Friday, June 20, 2008

Attacking Frankfurt Counterexamples with a Bludgeon

On Frankfurt counterexamples, I think I'd like to present Clayton's counterexample to one of the anti-compatibilist arguments I presented. In this case, I would like to ask "Why shouldn't I just apply PAP and just render a verdict of "not responsible" in all Frankfurt cases? Frankfurt cases go like this:

1) In case A, there were no alternate possibilities.
2) In case a, S was morally responsible.
3) Therefore, PAP is false.

While you could just as easily argue.

1) In case A there were no alternative possibilities.
2) PAP is true.
3) Therefore, S is not morally responsible.


Error said...


a) Most of the intuitions on all sides agree that they *are* morally responsible.

b) WHy do many libertarians grant the force of FSCs?

c) Even Kane doesn't think *all* cases of responsibility requires PAPs in those situations. So you seem to go against the best and the brightest of the libertarians.

d) Mele and Robb offer FSCs that do not interfer with the agents deliberative process or determine that process or "make a difference" to the agent. Furthermore, their FSC is such that Black *does not* block all of Jones's alternative possibilities *whatever*. Thus the reasoning is indeterministic and there are also PAPs, just not *robust* ones.

e) Simply put, Victor, there's a reason why there are massive amounts of literacture on this subject. It's because little quips like yours are simply to simple to overcome the massive amount of variations on FSCs that are in the literature.

I also see a bit more respect from other libertarians in dealing with compatibilists and FSCs (not only compatibilists think FSCs work, though) than is afforded here. Seems like there's an axe to grind here at DI.

Victor Reppert said...

What I'm doing here is to try to get the basis for these counterexamples a little clarified. Yes, there's a literature, Yes, even libertarians have produced adjusted PAPs to deal with these counterexamples, but can we get some clarity please as to why that is?

Your response does everything but what I was looking for here, namely, an account of why we want to go "responsible" on Frankfurt cases. Appeals to the authority of libertarians like Kane don't provide that. Shoot I can give you a better one: William Hasker thinks that you probably can't systematically put all the cases into a set of categories and dismiss them as he did in The Emergent Self.

Isn't the real reason these counterexamples are plausible is that the control is counterfactual; it doesn't take place in the actual world but would have taken place had the person been moving in the direction of doing otherwise? If so, my suspicion is that this is going to set up a disanalogy between cases in which the control is counterfactual and only operates when the agent is in the process of choosing otherwise, and in cases where determinism is true.

Mike Almeida said...

"Why shouldn't I just apply PAP and just render a verdict of "not responsible" in all Frankfurt cases?

As with all counterexamples, intuitions in Frankfurt cases play the role of determining whether PAP is a condition of responsibility/freedom. Ignoring or dismissing intuitions you don't like and insisting on PAP a priori is just question-begging, wouldn't you say? At the very least you'd need to offer some explanation for the pervasiveness of intuitions that agree with Frankfurt's.

Victor Reppert said...

What about just ignoring intuitions I don't share? When I was at Notre Dame I heard someone say "My incompatibilist intuitions are about the strongest intuitions I have." When tracing ultimate responsibility you have to look at what makes the feature of the actual world exist as opposed to some other possible world. Now if we are trying to modify or deter behavior, there can be a sense of "responsibility" that we might use which could be compatible with determinism.

So I'm trying to figure out how these intuition pumps work. What I suspect is that these counterexamples trade on intuitions based on counterfactual determination in order to get a result with respect to actual determination. And this seems fallacious to me. Unless there is some other explanation of how these counterexamples work.

Clayton Littlejohn said...

Incidentally, the example went something like this:

I promise God I'll meet him for lunch. Suppose that God is good enough at reading minds that he knows if I'll go back on the promise. If I were to go back on the promise, he'll zap me so that I instantaneously appear at our lunch date.

I am not responsible for God's conditional intention. That God has such a conditional intention entails I'll be at our lunch date (one way or another). God never zaps me and I arrive freely. I'm responsible for being there, but it's a modus ponens consequence of something I'm not responsible for. Am I wrong?

Victor Reppert said...

