Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The flicker of freedom

A flicker is still an alternate possiblity. The fact that all you get is a flicker is a function of the "cooked" character of these Frankfurt cases. In the real world, unless determinism is true, we have more than a flicker of freedom. Denying the PAP means that there are no alternative possibilities. No means no. We point out that there has to be some movement toward the opposite action in order for the Controller to act, and then we are told "Oh, that's just a flicker. You can't base moral responsibility on that."




Why the heck not?

16 comments:

Steven said...

Because it is "repugnant to the intellect", as Plantinga once said (though about something else).

If you are so set in your ways about PAP, then of course you'd think that a flicker of freedom is robust enough to ground responsibility. You'd rather have that then compatibilism. But I'd say you're just being wild, at that point. Blinded to reason and unable to form sound judgment.

It is hard to see how people in Frankfurt cases are responsible in virtue of that fact they can either X or begin to form an intention to not-X and then be manipulated into X-ing.

That seems outrageous. Like Fischer says, getting responsibility from flickers of freedom is akin to alchemy.

Blue Devil Knight said...

What is PAP?

#John1453 said...

It's a test for cancer.

Robert said...

BDK asked:

"What is PAP?"

Pap is the idea that: "a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise."

The Frankfurt examples seek to show that a person can be held responsible even if PAP is not present (i.e. the person could not do otherwise and yet still can be held responsible). Some calvinists such as Steven here, are enamored with the Frankfurt cases because they want to be able to claim that everything is predetermined by God and yet we remain responsible for our actions. So they try to use the Frankfurt cases to support their Calvinistic theological determinism.

Robert

J said...

In the real world, unless determinism is true, we have more than a flicker of freedom. Denying the PAP means that there are no alternative possibilities.

The law itself recognizes degrees of guilt,or separates Murder 1 from 2, or manslaughter, etc. Doesn't that imply degrees of liberty, or intention, volition?? (really "Freedom" a loaded term--). There's a difference between someone who kills a gangster who robbed his parents, and a serial murderer.

PAP may not be as clear-cut as Frankfurt (or incompatibilists) wanted it to be--not an either or, as in "either PAP or yr a robot". Sometimes PAP holds; sometimes it don't. Besides, even with many decisions there is an obvious antecedent condition--say, hunger. Trixie and Tammy, say in Tuscon, may argue over where to go to lunch--burgers, or taco belle, etc--but they're not arguing over whether they are hungry. So their decision was certainly brought about by the condition of...hunger. And their choices are limited, greatly. They can't fly to New York to have lunch with Donald Trump. It's like 95% determined, with 5% chance and human ..volition (if not..desire) on top...

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

And that's actually close to Hobbes' views--a sort of economic realism (ie compatibilism, though I think he used the term "volition" rather than "freedom")--which so many rationalists and metaphysicians think they have disposed of, when they haven't. Economics follows from the empiricists' compatibilism.

Victor Reppert said...

Steven: Because it is "repugnant to the intellect", as Plantinga once said (though about something else).

If you are so set in your ways about PAP, then of course you'd think that a flicker of freedom is robust enough to ground responsibility. You'd rather have that then compatibilism. But I'd say you're just being wild, at that point. Blinded to reason and unable to form sound judgment.

It is hard to see how people in Frankfurt cases are responsible in virtue of that fact they can either X or begin to form an intention to not-X and then be manipulated into X-ing.

That seems outrageous. Like Fischer says, getting responsibility from flickers of freedom is akin to alchemy.

VR: I don't see any arguments here at all. Is my position self-contradictory? Are there any fundamental principles of logic I have violated? My central point is that Frankfurt counterexamples are abnormal cases. We take a principle that we use in ordinary circumstances (I couldn't have finished my assignment, because I was in the hospital because of a car accident), the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) and we ask how we are going to apply that principle to bizarro cases where there's a Controller who would have prevented me from carrying out my action if I had started to will it. The "flicker" shows that there WAS an alternative possibility, and comparisons to alchemy and insistence that I can't reason soundly are not going to undermine this fact.

It's a little bit like the Thomsonian intuition pump with the violinist. Someone who is firmly enough convinced of the overriding character of the right to life can simply say "No. you don't have the right to get up and walk away. The violinist has a right to life, you're violating that right if you walk off." If you are prepared to go to the mat for the principle of the right to life, you can resist the violinist argument. No amount of ridicule from the other side will dissuade you, or should dissuade you.

