Friday, March 26, 2010

Frankfurt, the Devil, and Tiger Woods

First, we have to come up with an account of responsiblity that accounts for all the times when we absolve people of responsiblity on the grounds that they couldn't help it. On the face of things, every time we tell a teacher we have good reason not to be penalized for turning a paper in late, we are appealing to the principle of alternate possibilities. So before I start worrying about Frankfurt cases, I want to know what the opponent of PAP's story is on normal, everyday cases. Why does it suffice to say that I couldn't attend class because I was in the hospital and couldn't get out in time to attend? Why don't we say "That's still your fault. Just because you couldn't have attended class because you were in the hospital doesn't mean that you are free of responsiblity for showing up for class?" When people make excuses for failure to perform, we may in fact think that they aren't telling is the truth, or, at least, the whole story. But if Flip Wilson's Geraldine is right that the devil made her buy the dress, then we'd have to say she's not responsible. Otherwise, she wouldn't be even bothering to use that as an excuse. I'd like to tell the compatiblist "You explain our ordinary excuse-making and excuse evaluating practices, before I have to explain what is supposed to be happening in Frankfurt cases." I'm not saying this can't be done; I am saying we need to deal with normal cases before we deal with Frankfurt cases.




Second, I take it that one critical element of a responsible choice is deliberation. It at least has to be possible for the agent to deliberate. Indeed there is a class of actions which are rightly criticized because the agent didn't deliberate before acting, so there is a kind of sub-choice as to whether or not to deliberate. The Murder 1/ Murder 2 distinction suggests that we don't accord the highest level of moral responsibility in the absence of deliberation.



Which brings us to our Frankfurt cases. Let's say the Devil is our controller. Tiger, a married man, is being tempted to commit adultery with a cocktail waitress named Jaimee. As it happens, the Devil intends to make Tiger commit adultery unless he chooses freely to do so. He deliberates on the possibility of committing adultery, and then what? The moment he starts to take the possibility of not committing adultery seriously in the course of his deliberations, the Devil steps in and makes him do it? But the deliberation and serious consideration of the alternative is what might have been required to make him responsible in the first place, or at least fully responsible. So in order stay in keeping with the concept of responsibility embedded in the murder 1-2 distinction, the Devil can't step in until his adulterous action is fully premeditated. So that means the Devil can only step in and make him do it once he begins the process of choosing to refrain from the adultery. But if that has happened, he has already performed an alternative act of will. PAP holds, and the counterexample folds.



Which means, that if Tiger ever figures out about what the Devil was doing, he can't say "The Devil made me do it" unless he starts to refuse, and is then forced to commit adultery even though he was beginning to choose not to commit adultery. If he commits adultery without Satanic assistance, he is responsible because he could have made an alternative choice. The fact that the Devil would have forced the opposite action doesn't meant the choice wasn't possible. If the Devil is an all-determining deity, then we can all say "The Devil Made Me Do It." Ditto for the Calvinistic God.

7 comments:

Gordon Knight said...

I thought the traditional compatibilist account of why excuses 'work' is that the cause of a person's act is largely outside of their control. They would also insist that its only "local" control that matters. The fact that a person's choice is caused ultimately by what was going on 1000 years ago is irrelevant.

Of course I don't buy any of this. But that is what they say.

Steven said...

First, we have to come up with an account of responsibility that accounts for all the times when we absolve people of responsibility on the grounds that they couldn't help it. On the face of things, every time we tell a teacher we have good reason not to be penalized for turning a paper in late, we are appealing to the principle of alternate possibilities. So before I start worrying about Frankfurt cases, I want to know what the opponent of PAP's story is on normal, everyday cases.

Imagine Chisolm or BonJour responding to Plantinga in this way. Is their response reasonable? I don't think so. So I don't think yours is, either. I don't need an account of responsibility or blameworthiness in order to show that PAP is false or inadequate.

A determinism-friendly account of ability to do otherwise is consistent with those examples you gave. We don't need something arcane and strange like a libertarian reading of PAP.

As for your bit about the Devil case:

Tired of redirecting you to my blog, I will instead offer a Frankfurt-style case where, even granting your bit about maximal responsibility involving deliberation, etc., the agent still cannot do otherwise and is responsible.

Imagine Tiger has a chip in his brain that at t will begin to put Smith into a series of mental states by virtue of the forced (very quick) movement of particles in his brain into the proper places, if it be the case that the particles are not already in their proper place so as to put him in such a mental state as is required. The chip only acts if it has to move particles. If the particles are already in the proper place so as to constitute his being in the right mental state, then it does nothing.

Suppose at t Tiger begins an indeterministic process of practical reasoning that ends in his forming the intention to commit adultery, and he does so. Now, by pure chance, he goes through the various mental states the chip would have put him in entirely on his own, and the chip never intervenes because it just happened that the particles were all in their proper place at every stage. By chance, during his process of practical reasoning, his brain, at every step of the way, fit the “mold” that the chip would've forced it to be in had it been even slightly different. In such a case, Tiger could not have done otherwise and could not have formed the intention to do otherwise, because the chip would have forced him very quickly to be in certain mental states the very moment even one particle in his brain was misplaced.

But he still seems responsible to me, and he definitely fits your mold. He thought about the alternatives, he weighed them and found them wanting, and decided instead to commit adultery. He couldn't have really done otherwise, because the moment some particle in his brain was misplaced, or started traveling the wrong direction, or whatever, the chip would've intervened (very quickly). But it never did so.

