Derk Pereboom and I agree that the audience whose intuitions should matter in our PPR debate over his version of the manipulation argument--his Four Case argument--is the audience of open-minded and undecided inquirers. These inquirers are undecided about whether determinism undermines freedom and responsibility, and they are open to persuasion by further clarifying considerations. Upon first being confronted with the thesis of determinism, and reflecting upon the nature and conditions of moral responsibility, they are willing to acknowledge that determinism might well pose a threat. But they are neither natural compatibilists nor natural incompatibilists--that is, they are not prepared to respond to the apparent puzzle by committing to either of the opposing standard positions. Note, furthermore, that Pereboom and I are imagining our audience to be pre-theoretically unpolluted; they've not been influenced by details of and reflection on the philosophical debate. In this way, their intuitions about cases provide probative evidence speaking for or against compatibilism or incompatibilism.
Given this way of framing the debate, Pereboom takes cases like his Case 1 (Plum manipulated moment to moment to satisfy putative compatibilist sufficient conditions whereby he kills Ms. White) and his Case 2 (Plum manipulated at birth from a temporal distance to kill Ms. White) to be clarifying considerations. When presented to an audience of undecided inquirers, these cases make vivid hidden causes, as Spinoza would wish to emphasize, and thereby make clear what is going on in the normal deterministic cases as well. Pereboom contends that, given this audience, and in response to reflection upon these cases, they will and ought to move in the direction of assigning greater credence to incompatibilism. So, to cut to the chase, he wins and I lose. (This is only one of his points against me, but it is the one I want to focus upon.)
One way I have tied to resist Pereboom is by attending to cases that are closer to ordinary life cases, cases like Pereboom's Case 3 (Plum exposed to an indoctrinating environment during his upbringing). And I have dawn especially on cases like those Nomy Arpaly discusses, cases where something dramatic happens to a person, but in a way that leaves relevant features of her agency unimpaired, and causes changes so dramatic that a person then acts very differently than she otherwise would. Examples she offers are cases of religious conversion and the overwhelming life-altering love some parents report when their children are born. These cases, Arpaly and I think, do not confirm an incompatibilist diagnosis, and I say, in resistance to Pereboom, should count as clarifying considerations speaking on behalf of compatibilism, or at least against incompatibilism and so for retention of an agnostic stance.
Now, here is what I am especially interested in discussing. I believe that we have good philosophical reason to favor somewhat, or weigh more heavily, the intuitions elicited from closer-to-life cases as in comparison with those that are further away. The ones further away are less reliable guides to testing our conceptual competence and to informing the role of the pertinent concepts in our properly functioning application of them. So, suppose cases like Pereboom's Case 1 and Case 2 count as clarifying considerations moving an undecided audience to up its credence in the direction of incompatibilism *more strongly* than cases like my preferred Arpaly-cases move this same audience to lower its credence away from a judgment of incompatibilism. Should this count as a win for the incompatibilist? I do not think so, since as philosophers we should look more skeptically at the evidence elicited from the more bizarre cases when weighed against those that are closer to real life cases. If I am correct, then I do not think Pereboom can claim victory in his debate with me.
Here are four comments on this last paragraph: First, I've got no good argument for this thing I believe about the relative value of intuitions about these cases. It's a philosophical hunch. Any ideas? Second, note that if I am correct, this adds an interesting layer to the work done by x-phi folks. They'll need to evaluate in different ways the results of studies involving vignettes that are closer to real life cases as in comparison with those that are more bizarre. Third, all of this just assumes that we have a shared notion of what intuitions are and how they help us in philosophical theorizing. But I suspect we have no shared consensus at all on what the hell they are (been reading an excellent book on this by Herman Cappelen). Fourth, Pereboom and I favor the intuitions of the theoretically unpolluted, but is this just reckless? Consider Mele, who instead advises that we consider the judgments about cases not of the uninitiated, but of theorists who are agnostic but who have thought long and hard about this issue.