Or consider people who say that we have to give up on the law of non-contradiction because of the liar paradox. If we look at all the things we do with the law of non-contradiction, and its role in making discourse even possible, it looks to me as if, even if I don't have a nice neat solution to the liar paradox, I shouldn't just trash the law of non-contradiction.

Look at what we do with PAP on a daily basis. "I'm sorry, I didn't have a choice. I had to.... so I couldn't...." How many times do we say "I couldn't help it?" Why did Flip Wilson build an entire career out of the phrase "The Devil made me do it." Because if the Devil really did make you do it, you're not responsible, or so we ordinarily think.

In fact, earlier versions of compatibilism prior to Frankfurt, such as those of A. J. Ayer, affirmed PAP but argued that the alternative possibility statements had suppressed "if" clauses. "I would have done otherwise if I had wanted to."

What has always seeemed correct to me is that puppets, including conscious or willing puppets, are not responsible, and this is so whether or not there is a someone pulling the strings. This seems more evident to me that any result that might be generated by the Frankfurtian intuition pump. Because it is a set of intuition pumps, and the cases are deliberately contrived, I have trouble seeing how they can undermine so basic a principle.

Anonymous said...

I note that PAP has been defined in a comment, but what do the letters stand for?

J said...

A rat in a maze trying to get his food pellet may be confronted with a fork in the road, so to speak: two or three different doors. He has alternative possibilities from our perspective, but does he make a decision? Unlikely. He tries one, and if he gets it right, gets the food pellet, and he's put in the maze again (or 10 or 1000 more times under Dr. Churchland's supervision) , he probably starts to choose the same door/path consistently. And that's the case for many supposed PAP situations.

Few events involve unlimited "freedom," first of all. It's usually a few options which were brought about by an antecedent condition--like, hunger (a typical sort of empiricist hypothetical that dualists, even supposed compatibilists will ignore ad nauseum, like they ignore Hobbes' tight writing on this issue). Or economic decisions --what car to buy, what provides the best bang for the buck, etc.

Robert said...

J said...

“In the real world, unless determinism is true, we have more than a flicker of freedom. Denying the PAP means that there are no alternative possibilities.”

J seems to be making a distinction here between the “real world” and “the world of Frankfurt cases”. I think this is a useful distinction because while the FC’s are fun to read about and think about, they are nevertheless ****all hypotheticals****, none of them has an actual counterpart in the “real world”. FC’s show that we can conceive of situations where a person cannot do otherwise with respect to a particular choice and yet be held responsible. But in the real world when we assess responsibility the person always seems to have had alternative possibilities (e.g. if they did something wrong we say why did you do **that** when you should have done **this** instead. So the FC’s are profitable in clarifying issues and thinking through issues but don’t occur in the real world. They are literally thought experiments and lots of fun at that.

“The law itself recognizes degrees of guilt, or separates Murder 1 from 2, or manslaughter, etc. Doesn't that imply degrees of liberty, or intention, volition?? (really "Freedom" a loaded term--). There's a difference between someone who kills a gangster who robbed his parents, and a serial murderer.”

Right there are different intentions and even different and mitigating circumstances. I cannot use deadly force on some guy I just walk up to on the street: but if an intruder is breaking and entering my home and threatening me and my family I can use deadly force against him.

One thing I like about the law when done properly is to take things on a case-by-case basis. It is like the opposite of being prejudiced. A prejudiced person prejudges all other persons within some hated group, so anyone who is a member of that particular group is automatically hated merely for being part of that group. On the other hand, the rational thing to do is to evaluate individual members on a case by case basis. You really shouldn’t say that “all purple people are . . .” But in evaluating purple people on a case by case basis, you may find that some purple people are . . . some purple people are not . . .”

I think this also applies in cases of assessing responsibility and free will. We don’t take FC’s and make the blanket judgment that they refute PAP in all instances. Rather, if we go case by case we can conceive of some situations where PAP was present and others (for example when formulating a hypothetical FC) where it does not appear to be present.

This also reminds me of Locke’s famous guy in the locked room (Yes the guy cannot get out of the room cause it is locked from the outside, so THAT particular choice is taken away and so he supposedly has no choice about leaving the room or not: but while he is **locked** in the room he still has other choices: break through the door, what if he happens to be sitting in that room with a jackhammer or axe in his hand when the door is locked, make a phone call with his cell phone to ask for help, keep reading the book he was reading, start yelling for help and pounding on the door, breaking the window if there is one to get out of the room, and if he is Alice taking something to become small and fit through the keyhole! :-), etc. etc.).

“PAP may not be as clear-cut as Frankfurt (or incompatibilists) wanted it to be--not an either or, as in "either PAP or yr a robot". Sometimes PAP holds; sometimes it don't.”

