”.This is often sharpened like this: “for all persons S and actions A, S is morally responsible for doing A only if S could have done something other than A.”
But there seems to be an obvious problem with this formulation. Frankfurt, as everyone knows, claims that PAP is false; that is, he asserts the negation of PAP. But the negation of PAP (as formulated above) comes out as: “there is a person S and an action A, such that S is morally responsible for doing A and it is not the case that S could have done something other than A.” But this clearly isn’t what Frankfurt (or any contemporary ‘Frankfurtian’) has in mind. This is both too weak and too strong. Too strong: because Frankfurt isn’t claiming that any actual person is responsible. (Despite being a compatibilist about responsibility and determinism, he might think there are other actual considerations that universally rule out responsibility.) Too weak: because Frankfurt isn’t trying to say anything about the actual facts of responsibility; rather, he’s saying something about the conditions for responsibility.
Rather, in denying PAP, Frankfurt means to say that moral responsibility doesn’t require the ability to do otherwise; in other words: it is possible to be responsible despite lacking alternative possibilities. This suggests that PAP is best formulated as follows: “necessarily, for all persons S and actions A, S is morally responsible for doing A only if S could have done something other than A.” The negation of this is: “possibly, there is a person S and an action A, such that S is morally responsible for doing A and it is not the case that S could have done something other than A”, which seems closer to the mark.
June, I promised I would respond to Mark Balaguer’s claim that the free will
question reduces to an entirely empirical question, about how human
decision-making is actually implemented. Mark claimed that if we discovered
that some of our decisions are undetermined (in the right way), we would
discover we have libertarian free will. Briefly, I argued that we could know that
human decision-making was indeterministic in the way envisaged by Balaguer
without knowing whether we have libertarian free will because without some
heavy duty philosophical argument we wouldn’t know whether we appropriately
authored and controlled the decision. Mark promised that my worries would (or should)
be allayed by his recent book (which Bob Doyle recently reviewed here). I have
now had a chance to read the book.
Only a handful of prominent historical figures denied the
existence of free will (at least for non-religious reasons).Yet a disproportionately large number of them
had many symptoms associated with the autism spectrum.
If you’re willing to entertain that idea, then we reach the
following conclusion: (1) ERS didn’t believe in free will and (2) ERS had many
characteristics associated with the autism spectrum.My thesis is this: the combination of (1) and
(2) was not a coincidence.
bought a copy of Mark's book and read it closely. It has a new
introductory chapter, but chapters 2 through 4 are expanded, and in
many places altered, versions of papers that Mark previously published
in the Southern Journal of Philosophy, Noûs, and Synthese.
had a chance to read and comment on chapter 2 - "Why the Compatibilism
Issue and the Conceptual Analysis Issue Are Metaphysically Irrelevant."
Balaguer maintained that the question whether free will exists - or of
what kinds of free will exixt - was independent of the question of what
free will is, i.e., whether it's Humean freedom, Frankfurtian freedom,
or Libertarian freedom, for example.
Please let your students know about these opportunities and/or post this flier.
The Master's program of the Philosophy Department at Georgia
State University in Atlanta, Georgia is accepting applications from
qualified students for two Neurophilosophy Fellowships, a Legal/Political Philosophy Scholarship, and a
German Philosophy Scholarship, and up to 20 funded Assistantships. All funding packages cover two years of full tuition. Fellowships
provide $15,000/year, Scholarships provide $12,000/year, and
Assistantships provide $4,000-$10,000/year.
In the comments of Manuel's post, there's some interest in doing for philosophy of action what Leiter has done for philosophy more generally: attempt to construct a "Best of the Decade" list. So rather than hijack Manuel's post, I thought I'd start a thread just for coming up with this list.
For the record, free will beat out the mind-body problem. Which suggests to me that it is time for Rutgers and any other phil mind-heavy places to start hiring all the free will folks to replace all their phil mind folks, as this will surely increase their rankings in the Gourmet Report. Of course, if we followed the PhilTalk list, the sure-fire way to get to the top of the pile would be to hire lots of environmental ethicists and global justice-types. Something for you job marketeers to keep in mind for your interviews.
(See how I subtly snuck in the annual implication of special job market woes for phil action peeps? You job marketeers are most welcome. Really though, to all Gardeners on the market, may you have incredibly good luck over the next week and months.)
Michael Gazzaniga was recently honored with the opportunity to give the prestigious Gifford Lectures.
Fortunately for those of us who were not there to see his exciting series
of talks, the good folks at the University of Edinburgh were kind
enough to make them available on-line. I have posted the lectures over
at the Law and Neuroscience Blog (see here)
where you can now watch all five talks. Having watched through them in
the past few days, I strongly encourage you to check them
out--especially if you happen to be unfamiliar with his groundbreaking
work on split brains and the interpreter module. If you don't have time to watch them all, Gazzaniga talks about the relevance of his work to the free will problem in the fourth talk.
The Florida State University Department of Philosophy presents The
William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Conference on Experimental
Philosophy on 15-17 January 2010. The topic of this year’s conference
is Experimental Philosophy. Speakers will include Roy Baumeister, John
Doris, Joshua Knobe, Shaun Nichols, Laurie Paul, David Pizarro, and