I am particularly keen to hear what the compatibilists who frequent the Garden have to say about Kaye's provocative line of argumentation.
I suspect Manuel, Eddy, and other like-minded revisionists and compatibilists will be comfortable with this folk "degrees of freedom" description of the contemporary problem of free will (especially as it relates to science) despite some of the confusions contained therein . For instance, even if we didn't have free will and hence weren't morally responsible in the robust sense, it wouldn't follow that criminals shouldn't be accountable at all. How and why we treat criminals would of course change, but that we do something rather than nothing would not change. Setting that aside, I nevertheless find the post illustrative. I am curious to see what the Gardeners think...
Here are two BBC articles that lend support to the "circumscribed yet free in the face of science" line of reasoning. The first is about child abuse and suicide, the second is about child abuse and alcoholism. In both cases, the evitability of the outcome is stressed in the end despite the genetic and neuro-cognitive changes that are said to occur as the result of abuse. I take it the skeptics in the crowd will focus on the stark changes that abuse can cause whereas the free willers (and likely the folk--such as the author of the aforementioned post) will focus on the openness of the end result. But that is a story for another day...
Yet another piece on free will by a psychologist can be found here. This time, the author is Joachim Krueger--a social psychologist from Brown University. In light of the gathering number of popular science pieces on free will, I thought this might be a good opportunity to get everyone to list the ones they know of in this thread. I actually had someone contact me the other day when I posted the the link to the "free choice" study asking me if there was a rough and ready list for getting one's feet wet with respect to what psychologists are saying about free will (or lack thereof). Since this is something that comes up here at the Garden, I figured this would be a perfect place to get the ball rolling. Once the comment thread is flowering, I will compile it into a bibliography and post it here for others to use. It might aslo be helpful if you state in your comments whether the psychologists take a pro, anti, or neutral stance on the existence of free will--which would make it easier for me to clasify the bibliography. Since I know at least two Gardeners are already working on a paper about the contemporary interest amongst psychologists in free will, I assume they will take the lead here! :)
There is a recent article in Cerebral Cortex that explores the neural mechanisms of what the researchers take to be "free choice" (see here). It's certainly the kind of thing Gardeners ought to find of interest. The abstract is as follows:
Let the grumbling begin!
Given the interest generated by Tamler's recent post on free will skepticism, I thought I would try to keep the discussion going by posting something about a related issue that I have often found puzzling. On the surface, it is obvious enough what distinguishes libertarians, on the one hand, from compatibilists, semi-compatibilists, and revisionists, on the other hand. The later, unlike the former, believe that we could be free and/or morally responsible even if determinism were true. Similarly, it is obvious enough what distinguishes libertarians from free will skeptics. The former, unlike the later, believe that we are both free and desert-based responsible.
However, it is not always as clear to me what distinguishes compatibilists, semi-compatibilists, and revisionists from free will skeptics. As far as I can tell, proponents of each of these views generally believe the following:
So, wherein lies the disagreement? It appears the two main disagreements are as follows:
The first of these two disagreements is entirely terminological. Settling this dispute requires the parties to the debate to spell out why they believe using the term "free will" is beneficial or harmful. For instance, Manuel thinks we should keep the term even if we have to (radically?) change the meaning, whereas I think we should jetison it entirely if we now realize we don't have the kind of causal powers we once thought we did.
The second disagreement does not appear to be merely terminological. But it is nevertheless important for compatibilists, semi-compatibilists, and revisions to spell out very carefully how and why the kind of circumscribed free will we purportedly have is enough to ground desert-based responsibility. Keep in mind that the issue is not whether humans ought to be held responsible for their actions. As 4 above makes clear, this is something about which all parties to the debate agree. The issue is whether the kind of free will compatibilists allege we have is enough for moral desert.
I have just posted two new papers over at the experimental philosophy blog (see here) that readers of GFP might find of interest. The first is by Adam Feltz and Edward Cokely and the second is a commentary on their paper by me, Trevor Kvaran, and Eddy Nahmias. Both papers explore the relationship between personality type and folk intuitions about free will and moral responsibility.
I am posting this in the hopes that you will be able to help Trevor Kvaran, Eddy Nahmias, and I in our efforts to run a new study. Rather than limiting our attention to the intuitions of the folk, we are actively trying to collect data on the intuitions of philosophy majors, grad students, and professors as well! Moreover, we are also casting a much larger net than normal by collecting both demographic data and information on participant's background beliefs, judgments, habits, etc. As a result, the study takes longer than usual to complete, but since we think we could get a really rich and important data set, we hope you will not only set aside some time to take the survey yourself, but that you will also encourage your friends, students, and colleagues to play along. I even suggest you have your family participate. I, for one, have had some interesting conversations with mine about philosophy since they took the survey!
The link to the survey can be found in this post over at the experimental philosophy blog. Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.
I am quite confident that all of the Gardeners are busy readying themselves to spend some quality time with their friends and family over the holidays (and rightly so!). So, I have no illusions (pun intended) concerning the likelihood that people will have time left in 2007 to take a glance at the paper I wrote with one of my undergrads here at Dickinson (Tatyana Matveeva). But since I thought some of you might nevertheless have time to read it after the new year and before the beginning of spring semester, I figured now might be a better time to post it than once we're all back to work in mid to late January. For now, have a delightful break!
I realize that the main focus here at the Garden is usually on issues pertaining to free will and moral responsibility, but since there is a special category for The Trolley Problem, I figured I would post a draft of a short piece I am working on about the trolley problem and self-defense. Any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated. Just be gentle--it's still a little rough around the edges. But before I do any more work on it, I thought I would see what the gardeners think about the general strategy I adopt first. Thanks in advance!