Friday, February 29, 2008

Response to comments on Hasker

Also a redated post

Anon 1: These are interesting responses. Of course Max can't prevent what does happen. That isn't what libertarianism says. Libertarianism just says that when we act, we could have done otherwise.
Anon 2: He's not arguing against compatibilism because it has bad consequences. He's saying that the consequences of determinism is that moral responsibility is an illusion. That's an argument that could be used by hard determinists, who say that moral responsibility is an illusion, or by libertarians, who believe that determinism is false.
Libertarianism maintains that we are responsible for some actions, and does not require that we be responsible for all our actions.
Hasker doesn't deny that if determinism is true, we make choices. It is just that, if determinism is true, then our choices are determined and therefore we are not the ultimate causes of our actions. Therefore, in the final analysis, we aren't responsible.
Hasker is an open theist; so he does see a problem reconciling foreknowledge with free will. On his view omniscience is knowledge of all there is to know. God doesn't know the future comprehensively, according to open theism, because it depends of future free choices. Google "open theism" and find out what open theism is.
Hasker attacks the Frankfurt counterexamples of pp. 86-94 of the Emergent Self. Have these arguments been rebutted?
I don't see how, in the final analysis, I can be responsible for the logical consequences of thins I am not responsible for.
I think that if you take moral responsibility to involve a difference of desert based on a difference of conduct, I think Hasker's argument really is a slam dunk. However, there may be some concepts of moral responsiblity don't involve desert, and if we are using those concepts perhaps some sense can be made out of compatibilism. Nevertheless, I am convinced that if determinism is true then whether I am virtuous or not is a matter of moral luck.


James Alan Gibson said...


I sat in one of John Fisher's courses in 2004 on libertarian accounts of freedom (a seminar dealing with Randy Clarke's book). John apparently is friends with Hasker. I recall hearing John say in passing that Hasker now believes his response in the Emergent Self was a little too quick of a response to Frankfurt cases. You might consider asking Hasker if this is correct. If it is, Hasker can rebut his own book for you. (I would suspect Hasker has a new response). Besides, even if Hasker still believes his response is a slam dunk, there is not much of importance here. After all, there are various sorts of Frankfurt cases and refuting one does kind not necessarily rules out the rest. (C.f. the Wideker and McKenna volume).

Anonymous said...

'It is just that, if determinism is true, then our choices are determined and therefore we are not the ultimate causes of our actions.'

So Hasker refutes determinism, by pointing out that all our actions must have causes?

Something in the universe must be causeing our actions, but if determinism is true, then our actions are caused by something else, and not by us?

How does that refute determinism?

How does the claim that our actions must have ultimate causes refute deterministic claims that our actions are subject to the laws of cause and effect?

God doesn't know what Hasker is going to choose?

Presumably Hasker feels he only has free will, if Hasker doesn't know what he is going to do next.

If Hasker writes in his diary that he is going to Chicago on Wednesday, he lacks free will, because he knows what he is going to do.

Anonymous said...

I cannot be held respponsible for things I cannot control, and I cannot control libertarian free will, as that would mean that libertarian free will was controlled by the state of the universe (assuming I was part of the universe)

No libertarian has ever come up with a mechanism by which people make decisions.

With no mechanism to make decisions, I cannot control my decisions.

Hasker's strongest desire might be to help an old lady whp has fallen in the street, and his weakest desire may be to rape and murder her.

Sadly for the old lady , what Hasker actually wants to do has no effect on what he choose to do.

Victor Reppert said...

What we are talking about here is a critique of compatibilism, not a critique of determinism. Hard determinists would accept the critique of compatibilism but remain determinists nonetheless. Haven't you been paying attention?

Victor Reppert said...

Still, my incompatibilist intuitions are pretty strong, so long as we are dealing with the idea of objective or absolute moral responsibility that would, for example, ground judgments of desert. The examples are intuition pumps, but I have trouble imagining Frankfurt-type counterexamples budging the fundamental moral intuition that people should not be blamed for the necessary consequences of what it beyond their control.

James Alan Gibson said...

Well, the difficulty here is that the Frankfurt cases present an agent with a kind of a control, what Fischer and Ravizza call "guidance control" (c.f. Responsibility and Control, 1998), and it is *that* kind of a control, the kind that does not require alternate possibilities, which is alleged to ground ascriptions of responsibility. "Ascriptions of responsibility" here is not understood to refer to appropriate attitudes justified on consequentialist grounds. The idea is that the Frankfurt cases should have some pull with someone not already committed to incompatibilism. Of course, anyone committed to the necessity of PAP can simply deny that Jones is responsible in the case. If someone thinks that PAP is necessary, so that the kind of control that grounds responsibility is more than what the compatibilist (or semi-compatibilist) says is sufficient, there should be an argument for that point, if not to convince the compatibilist, then at least to convince the undecided person.

Anonymous said...

The Frankfurt cases are not just idle philosophical speculation.

Should SS soldiers have been held responsible for machine-gunning Jewish civilians, when there was another group of SS soldiers pointing guns at them?

Steve Lovell said...


Thought I'd join in here, having done a little reading on the Frankfurt cases.

There are many varieties of Frankfurt case, and I've only done a little reading so probably what I'm going to say probably won't cover them all, but others can no doubt point that out when the time comes.

The general Frankfurt case looks like this:

Mr Black wants Mr Jones to do X, and if he sees that Mr Jones is not going to do X then he intervenes to ensure he does do X after all.

Now, the thought is that Jones may do X or not, and that if Black sees that Jones is going to do X, and indeed does do X without any outside interference from Black, then he will have done it freely even though he couldn't have done otherwise.

All are agreed that if Black needs to intervene then Jones's action is not free. But I think the incompatibilist can hold his ground on the case where Black does not interfere. The following is very much Hasker's line of thought, and is not original with me.

Jones's action will be later in time than Jone's decision to act, and Black's intervention will either be between the two in time or before both. (If Black waits until after both he will be simply too late).

Now, if Black is acting (or not) after Jones's decision was made, then the decision itself was free, and could have been made differently (in which case Black would then have interfered before the decision led to action). In this case PAP, the principle of alternate possibilities, applies; though not to the action but the decision to act ... and the acts themselves can be called free because they are caused by free choices.

If, on the other hand, Black's interference, if necessary, will take place before the decision is made, then there will be some time between the Jones's decision and Jones's action when it would have been possible for Jones to change his mind.

Either way, the decision itself looks like it can be made freely, and because the action springs from the decision we count this also as free even though the action "couldn't have been otherwise" simply because the decision itself could have been otherwise.

I'd be interested in hearing why, if at all, Hasker has retracted this line of thought. The mere fact, if it be such, of a retraction hardly shows that the original line of thought was wrong, and defenders of the Frankfurt cases need to respond to these thoughts even if they are no longer thoughts Hasker himself defends.