Some of you may have seen some of the results if you've read our chapter in New Waves in Philosophy of Action, but we discuss results of a second study in section 4, and we'd be especially interested in what people think of our argument that our results put pressure on the Consequence Argument (in section 4.2).
And some of you participated in this discussion where I offer some reasons we should care about people's intuitions about free will and responsibility, but we'd be especially interested in what people think of our discussion of verbal disputes and reflective equilibrium in section 1.
For a glimpse of what we say, I'll cut and paste the first 3 paragraphs (minus notes) of the paper and two paragraphs from section 4.2 below the fold (but the full discussion is, well, fuller!).
Debates about free will remain mired in “dialectical stalemates” (Fischer 1994). Compatibilists typically agree that if free will were what incompatibilists say it is – a type of freedom that requires having an unconditional ability to do otherwise or being the “ultimate source” of one’s actions – then it would be incompatible with determinism. Incompatibilists typically agree that if free will were what compatibilists say it is – a type of freedom that requires a less metaphysically demanding set of capacities, such as reflective, rational self-regulation of one’s actions – then it would be compatible with determinism. Each side believes that the other is wrong about what free will is, and about what conditions are required for having it, but they agree on which conditions are compatible with determinism and on which are not. To avoid this morass, we might try banning the term ‘free will’ from discussion and proceeding instead by using the terms ‘freedomI’ and ‘freedomC’ for incompatibilists’ and compatibilists’ respective conceptions of it (Chalmers 2011). Doing so would likely avoid some confusion. But the debate would surely persist, because much of it is verbal – not in any pejorative sense, but in that much of the fundamental impasse between compatibilists and incompatibilists just is over what we mean by ‘free will’; about which conception of free will our inquiry concerns.
We take it that philosophical investigations of concepts used in everyday, non-philosophical life are typically concerned with, and are at least importantly constrained by, the ordinary or “folk” understanding of those concepts. This is certainly the case when the concepts are normative. The default method for theorizing about many normative concepts, wide reflective equilibrium (WRE), takes as inputs our normative principles, background scientific theories, and pre-theoretical (but reflective) judgments, or intuitions, about relevant cases, and then attempts to develop a philosophical theory that is maximally consistent (and, ideally, mutually justifying) among those inputs. WRE builds upon the pre-theoretical understanding of the concept under investigation, as revealed by intuitions about specific cases, so that our final theory – even if it deviates from that understanding to reach equilibrium with other inputs – is recognizable and relevant to the normative roles that the concept plays in everyday human life.
‘Free will’ plays a central role in the conceptual scheme that we use to navigate the normative world via its connections to ‘moral responsibility’, ‘blame’, ‘autonomy’ and related concepts. Theorizing about ‘free will’ in isolation from the ordinary conception thus risks being an academic exercise about some other, technical concept divorced from people’s actual practices of assessing praise, blame, reward, and punishment, and from their understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Imagine, for instance, that freedomC (and not freedomI) is what ordinary people care about having, and worry about not having – that freedomC is what they refer to when thinking about, speaking of, and otherwise using the concept ‘free will’. If so, would the fact that freedomI is incompatible with determinism support any interesting or important version of incompatibilism? We cannot see how. Philosophers are of course free to discuss some other, stipulated notion of ‘free will’, but for philosophers interested in escaping the dialectical stalemates, the starting point that compatibilists and incompatibilists should both be able to agree on is figuring out what people mean by ‘free will’ – ‘freedomI’ or ‘freedomC’....
... Thus, the debate again appears to bottom out in a verbal dispute, shifted from the meaning of ‘free will’ to the meanings of ‘choice’ and ‘ability to do otherwise’. It is relatively uncontroversial that unconditional conceptions of choice and the ability to do otherwise are incompatible with determinism and that conditional or dispositional conceptions are compatible with determinism. The question is which conceptions are relevant, and again, we believe that the philosophical debate should concern those that are used in, and actually matter to, ordinary human practices, especially regarding ascriptions of responsibility....
Hence, the evidence suggests that most non-philosophers do not share van Inwagen’s intuition that the sense of having a choice and the ability to do otherwise relevant to free will and responsibility is unconditional. This is not to claim, of course, that most people explicitly have in mind any specific conditional analysis of the ability to do or choose otherwise. Many people may simply have an implicit understanding of contingent events in general, including human decisions, such that they could have happened otherwise only if something leading up to them had happened otherwise.