Clayton: Thanks for reprising the example. On my view you would not be responsible for showing up at your lunch date. That would have happened regardless of what act of will you performed. However, you did freely perform the act of will of going voluntarily as opposed to involuntarily. Therefore, you did perform an act of will for which you are responsible, (assuming you have LFW) however, the fact that you were at your lunch date was not the result of a free choice, since it would have happened whaterver choice you might have made.

Again, look at how the counterfactual character of the control undergirds the intuition that you must be responsible in this case.

Clayton Littlejohn said...

Hey Victor,

I'd be interested to know more about your remarks concerning the counterfactual control. Your view, if I'm reading you correctly, is that while you might not be responsible for
(a) arriving at the lunch date
you still might be responsible for:
(b) deciding to go to the lunch date.

Of course, we could just push this back and load God's mind with more conditional intentions. For each new conditional intention (If VR isn't going to intend to go to lunch, I'll implant it; If VR doesn't engage in the sort of deliberation that would lead him to form that intention, I'll implant the relevant mental states, etc...) you'd lose one more thing for which you'd be responsible on your conception of responsibility. So, even if God never lifts a finger because you yourself bring about everything in accordance with God's preferences, you'd never be responsible.

I think this goes against the intuitions that people typically report in Frankfurt cases. You could say that these cases are impossible given the assumptions about foreknowledge and freedom built into them, but it's interesting that on at least some views about foreknowledge and freedom it seems even some libertarians would concede that what I've described is possible provided we do not describe the actions involved as free.

Mike Almeida said...

What about just ignoring intuitions I don't share?

I guess I'm a little surprised to hear that. I expect that sort of bravado from other devotees trying to ape van Inwagen. . :)

What I suspect is that these counterexamples trade on intuitions based on counterfactual determination in order to get a result with respect to actual determination. And this seems fallacious to me.

I can't follow that. What is counterfactual determination and how does it feature in Frankfurt examples?
Setting Franfurt examples aside, there are compatiblist accounts of freewill that are consistent with PAP. Lewis offers on in 'Are We Free to Break Laws?'. He offers an account of how S is determined not to raise his arm at t while there are worlds w' in which S does raise his arm at t. In w' the causal laws are the same as they are in the actual world, but the historical facts are different. PAP is satisfied since it is possible for you to do other than what you did, despite being determined to do what you did. But this is an old story.

Victor Reppert said...

First of all, hard cases make bad laws. Restricting PAP to "normal" cases may be necessary. Or not.

What is the intuition underlying these examples? Why are we inclined to say "responsible" in these cases. It seems to me because the controller doesn't lift a finger. What I'm getting at is this: how do we get from cases in which God doesn't lift a finger to cases in which God does lift a finger, either now or before the foundation of the world. Or maybe it's Mother Nature.

The Hasker arguments for the fatalist implications of divine foreknowledge are arguments that freedom is eliminated by the existence of a fact that does not cause the event in question. God's knowing that an event will occur is not a fact that produces the action, nevertheless it logically guarantees that the action will occur, and therefore worries about freedom arise nonetheless.

Victor Reppert said...

Traditionally, of course, compatibilism has implied that there are suppressed "if" clauses in PAPs, "I could have done otherwise if I had chosen to," and "I could have chosen otherwise if I had wanted to" are supposed to be sufficient for responsibility.

It's my contention that we try to do different things with responsibility-talk. We have the utilitarian goal of behavior-modification, and if this is what we are after, then the compatibilist position makes sense. We may not want to blame Basil Fawlty's car, but it certainly needs to be fixed. But if we are really talking about ultimate responsibility, it seems to me you have to go to the casual source of the difference between this world and another causally possible world. Otherwise, we are praising and blaming people for something they were lucky, or not, to have.

Mike Darus said...

I think you are evaluating morality too much by the result. If I promise God that I will meet him for a lunch date, I am only responsible to attempt to make it there. If I am hit by a truck on the way, it is not likely God will zap me there anyway. It is more likely I will be in the hospital.

There is another interesting thing that acutally seems to happen. I promise God I will meet him at Red Lobster. At the last minute, I decide to go to Chili's. When I get to Chili's, God is waiting for me at my booth.