I've mainly thought of Galen Strawson's views about responsibility as expressing a kind of nihilism or eliminativism about responsibility, grounded in a kind of incompatibilism, albeit of a "no responsibility either way sort of view." (Super-incompatibilism?) I still think that's right, but I wonder if I've misunderstood his view in an important way. Here's why I say that.
I was recently reading his contribution to Swinburne volume Free Will and Modern Science when I pulled up short on the following passage: "our ordinary conception of moral responsibility may contain mutually inconsistent elements. If this is so, it is a profoundly important fact (it would explain a great deal about the character of the philosophical debate about free will). But these other elements in our ordinary notion of moral responsibility, important as they are, are not my present subject" (131).
Okay, fine, I thought. So he's recently joined a club that I too find appealing these days, i.e., folks who think that the most plausible view about ordinary convictions is that they are fractured, with genuinely compatibilist elements mixed in with genuinely incompatibilist elements (I tend to think of this as the Honder-lansky Club, for obvious reasons). I hadn't realized Strawson was a member, too.
But then I read the attached footnote, in which he cites the second edition of Freedom and Belief (sec. 6.4) as containing a discussion of "the deep ways in which we're naturally compatibilist in our thinking." In that footnote he also remarks that various Famous People have "misrepresent[ed] my position on free will to the extent to which they focus only on the line of thought [expressed by the Basic Argument]."
At first I thought "hey, that's not fair—this openness to construing strands of ordinary convictions in compatibilist ways is hardly a long-standing feature of Strawson's view." But then I actually looked at my copy of the first edition, and there it is: section 6.4 "Natural Compatibilism."
Now I'm not entirely sure what to think about all of this. The natural compatibilism thread of his views doesn't really show up (as far as I remember) in his various papers published subsequently. Admittedly, I'd have to re-read the first couple of chapters of Freedom and Belief to get a sense of how his discussion of "natural compatibilism" fits into the larger picture of the book. However, he concludes section 6.4, at least in the first edition, by claiming that compatibilist picture doesn't suffice for "ordinary, strong, desert-entailing" responsibility in a way that could render appropriate the personal reactive attitudes—which sounds like the super-incompatibilist I always thought him to be. Still, that he's not satisfied with discussions of his views that don't put the Basic Argument in the context of some larger discussion of compatibilist impulses makes me wonder what I'm missing.
I know there are lots of Strawson fans out there in Flicker-land. Any thoughts?