Victor Reppert said...

I'm not a materialist about the mind, so I guess the question is whether, when the brain particle goes out of place, it involves a choice of one kind or another, a mini-choice as it were. When you talk in terms of the brain it starts to seem like the particles can't have motivations. In order for responsibility, you have to have the controller responding to motivational factors.

I mean, in order for these examples to work you've got to have a forking path. The force behind the intuition is that the action by the controller takes place in another possible world, so it can't eliminate responsibility.

With a moral choice you have motives for and against, and the person chooses to act on an immoral motive as opposed to a moral motive, or vice versa. Those are the cases where we are trying to decide if the person is responsible or not.

If you are trying to shake loose a strong intuition, such as mine, that it does not serve justice to praise or blame, or reward or punish puppets, however conscious or willing they may be, then it looks to me as if these counterexamples are very sophisticated red herrings designed to get us to take our eyes off the ball and accept something contrary to the fundamental principle. If someone is making a responsible choice at t (as opposed to making a choice for which a previous choice is responsible), and assuming it's a moral choice, one has to be choosing between a morally motivated action and an action that is motivated my something non-moral. When I think of ultimate responsibility, (as opposed to something like "the faulty transmission is responsible for the lousy shifting on this car), I look to what makes the possible world in which I do X different from the possible world in which I do Y. If my choice makes the world an x-world as opposed to a y-world, then I'm ultimately responsible. If not, then not.

Steven said...

I'm not a materialist about the mind, so I guess the question is whether, when the brain particle goes out of place, it involves a choice of one kind or another, a mini-choice as it were. When you talk in terms of the brain it starts to seem like the particles can't have motivations. In order for responsibility, you have to have the controller responding to motivational factors.

I didn't assume materialism about mind, nor am I a materialist about mind. (I don't really have an opinion on the matter.) All I assumed was something like that mental states supervene on brain states.

But that's fine, I don't need anything like that for the case. Imagine the controller was God who was, at each moment of time (however brief), aware of what my current mental state is. Imagine God wants me to go through a specific process P of practical reasoning resulting in my A-ing. Imagine that if at any moment of time, the process of reasoning I am going through deviates from P, is not exactly as he wants me to, he intervenes and causally determines me to go through P. Now it just happens that I go through P exactly right. God never intervenes, and it seems I am responsible.

I mean, in order for these examples to work you've got to have a forking path. The force behind the intuition is that the action by the controller takes place in another possible world, so it can't eliminate responsibility.

I don't see how that isn't true in the case that I gave, be it the chip case or the God case.

About ultimate responsibility: maybe no one is ultimately responsible for anything (besides God).

Who wants anything like "ultimate responsibility" anyway? What does it matter? I think Galen Strawson's Basic Argument (which is like the argument Locke gives against free will in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding) is pretty persuasive, and I think that possible worlds analysis opens you up to all kinds of luck and randomness objections.

Victor Reppert said...

If you are asking who cares about ultimate responsibility, that might be a reasonable response for a nonbelievers. But as a basis for divine judgment, ultimate responsibility is required.

If "author" means "the person ultimately responsible," (which makes sense) are you now prepared to admit that God is that author of sin? Usually Calvinists tie themselves in knots to avoid admitting this obvious consequence of their position.

Steven said...

If you are asking who cares about ultimate responsibility, that might be a reasonable response for a nonbelievers. But as a basis for divine judgment, ultimate responsibility is required.

No, just responsibility sufficient for punishment/blameworthiness.

If "author" means "the person ultimately responsible," (which makes sense) are you now prepared to admit that God is that author of sin? Usually Calvinists tie themselves in knots to avoid admitting this obvious consequence of their position.

God is "ultimately responsible" for sin no matter what, in some sense, whether you are Calvinist, Arminian, or anything else, really, unless you are open theist. So I don't really have a problem with that, no.

And I'd be interested in your thoughts on Strawson's Basic Argument, Dr Reppert. I have thought it to be really persuasive.

Victor Reppert said...

I would once again argue that opponents of open theism who are not Calvinists maintain that persons, in virtue of their free will, are ultimately responsible for their acts of wrongdoing. If Molinism is true, then, for example, the reason God can't instantiate the World of Mr. Rogers, in which everyone freely does what is right, is because creaturely essences make bad free choices in all possible worlds. People like Craig, Flint, Freddoso, et al., are Molinists because they do think counterfactuals of freedom can be true, and they think they have good reason to reject to Grounding Objection. Your comments here look as if they beg the question in favor of the open theists' arguments. I am not a specialist in this debate; I suspect Hasker may be right, but with a low level of intellectual certainty.

So I think it's wrong to characterize Molinists as actually holding that God is ultimately responsible for sin. They think they can avoid this problem, and that Calvinism cannot, and that is probably one of the main reasons why they are Molinists and not Calvinists. They don't, in their own minds, think their position has the same consequence Calvinism does. They could be wrong, but you have to work through a set of arguments to reach that conclusion, and fend off a whole bunch of rebuttals. It's wrong to pin something on a position that advocates of that position don't hold, even if you do think that they would hold it if they were consistent.

The question of punishment and blameworthiness has to be asked within a context. They may be social justifications for punishment and blame without pretending that we are satisfying the kind of cosmic justice involved in the doctrine of hell. We can justify punishment and blame as social practices while at the same time not expecting God, who has no society to maintain, to engage in practices of the same kind at the Last Judgment.