Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reply to Clayton on Frankfurt

Clayton wrote:

I take it that the idea is something like this. There are cases where an agent A will X either in virtue of an intention or in virtue of a backup plan that will force A to X. In some of these very cases where the agent A's in virtue of the intention, we judge that A is responsible _even though had the intention not led to the X-ing something else would have_. The intuition that these subjects are responsible under these conditions (not the conditions where the agent does not intend to X but is forced to X by an outside agent) is supposed to be trouble for PAP.

The intuition that these subjects are responsible under these conditions (not the conditions where the agent does not intend to X but is forced to X by an outside agent) is supposed to be trouble for PAP.

It seems to me that what I am getting at is that in the case of determinism, alternative possibilities are ruled out be the presence of sufficient antecedent causes. So it could be argued that PAP is an attempt to get at what incompatibilist see as a problem with attributing moral responsibility in cases of causal determination. Further, the very thing that tempts us to say that the person is responsible is that causal determination is missing in these cases. God doesn't in fact cause you to show up for lunch, you emphasize that when I try to deny responsibility in those cases. At the end of the day, I may have to doctor PAP to deal with the cases and to capture the essence of the incompatibilist intuition.

Suppose my version of PAP is:

1) I am not responsible for my actions if causal antecedents prevent me from doing otherwise.

That principle is immune to Frankfurtian attack.

15 comments:

Steven Carr said...

'1) I am not responsible for my actions if causal antecedents prevent me from doing otherwise.

' Further, the very thing that tempts us to say that the person is responsible is that causal determination is missing in these cases.'

What do 'doing otherwise' and 'causal determination' mean?

If I am giving hallucinogenic drugs which cause psyhcosis, paranoia and homicidal rage, and under their influence I stab my mother and shoot my sister, could I 'have done otherwise'?

Could I , for example, have shot my mother and stabbed my sister, instead of the other way around?

Would that count as 'doing otherwise'?

Would I be held responsible for shooting my sister under the influence of hallucinogenic , psychosis inducing drugs, as the court would know that I could easily have freely refrained from shooting her?

I could have stabbed her instead, which is refraining from shooting her. That, by definition, is 'doing otherwise'

When do incompatibilists think that somebody is not responsible for their actions?

Steven Carr said...

'1) I am not responsible for my actions if causal antecedents prevent me from doing otherwise.

Being dead is one of the major antecedents which prevent us doing things.

Are we responsible for anything that happens after we are dead?

If not, then it should be easy enough to produce scenarios where suicide bombers are not responsible for the deaths of people killed by bombs,

Anonymous said...

We are (generally, with the usual exceptions over which Frankfurt argues the edge cases) responsible for our intents and actions while alive, even if their full consequences occur after we die. Not being able to arrest or jail people after they are dead is not the same as not being able to hold their actions while alive responsible, afer all.

Clayton said...

Victor,

It's an interesting modification, but I'm not sure (yet) that it works. In the example I described I wanted to say two things:
(i) The subject is morally responsible for arriving at lunch.
(ii) God's conditional intention meant that the subject could not have acted otherwise.

Does God's conditional intention not count as a causal antecedent? It would prevent the subject from doing otherwise. I suppose God's conditional intention is not part of the chain, as it were, that led the subject to lunch. Is that what you had in mind with reference to "causal antecedent"?

I might have a further worry if that is the move, but I'm just trying to get straight on the proposal.

Best,
Clayton

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

I am not responsible for my actions if causal antecedents prevent me from doing otherwise

On the other hand, Victor, if causal antecedents do not prevent you from doing otherwise, then why do you act as you do in any given situation? Perhaps this question is jejune, but indeterminism seems to posit that free actions have no causes (or at least no sufficient causes). That being the case, how do they come about at all?

Regards,
Bnonn

Victor Reppert said...

Well, when I proposed a blanket "not responsible" verdict on all Frankfurt cases, you pointed out in the Frankfurt scenario, "God doesn't have to lift a finger." I take it what you are pointing to is the fact that God doesn't cause the person to perform the action. The idea is that these Frankfurt intuition pumps are supposed to persuade someone who, in ordinary cases where causal determination is present (especially causal determination by God, which, I think makes it tougher on the compatibilist), is going to deny moral responsibility. Now what is it about a Frankfurt case that might persuade me to go against PAP when I am already applying it to ordinary cases of causal determination?

So the problem here is the non-causal role of the controller.