Right take things on a case by case basis.

Robert

Robert said...

J said:

“Besides, even with many decisions there is an obvious antecedent condition--say, hunger. Trixie and Tammy, say in Tuscon, may argue over where to go to lunch--burgers, or taco belle, etc--but they're not arguing over whether they are hungry. So their decision was certainly brought about by the condition of...hunger.”

Actually their decision was not brought about by the condition of hunger: they could have also been choosing to go on a hunger strike! The condition of being hungry did not necessitate that they eat. Haven’t you ever been in a situation in which for whatever reason you delayed eating or even chose not to eat at all!

“And their choices are limited, greatly.”

And we have to distinguish between having limited options or having a limited range of choices, versus having no options, having no choices. Your range of choices may fluctuate depending upon your circumstances while all along you have numerous choices available to you.

“They can't fly to New York to have lunch with Donald Trump.”

That speaks only to their range of choices. If they were Bill Gates with his funds, then they could choose to see “the Donald”. On the other hand they may have the funds and just not want to see him! :-) Speaking for myself I would love to have lunch with “the Donald” cause I like the Apprentice show!

“It's like 95% determined, with 5% chance and human ..volition (if not..desire) on top...”

“J” where in the world do you get this number? Did the Mad Hatter give you that number? Or the Red Queen? Where’d you get it? :-)

While I would not try to put a number on it, the percentages are much different in our daily lives than 95% versus 5%.

Robert

J said...

“Besides, even with many decisions there is an obvious antecedent condition--say, hunger. Trixie and Tammy, say in Tuscon, may argue over where to go to lunch--burgers, or taco belle, etc--but they're not arguing over whether they are hungry. So their decision was certainly brought about by the condition of...hunger.”

Actually their decision was not brought about by the condition of hunger: they could have also been choosing to go on a hunger strike! The condition of being hungry did not necessitate that they eat. Haven’t you ever been in a situation in which for whatever reason you delayed eating or even chose not to eat at all!


Well, in an extreme sense the human-animal might override its need for hunger, or H20...and I've read that some mammals will do this as well. But really sort of a basic need, necessary at least in informal sense. Logicians may not care for that sort of bio-economic realism--too human, all too human--and it doesn't fit in an equation neatly (well, one could discuss how many calories and H20 one needs to survive, etc). So I think it's an antecedent condition, more or less beyond the individual's control. Even if Trixie decides not to eat lunch one day, she's still hungry, and eats a big dinner to make up for it. So even though I am not completely sympathetic to determinism, I would say hunger, need for H20, being protected from the elements, etc are sort of necessary causal conditions for human actions, though aware of say, Hobbes, or...Marx's critique of Feuerbach's mechanical determinism (sort of the Churchlands of 1820 or so). Humans may be driven by bio-economic factors, but are not merely animals; they can sort of direct actions, use Reason (or as Searle says deliberation) to some degree to assist them in obtaining those fundamental needs.

But I don't think "Freedom" exists in a metaphysical sense, and I guess if pressed I sort of deny the PAP, and lean more towards determinism than, whatever the non-determinists believe--it's a philosophical (and legal) fiction--we say, why did Perp X do this and that, instead of this, but Perp X can't really go back and "do differently". He may do different next time, if he spent time in prison, etc.--that looks something like conditioning (as do even most of the FCs). The law then is mostly a pragmatic (yet important) type of "crowd control". It's no so much about moral responsibility but about keeping thugs from inflicting pain upon citizens (which is I think fairly measurable).

Not real fancy or metaphysical, but ..whatevs

aletheist said...

Frankfurt cases fail as counterexamples to PAP (Principle of Alternate Possibilities) because the only thing that will (supposedly) trigger the intervention is the agent's non-action; i.e., the very thing that the intervener is supposed to render impossible. Unless determinism is presupposed, which would obviously beg the question, the agent always retains the ability to refrain from performing the action intentionally and voluntarily - which is the requirement for moral responsibility that PAP is meant to express.

PAP does not entail that there are no necessary causal conditions of a particular action that are beyond the agent's control; only that none of them, individually or in combination, are sufficient causal conditions of the action.

J said...

what does the word "moral" mean, Anny?

that's begging the question.

in a sense frankfurt's hypothetical turns on that issue-- whether one could even define the word "moral", w/o recourse to theology.

#John1453 said...

In philosphy PAP = Principle of Alternate Possibilities

In medicine PAP = Papanicola (as in PAP smear (Papanicola test))