Victor Reppert said...

On the other hand, Victor, if causal antecedents do not prevent you from doing otherwise, then why do you act as you do in any given situation? Perhaps this question is jejune, but indeterminism seems to posit that free actions have no causes (or at least no sufficient causes). That being the case, how do they come about at all?

Regards,
Bnonn

The seems to beg the question against various libertarian theories of action. It assumes that no event can occur unless there are sufficient temporally antecedent causes and conditions for it to do so. Hasker's free will chapter in The Emergent Self presents a libertarian agency theory, Van Inwagen has some things to sasy on this matter in his Essay on Free Will.

In any event this is slightly off-topic, since the argument you are presenting isn't especially Frankfurtian.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Thanks; I'll look those up and stop diverting the comment stream.

Clayton said...

Victor,

Thanks, that helps me understand better what your proposal was. What you had in mind is that God's intention is not part of the causal chain, as it were, that triggers the event that is my arriving at lunch. I'll have to think more about this proposal.

Steven Carr said...

'It assumes that no event can occur unless there are sufficient temporally antecedent causes and conditions for it to do so.'

William Lane Craig says nothing can begin to exist unless there is a cause which causes it to begin to exist.

Can free will decisions begin to exist without anything which causes it to begin to exist?

Victor still doesn't say when human beings are not responsible for their actions.

Apparently, people are not responsible only when outside causes micro-manage their actions in the finest possible detail.

But this is never going to happen, surely?

normajean said...

Steven,

William Lane Craig says, “Whatever begins to exist must have a cause.”

So you ask: Can free will decisions begin to exist without anything which causes it to begin to exist?

No. Decisions begin to exist when agents act. What did you hope the Craig thought would accomplish for your argument?

Clayton said...

Vic,

I've been giving this some thought and I'm a bit puzzled by this new condition:

VPAP: I am not responsible for my actions if causal antecedents prevent me from doing otherwise.

Presumably, VPAP ought to separate the libertarians from the compatibilists who believe in morally responsible action. But, it seems that if you're a libertarian, you'll think that for any event, e, such that e is an action, A-ing, of S's, there is some causal antecedent that prevents S from doing otherwise: the decision/volition/choice to A. If there were no causal antecedent to the event that is S's A-ing, it wouldn't be an action of S's, but some mere event that involved S.

I'm not quite sure how to reformulate VPAP to avoid this difficulty. However you reformulate it, it seems you'll have the following difficulty. Suppose God is infinitely old. For everything that God does, there will be something (a volition, say) that prevents God from doing otherwise. Is it _impossible_ for God to have an unbroken series of such actions everyone of which is preceded by a further doing of God's that causally precludes God doing something else?

Victor Reppert said...

But wouldn't this problem be an overall problem facing any libertarian view, as opposed to being an issue that is posed in the context of the discussion of Frankfurt counterexamples. And would this also be a problem for an ordinary PAP as well as for VPAP? The objection, if I read it correctly, seems to be closely related to the one Bnonn put forward earlier in this discussion, which I put outside the scope this discussion. Right?????

Clayton said...

Perhaps it would be a problem facing any libertarian view, but if it is, doesn't that show that reformulating PAP so that it's VPAP will give us an account of responsibility that cannot be Frankfurted but is nevertheless objectionable on independent grounds. So, while you might have been right in saying to Bnonn that the objection isn't itself Frankfurtian, it would show that there's a dilemma: offer an account that can be Frankfurted or offer an account of moral responsibility on which no one can be responsible.

Victor Reppert said...

But I have narrowed the scope of PAP, so an argument against VPAP would also be an argument against PAP, and the Frankfurt cases are superfluous.

What I am saying is that the debate about compatibilism is a debate about the compatibility of freedom/responsiblity with causal determination. It turns out that the reason why someone might back out of applying PAP in a Frankfurt case who was not persuaded to back out of applying PAP in a non-Frankfurt case is the fact that there is no causal chain connecting the controller to the choice, if the controller does not act.

The Frankfurt intution pumps ask us what to do about cases where there's no causal determination but PAP is somehow violated. (Or is it? If Timpe's right, you've still got a forking path in Frankfurt cases, just a shorter one than you usually find.) Given this, Frankfurt cases leave the real issue, the compatibility of freedom and moral responsiblity with causal determination, exactly where we left it before we introduced these cases. They make no real dialectical contribution to the discussion.